business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got plenty of reaction to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s veto of the big box minimum wage legislation there that would have required a $10 per hour minimum wage plus $3 per hour in medical benefits for employees who work in big box stores.

MNB user Carla A. Alexander wrote:

I agree with your assessment of the discrimination aspect of singling out a certain type of retailer; however, there is something further to be considered. I am not trying to stereotype, but the truth of the matter is that those very people that are working for the lower wages NEED the jobs. The people in the ‘burbs are not going to be as inclined to take the positions available at the retail level (particularly for those wages). Therefore, you are going to cause greater unemployment (or cause the very people who cannot afford it to have to DRIVE to the suburbs to go to work!). I applaud the decision of Mayor Daley, and I think those who do not are being very shortsighted. If people did not work for those wages, the retailers would BE FORCED to raise them. Enabling people to remain uneducated and dependent by forcing a particular type of company to raise their pay is nothing short of corporate extortion. I say let free enterprise work it out.

One MNB user noted something in the Wall Street Journal that we didn’t see posted when we were gathering our news for the day…

It turns out that the wage bill's chief sponsor, Alderman Joe Moore, shops at suburban big-box retail stores, for the usual reason. His campaign committee has purchased $30,589 worth of supplies at big-box retailers outside the city, according to disclosure forms. Alderman Moore isn't alone out there with a cart among the high stacks. A review of Illinois State Board of Elections disclosure forms finds that the 35 aldermen who voted to stick it to the "big box" retailers have spent $114,000 patronizing these non-Chicago stores.

So choice and low prices are good for the Alderman, just not good for the people they represent. Oy!

Responding to the comment by one observer that the decision demonstrated that Chicago “was open for business,” another MNB user wrote:

Sound to me like his actions tell the world that Chicago’s mayor is open for business.

Or maybe just open “to” business. Depends on your point of view.

Writing about Wal-Mart plans to create demographically diverse stores to serve different customer groups, one MNB user offered:

When I was starting my retail management career 24 years ago the first District Manager that I worked for taught us one thing. There’s nothing new in retail just the same concepts wrapped in new words using new technologies.

It’s all about finding out what motivates your customer to come into your store and how can you get them to pick up just one more item. Whether it’s a demographic store offering from Wal-Mart, a Kroger or Safeway using their extensive loyalty databases to “customize” their stores for the neighborhood, or Whole Foods finding an upscale niche, they all want to know why people come into their stores and then keep them coming into their stores. If they can achieve that then it is reasonable to expect that the marketing teams can get everyone to pick up that additional item.

Wal-Mart will always be a factor in the industry they will always be extremely competitive but I see their efforts to develop a demographic store, or develop a more upscale environment like the store in Plano TX as an indicator that they are no longer capable of driving customers to their model. It seems to me that where they used to believe that they could move at will in the world of retail they now feel that they need to consider what is working in other retailers and see if they can execute it in their environment. If they can make the adjustment then God help us all.

We’ve been covering the gender discrimination suit filed against Costco, which led one MNB user to write:

Costco’s fears should be bigger than a lawsuit…remember- the average retailer’s customer base is around 85% women. Getting a reputation as a company that mistreats women has the potential to really anger your core customer.

The comment about women’s family focus being the reason that women are not promoted is utter nonsense. Instead of using it as a cop-out, upper management should utilize the women in the organization to gain understanding of how Costco can HELP busy working women balance all the demands in their lives. Whole new marketing campaigns could be created.

But more than sales, these busy working women are an underutilized resource everywhere. You already know that they have a great ability to multi-task as well as strong customer service potential (raising children teaches patience and creativity in meeting needs). There are lots of amazing, talented and educated women who have 20-30 hours to share in a management role. Maybe there needs to be a “hybrid” management position that has both store responsibilities as well as marketing responsibilities in a corporate setting or from home. Maybe it’s possible that a “job-share” program could be created. Find a way to utilize these potential assets to fuel growth instead of punishing and “stereotyping” them.

We got a number of emails responding to our story yesterday about putting wine in new kinds of single-serve containers, including juice boxes, which we found a little further than we’re willing to go.

MNB user Gary Goff wrote:

Why shouldn’t juice boxes work for wine? From a technical standpoint the barrier characteristics are as good as glass. Bear in mind that in other countries where homes lack refrigerator capacity “juice boxes” are used to keep dairy products fresh and stable at room temperature. What could be better? From an aesthetic standpoint the box is a so-so shape, for sure, but there are much broader graphics capabilities than with a simple bottle label. Looks to me like a wide-open opportunity for the graphic design community. After all, who would have thought about buying sparkling wine in a can before Coppola’s Sophia made it look so cool?

MNB user Jackie Lembke disagreed:

Okay, now I agree. I don't mind the wine in screw top bottles, some are very good and convenient as the cork screw and I are not on intimate terms, but juice boxes just seem tacky. Especially with the news of alcohol companies gearing their commercials to underage drinkers. Juice boxes seem to cater to these same underage drinkers. I think single serve cans or bottles are a great idea, juice boxes seem immature.

MNB user David Farnam had a thought:

Here are three reasons it makes great sense for the mini bottles.

1. Cooking applications when you don’t want to finish the bottle.
2. Some people cook with wine but don’t drink at all.
3. Partners who don’t drink but don’t mind if you do (my situation).

We would also like to see Sutter Home come out with a mixed 6-pack of say a Merlot with a Chardonnay just for cooking. Other than that we only buy bottled wine for parties.

Y’know, the mixed six pack of single serve bottles actually is a heck of an idea, if you’re going to get into this single serve business.

We promised you a selection of opinions about Wi-Fi in retailing outlets…and we’re going to deliver. (To recap, we had a story yesterday about McDonald’s actually having 17 percent of the nation’s Wi-Fi installations – which amazed us – and we argued that any retailer that wants to create a sense of community ought to be doing the same thing.)

MNB user C. Scott Johnson wrote:

I absolutely agree. I would add that it absolutely needs to be free Internet access. You can add a Wi-Fi connection to any place of business cheap and it is really dumb to get one of the branded entities (like T-Mobile) to do so, so you have to have an expensive subscription to their service. It shocks me that savvy places like Delta Crown Room and Starbucks got roped into that. I just skip over Starbucks and go down the block to Atlanta Bread Co. Voila – It’s FREE! And the thirty bucks a month I save pays for lots of coffee.

(Well, I used to anyway before I got my Verizon AirCard – now it’s Internet anywhere for me.)

MNB user Matt Muir wrote us from Down Under:

McDonalds in Australia is also using the wireless technology here, and has over the past 3 years also used it to deploy "queue buster" technology - a Palm OS based handheld scanner, which allows them to take orders from those standing in a queue, then provide them with a customer order number, so that the order can be recalled and paid for at the registers. It's amazing to see this technology work -- 30 or 40 people in the queue can be completely served within minutes, as the kitchen knows what they'd like before getting to the counter.

MNB user Joe Cannon chimed in:

Wireless should be like air available everywhere at no cost to all. You’ve got a wonderful chain like Panera leading the charge on that front with FREE Wi-Fi only a scone’s throw away.

There is nothing more irritating then to have to ante up anywhere from $5.00 to $9.00 to download your email at places such as Starbucks and the Providence Airport to name a few.

Finally, yesterday we had a story about how the global warming trend may be decried by environmentalists and Al Gore supporters, but not by the British wine industry, which is taking advantage of moderating temperatures to expand its capacity by more than 50 percent this year.

And here’s the kicker. One wine expert tells the Times of London that if global warming proceeds as expected, the north of France actually will be too warm for champagne grapes. But the British climate and soil may be just perfect.

We commented that there is a Monty Python sketch here just screaming to get out…but according to a number of MNB users, a version of it already has been written.

One of these MNB users offered an explanation:

Chateau-bottled Cuvee Reservee Nuit San Wogga Wogga?

It was an Eric Idle sketch and it may have only appeared in audio, on “Monty Python’s Previous Record.”

Back in the 1970s, the idea of the Australians making anything but plonk was obviously hilarious, but the Aussies had the last laugh. So may it be with Yorkshire champagne.

We’re immediately went to iTunes to track this down…and its hysterical…particularly its references to "Château Blue (which) has won many prizes; not least for its taste, and its lingering afterburn", "a 1970 Coq du Rod Laver, which, believe me, has a kick on it like a mule: 8 bottles of this and you're really finished," and “a prize winning Cuivre Reserve Château Bottled Nuit San Wogga Wogga, which has a bouquet like an aborigine's armpit."

But what really makes us happy about this is that there are so many in the MNB community that share out love of all things Python.
KC's View: