business news in context, analysis with attitude

Albertsons’ current problems is the story that keeps on giving…it seems like there is almost always something new to report, which generates email from the MNB community. Yesterday, we had a story about how the company’s board gave a vote of confidence to CEO Larry Johnston, which led one MNB user to write:

OK, if the "Board" is happy with Larry (and with the current stock price) how does someone dump the board?

I already sold my stock in Albertson's (and Safeway) so I am now a outsider looking in. I just wish the board of directors of these company's would start to look at the long view instead of just the next quarter’s numbers. I have many friends working for both of these companies and I have told them to "jump ship" as fast as possible.

MNB user Paul Schloss wrote:

It seems this outcome was pre-ordained…

Using a sports analogy, the new head coach had a roster of veterans / winners [with positive and fading cash flows with weak market shares and positions]. It seems clear [now], the only question four years ago was “Which of the nationals would pass and sell out?”

From today’s perspective, the conclusion should focus not upon Larry Johnson failing, but that Albertson’s had the weaker roster of market positions, shares and imbedded structural investments. In fact, Larry Johnson may have hired on with a team and spent strategy that was predestined not to play in another next Super Bowl.

Using the Department Store Industry for illustration, remember Associated Dry Goods, Allied Department Stores, R.H. Macy, Dayton Hudson, Marshall Field’s, Montgomery Ward and many others that faded as their segment faded?

Given its strengths and structural disadvantages, Albertson’s executed their strategy and came up, in the near term, on the short side. Time will tell if, in the long term, Kroger and Safeway will come out ahead.

Corporate governance may deserve a vote of confidence with Albertson’s Board of Director’s decision to sell now and take their money off the table.

Time will tell.

We reported yesterday that Super 88, a Boston-based Asian supermarket chain, got closed down on Christmas morning by Boston police. The charge: violation of the state’s 400-year-old Blue Laws, which prohibit doing business on certain holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas among them. The Globe noted that Super 88 was doing a “brisk business” when the police forced management to lock the doors.

Super 88’s defense is that while blue laws were meant to protect workers from being exploited by being forced to work on holidays, in fact all of the workers on Christmas happened to be Chinese-Americans who were not Christians and did not celebrate or observe the holiday. The argument – and we believe it is a good one – that in a multicultural society, blue laws such as there probably are irrelevant.

We got a number of emails from people wondering if things were so slow on Christmas morning that the Boston police had nothing else to do. And another MNB user wrote:

I hope they stand their ground and win a legal battle. I'd like to know what kind of moron decided to take the officers off of patrol to perform this shut down.... Many of us in the real world would appreciate the opportunity to run to the store, for a last minute item to complete a menu…I have often thought the Chinese retailers should open on Christmas and Thanksgiving. If it's not a holiday to them, why penalize them economically?

It’s not just the new world, but also a new world.

Another MNB user wrote:

Until Americans get over the idea that the USA is a "Christian" country founded on "Christian" principles, anachronistic laws are going to be imposed whether relevant or not.

Okay, let’s be clear about this. The MNB user who wrote this email said that blue laws were anachronistic, not Christians. (We can only imagine the email that we’re going to get on this one…)

We wrote yesterday about the huge gains made in Internet holiday shopping this year, which prompted one MNB user to write:

This year was the first year we did 100% of our holiday shopping online, and I have to tell you, it was wonderful!! Everything we wanted was in stock at all the major retailer’s sites, and we received everything within 4-5 days. No long lines, parking headaches, filling the gas tank, etc. Our household finds itself buying more and more products on line since there really isn’t anything exciting going on in the stores to bring us in.

MNB user Randy Aszman wrote:

I have done almost 90% of my holiday shopping online for the past several years with no issues and so much less stress. To avoid malls and chain mass merchandisers during the holiday season is a gift unto itself! It is so much easier to browse through catalogs or web sites for gift ideas, and much more efficient. To see the faces of surprised and pleased loved ones when they get such unexpected and desired gifts is priceless!

We had a story yesterday about the continuing noise being made by some folks saying that radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is being masterminded by the Devil, and that the computer chips are connected to what in the bible is referred to as “the mark of the Beast.”

We observed that it always has been our impression that the Devil is a pretty powerful fellow and probably wouldn’t need RFID to lure folks over to the dark side.

MNB user Richard Gramza observed:

This is complex Kevin so hang with me for a minute…

The Devil actually helped institute the blue laws as a way of getting some time off for Christian workers so that they could get drunk and SIN. I know, it’s hard to believe but here is the irony, the blue laws fit right in with the new RFID push and if ole Lucifer has his way, the RFID initiative will mature about the same time as the new revival of blue laws is in full swing around the country. When this happens, well, I for one am headed for my bomb proof shelter that is stocked with food and water that has been sitting around since about late 1999. Man, I hope that generator still starts.

Another MNB user was more charitable toward the folks promoting “devil in RFID” theory:

Don't be so glib on this stuff, Kev. I'm not saying these gals are on the right track with this, but I do know that God’s word has never been proven wrong and that any scientist type who has tried to do so has come back empty handed.

At the risk of getting into the whole “nature of faith” discussion again, we would point out that even for believers, there should be an enormous difference between God’s word and man’s. And we have to believe that no matter what deity people believe in, he or she probably isn’t spending a lot of time worrying about the theological implications of RFID.

Finally, we wrote yesterday about the regrettable closing of The Berghoff in Chicago, which prompted several emails.

MNB user Peter D. Rinck wrote:

This news makes me metaphorically morose. As our cities age and re-generate, the loss of the elders is to be mourned. Another Internet café arises, but an oak falls.

And MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

I must have walked by that restaurant 50 times over the past few years and always wondered what it would be like to eat there. They always had plenty of memorabilia displayed. Now I will never know. Perhaps I should have slowed down and not been in such a hurry to catch the next train back to Milwaukee.
KC's View: