business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had an email yesterday that questioned the conventional wisdom about how, absent Wal-Mart, "local, independently owned, kind and caring retail businesses would flourish and of course pay their hourly and part time workers wages comparable to Wall Street lawyers hourly billing rates along with an overflowing cornucopia of benefits.

"I have worked for a small independent retailer and my experience is that they pay squat, there are no benefits, no chance for advancement unless the owner has a daughter you can marry and no profit sharing or stock opportunities regardless of how hard or how long you work. And by the way zero recourse for any grievance other than hitting the door…

Another MNB user believes there is another way to look at it:

(In Oklahoma City) Wal-Mart's opening of 16 stores (excluding 4 Sam Club Stores) and an estimated 883,000 square feet (gross area) in floorspace since late 1998 has been accompanied by the closure of 25 supermarkets (11 chain stores and 14 independents) with an estimated combined floorspace of 947,000 square feet.

Could the closing of these 25 stores in Oklahoma City (twenty-five stores!) be the reason that there are individuals waiting in line to get a job at Wal-Mart in Armadillo Flats?

We think that's a pretty good bet.

We had a story yesterday about D'Agostino's opening a new fresh market concept on Manhattan's Upper West Side, which prompted an email from MNB user Rachel Hausner:

It will be interesting to see how (or really if) D'Agostino's differentiates itself on the upper west side of Manhattan. Their competition will be well thought out staples like Fairway, Citarella, Zabars and even Fresh Direct. With a regular Dag's being known among my circle as a store to avoid for overpriced everything... I'm not putting my money on it.

We continue to get email about the fine Albertsons is paying because of overcharging at its California supermarkets.

MNB user Frank Brewer wrote:

KC, one of your readers suggested that the fine being paid (hopefully) by Albertson's should go to California schools. I am 110% in favor of that--only if Albertson's doesn't get a tax deduction for it! I'm sure they are already thinking about that.

We also got a lot of email about the Dean Werries interview and subsequent comments that the Fleming fiasco would make a great book.

One MNB user wrote:

Great remarks this a.m. about the Dean Werries article. The comment about a book on the Fleming saga and the comment about them getting what they deserve…brought back memories of another colossal implosion brought on by inept management and monumental ego – Borden. THAT story would provide material as riveting as Barbarians at the Gate. Hey, box it up with the book on Fleming and ‘ya got another Harry Potter on your hands!

And another MNB user wrote:

Remember the book Barbarians at the Gate? Maybe the writer of the Fleming story might just follow the chapter headings from Barbarian and call them Flemings instead.

Clearly, Barbarians at the Gate is the template…though we were thinking that the Fleming story might make a pretty good black comedy on the silver screen…

We'll get to it once we finish our thinly fictionalized screenplay about the last dot-com we worked for…

On the subject of the raw food trend and concerns about the health of people who embrace it, MNB user Jem Welsh wrote:

Only in America could a fixation on eating proper food be considered "pathological". If we all fixated on this, there would be less for the medical industry to why not classify it as a disease. It's job security.

We said nice things about Cub Foods yesterday…which prompted several emails,

MNB user Bob Vereen noted:

Cub recently closed all its stores in Indianapolis. It strayed from the original concept and, as you noted, became just another player in the field.

And MNB user Richard Lowe chimed in:

Cub Foods was not able to cut it in the Indianapolis market after Meijer moved in. They have vacated all stores and left town.

Hey, we never said Cub was perfect. Just that it has been around a long time, and moved from being a threat to the supermarket business to a mainstream player itself.

Finally, we made yet another reference yesterday to's plans for the grocery business, which prompted the following email from an MNB user:

Hasn't this been said about almost everything Amazon has gotten into? Without much in the way of profits to show for it?

The vast majority; the bulk; 95 - 97%%, maybe, of American families will continue to do their grocery shopping on site.

And that's not a web site!

We continue to believe that while online shopping will not replace the traditional in-store experience, it will be an important strategic option for companies to offer, because it will be an increasingly important shopping alternative for consumers.
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