business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to this week’s MNB Radio commentary about independent grocers, MNB user Ted File wrote:

Your comments on the independent are excellent...right on the nose!!! Even as a small independent businessman I often find myself kidding and saying "what's wrong with my proposals, is it just the people on the other end who don't want to know?" Then we hear that they are using another firm, or went to a larger company with more people who hopefully can deliver more options than I can? Yes as an independent I (we) need to differentiate ourselves from the "big guys", those who have more assets. So, the bottom line?-----We need to re-invent ourselves and demonstrate to our prospective clients that we too know and understand how to find those gold nuggets that provide more exciting opportunities for the client.

MNB user Chris Tjersland wrote:

You are right on with your comments on the independent grocers. I live and shop in an area where chains dominate the landscape and I would love to see an independent with an innovative twist enter the market.

Problem is, many of the successful independent retailers who made their money prior to Wal-Mart started to sit back and enjoy their success. Meanwhile, many other successful grocers decided to reinvent themselves to keep up with a changing marketplace. Most of them are still strong today and have developed a niche with their customers that makes them

Last week I had a chance to hear Bob Harmon (Harmon's - Salt Lake City) speak at our national sales meeting and it was obvious to me that they are built on innovation. They have found their place in a strong Wal-Mart market and have continued to evolve into a first class retailer that exceeds the customers expectations…

Lets hope the independents continue to use their strength, their ability to change quickly in this competitive marketplace.

An MNB user yesterday suggested that if Wal-Mart is not willing to carry state approved medications such as morning-after pills in its state-licensed pharmacies, then it ought to use those licenses. To which MNB user Gary Cohen responded:

I took some prescriptions to Costco and gave them to the woman at the counter. When I was done shopping, and I went back to pick them up, they didn’t have one of the drugs, and another – they only had the national brand and not the inexpensive generic equivalent that the prescription called for, so it wound up costing me more to buy it there than it would have at any other pharmacy. Now, should Costco lose its pharmacy license in the state of California because they didn’t have a legally prescribed drug that my doctor prescribed?

Seems to us that there is a difference between being out of stock and refusing to carry something.

But we’re not sure exactly how we feel about this, though we are concerned about where the lines get drawn and by whom.

Another MNB user wrote:

I am a licensed but inactive Pharmacist. Some years ago a store where I worked decided not to stock any narcotic drugs because of (a) the security and record keeping requirements, and (b) the risk of being held up by addicts wanting to steal those drugs. I wonder if Massachusetts would go along with that business decision? Also, our medical insurance is provided by the Catholic Diocese. They won't even pay for birth control pills, let alone the morning after pill. Wonder how that would set with State of Massachusetts?

Another MNB user wrote:

I don't think government should have the right to tell a retailer what to sell. However, if a physician prescribes a legal drug, a licensed pharmacy should be required to disperse that (and all) legal drugs.

Over the counter medication (and damn near everything else in the store) should be up to the retail what they want to sell. All prescription drugs should be a requirement for a pharmacy. Out-of- stocks may happen, but most of the time they should be provided.

We wrote yesterday that we thought it was good for the industry for Ahold to start getting more aggressive and expansion-=minded, but MNB user David Livingston disagreed:

KC, do you really think we are better off having Ahold expand in the US? Their ineffectual store performance has forced them to close or sell hundreds of stores. They sold Bi-Lo and Bruno's off in desperation and Tops stores are dropping like flies. Compound this with the financial scandals. Ahold needs to fix their existing stores first before they buy more stores and infect them with the same problems they have now. Albertsons tried to do the same thing. As they were getting murdered in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Colorado, etc, they were trying to buy their way back to prosperity with Shaws and Bristol Farms. Soon Albertsons will be no more. My guess is that Ahold does not have the cash to pay for top quality chains and they would have put the company at risk and borrow the money.

On the subject of interchange fees and policies set by credit card companies, one MNB user wrote:

It’s hard to believe that the credit card companies would act like the old Soviet Union by not allowing anybody to see the rules that they require their members to follow. Of course the rules are 100% in favor of greed for the credit card companies and nothing of value for the merchants.

However, another MNB user wrote:

I will agree with the retailers whining over interchange fees when the retailers stop charging “slotting fees” and the newest one: “marketing/advertising fees” to their suppliers of fresh fruit & vegetables. There’s also the back-billing issue that in fresh produce that is imposed on the suppliers. So the retailers need to quit being hypocrites.
KC's View: