business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to our story about New Jersey considering legislation that would require companies of a certain size – like Wal-Mart – to offer a specific level of health care to all employees, one MNB user wrote:

New Jersey needs to be careful about what companies will be affected. Wal-Mart may be able to afford the expense related to this legislation, but other companies are not as strong. Both Pathmark and A&P have around 12,000 employees in New Jersey and neither is in a strong financial position. Even if they have just under 12,000 employees, this legislation may prevent future growth and hiring by these companies.

And another MNB user agreed:

The operators of a host of big-box stores in many fields are probably quaking in their boots thinking about this law. As I understand your reporting of it, it actually would affect far more retailers than Wal-Mart:

Home Depot (big presence in New Jersey)
Bed, Bath & Beyond
Linens 'n Things
Other supermarkets
Family Dollar
Dollar General
Deals (division of Supervalu)
...and those are just off the top of my head.

You're right. Politicians missed out when they passed out common sense.

On the subject of A&P considering the sale of its Canadian operations, one member of the MNB community wrote:

Interesting that there has no mention of Wal-Mart entering the bidding fray for A & P's attractive Canadian assets. Internationally, WM has done well with the supermarket format (ASDA/UK), Mexico (Superama/Bodega), Puerto Rico (Amigo) etc. So why not Canada ?

Local Canadian experts point to unions as the prime reason for WM's lack of interest. A & P's Canadian stores are union shops. Any WM engagement with the unions in Canada would likely spill over to WM's profitable 220 store discount store division.

We received several emails responding to our piece speculating about the possibility that Tesco might come to the US, perhaps through some sort of alliance with Target or Meijer.

One MNB user wrote:

Target needs capital/scale to ramp up their supercenter expansion program. Tesco needs to be in the USA to achieve their dream of being a global retailer . The core question remains is a merger/partnership the highest priority today for Tesco/Target.

Tesco has grown nicely both in their home UK market and emerging geographies such as Central Europe and Asia. Target has a long way to go before their USA business model is optimized. Not sure why Tesco would divert cash to Target versus their higher priority development countries. Recent industry track record on global mega mergers/acquisitions) has not been positive ( Carrefour/Promodes, Ahold)

On the other hand, senior Target executives took a window shopping tour to the UK last year. Probably coincidental...but remember that Wal-Mart execs also took a seemingly innocent trip to the UK the year before their ASDA acquisition.

Another MNB user wrote:

An entirely plausible prospect. A prerequisite would be to build the business with good US managers who understand regional, social & ethnic customer differences, which are more pronounced over on your side of the Pond. Blend this model of using local talent with Tesco's customer focus, operational excellence and knowledge of non-food retail and services, and such a move would be good for the US industry and shoppers.

One note of caution however - Tesco may be at a stage where they become exposed to the unexpected. In the UK their high profile market leadership, record earnings and ubiquity, render them as a target for the popular press and special interest groups. This is in spite of their success in driving the value agenda and in delivering unequalled customer satisfaction. There are also indications of internal challenges, with some of their high achieving middle management - the future generation of leadership, rumoured to be "quitting whilst ahead" to leverage their career success and experience with a recognised world class player. (I am aware of a number of cases where this is the case.) Notwithstanding, we can be sure the current leadership will not be "resting on their laurels".

However the Tesco story develops, it will always be a good one for future MBA case studies.

And yet another MNB user chimed in:

Tesco in the US. We may already have a mini-me in the making in the form of Kroger. Tesco and their shopper card data partner dunhumby have been very successful with their European approach. Utilizing direct mail for retention through loyalty to the consumer.

Kroger now owns 50% of dunhumby USA, which in my opinion would make it difficult to have a competitor in Tesco, using the same data platform head to head. Let’s wait and see if dunhumby can Tescoize the Kroger shopper , prior to the Brits coming across the pond to take on what is a very different American consumer, one who is used to much more CHOICE AND VARIETY.

We got the following email from an MNB user who works for Wal-Mart:

I have been employed at Wal-Mart for a decade, and it is now my part time job that I do on the side for extra cash. As with any company there are always good managers and bad managers. I have had and survived both.

The constant complaining of employees seems to be a huge trend here in the U.S. where we live to work instead of work to live. How about realizing life is not about how many breathes you take but about how
many moments take your breath away. If you are unhappy look for something else. Working at Wal-Mart has sent me all of the world and paid for my college , and will most likely pay for my masters. No complaints here with the company, roll with the bad and the good. I think everyone just sees dollar signs when it comes to Wal-Mart and if they can find a reason to sue the company they will. I'm so sick of it.

Regarding our story about the trend toward more stay at home moms, one MNB user wrote:

To this I say Bravo! Not because I am an oppressive male pig, but because I am a husband, father, and supermarket executive who is working tirelessly to be successful at all three. My wife left a very successful medical billing and collections career in 1993 to devote herself to a career of nurturing and caring for our family. Since this time our children have thrived, (even as we speak in the midst of the teenage years) our home is a peaceful tranquil place full of awesome food and drink as she has become quite the experimental gourmet cook, and she is more radiant and vibrant today then she has ever been in her life. She has helped me become more successful in every aspect of my life.

More moms at home for their children during the developmental years, making the home a sanctuary full of romance, hospitality and good food and drink. A child's, husband, father and most of all, my wife's dream come true! Oh and it ain't bad for the supermarket executive either.

FYI…dads at home isn’t such a bad idea, either…

We wrote last week that Burgerville in the Pacific Northwest is proof positive that healthy fast food is both possible and delicious, to which MNB user Marty Nicholson wrote:

I really enjoy your column. I used to travel to the Northwest 5 – 6 times a year on business. Burgerville is also my favorite fast-food place! Tillamook Cheeseburgers! Yum!

On the subject of casinos in Las Vegas implanting RFID chips in gambling chips so they can understand customer behavior better, one MNB user wrote:

Have you followed what Harrah's does with their database applications? They really know and understand their SHU's (super heavy users). That includes what they like when it comes to gambling, dining, guest rooms, etc. If my memory is right, the term "whale" is used to describe big money gamblers.

Hey, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Especially the customers’ money.

Finally, we got a number of emails last Friday about our headline used on a story about alleged cruelty in a Canadian seal hunt:

Canadian Seal Hunt Has Activists Blubbering About Cruelty Issues

Some people thought the headline was tasteless and childish and implied that we approved of animal cruelty. And about an equal number of people thought it was tasteless and childish but funny.

We’ll cop to tasteless and childish. (The old joke reflex gets us in trouble from time to time…)

Sorry if we offended some of you, but for the record, we do not and will never approve of cruelty of any kind.

Of course, one man’s cruelty is another man’s satire.
KC's View: