business news in context, analysis with attitude

There were a couple of business stories this week that resonated with me, though on the surface they didn’t seem to have a lot to do with the retailing business.

Delta Air Lines announced that it would shut down its low-cost Song subsidiary, which was created to compete with the likes of JetBlue. But while it is shutting down the brand, Delta is keeping some of the strategies it used with Song – saying it will work to keeps fares down and create a Delta fleet that is more like Song. Not completely like Song, of course – delta also will reconfigure Song’s all-coach fleet if airplanes so that they include a first class cabin.

Now, it has to be acknowledged here that Delta is making all these moves while under bankruptcy protection – so it has to find ways to cut costs so that it can emerge from its current status as a stronger, more viable carrier. And eliminating the Song brand certainly will help it cut marketing costs.

But I can’t help but think that this is the floundering of a company – and a brand – that really has no idea what it is, what its differential advantages are, and why consumers should choose it over another carrier. Unless, of course, you happen to be a frequent flier with lots of Delta miles…in which case the decision is fairly easy.

Then again, most experts are urging us frequent fliers to start using up our miles whenever it makes sense…that the economic problems that have afflicted many of the airlines are almost certainly going to affect our ability to cash those miles in for trips.

And here’s the kicker, if you are a Delta frequent flier. The airline just announced that as a way of cutting costs, it will no longer offer free memberships in its airport lounges for its highest tier fliers. So much for loyalty.

None of this seems like a good business model for anyone to emulate.

The other story during the past week that caught my eye was the one about how the American Association of Retired persons (AARP) is starting to get more competitive with its offerings of products and services – everything from investment funds to items like luggage that can be opened more easily, lights that shine more brightly, and cellphone service that will be branded as being from AARP.

The stories noted that AARP is getting into these businesses because there are some 76 million aging baby boomers, and that 10,000 of them turn 50 every day – which means, among other things, that they start getting those damned solicitation envelopes from AARP.

I know I have a little bit of a complex about this. I know that I will be accused of being anti-old people.

But I don’t want the solicitations, don’t want the AARP investment fund, and certainly don’t want products that are identified as being for people of a certain advanced age. I have no plans to retire, no plans to even slow down…and for me, carrying that card in my wallet and using the AARP brand would smack of some sort of concession.

I turn 51 today. I figure I’m about a third done with my life…but I’m going to live it like it could all end tomorrow.

Which means enjoying what I can, when I can. And not giving into the notions of age.

Speaking of which…

You have to try the Cloudline 2004 Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley – which is a wonderful wine that manages to be both rich and soft at the same time. Great stuff.

That’s it for this week.

Have a great weekend.

KC's View: