business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got an interesting email from an MNB user, responding to our story yesterday about Wal-Mart considering a uniform upgrade for its employees:

When I was in the airport last week, (oddly enough, on my way to Bentonville) I saw a young lady sitting on my plane with her Target name badge pinned to her purse, even though she definitely was not on the clock or in uniform. I couldn’t help but think that she was obviously not ashamed, and perhaps even proud, of working for this company. I don’t know if you would necessarily see this from a Wal-Mart employee…or at least I know I never have! While I am sure the uniform is primarily supposed to help increase sales and attract a different customer base, perhaps they are also hoping a new uniform will help to boost the morale of the employees to the point where they would be more proud to work for such a company. It is a bit of a stretch, but maybe.

Responding to our story yesterday about Home Depot’s expanding empire, and what food retailers can learn from it, one MNB user observed:

I attended the NRF conference in New York last January. Most of the members of the vendor community were surprised that a Food and Drug Retail would be at the conference since the focus of NRF is more towards the dry goods retailing environment. The Tuesday keynote address was Bob Nardelli talking about the transition and growth of Home Depot using technology. As he spoke about where they were headed and what they intended to implement I realized that he was saying the same things about expanding their market as our executive board was saying. What I took from the presentation was the commonalities of retail and how for food and drug retailers thinking outside the box may mean looking at other areas of retail for common threads that apply to interacting with our customers and extending our markets. I will definitely be watching Home Depot as they work to develop their business model.

And, regarding the ongoing debate about the nature of organics, one MNB user wrote:

This organic thing may be getting out of hand. Over the weekend I had a conversation with the owner of a company making organic dog food. He proclaims his interest in making “healthy dog food”. He proceeds to say that the market is growing because people are concerned about their pets. He then says he has 1200 “family farms” supplying the raw materials for his plant and that he will raise that number to 4000 within a year! That is 2800 more farms or about 50 per week to be added. How can he possibly be sure that he is in fact getting “organic” product? He told me he has a small staff to run the business and he is proud of that as it keeps costs down. But does it provide for quality control and certification of the “family farms”? Does it provide ongoing oversight?

How many other organic businesses are doing the same thing? Is that any better than the big food manufacturers?

MNB user Cleve Young chimed in:

With all of the organic news and hoopla of the last couple of years I’m starting to try to understand how the “organic movement” is segmenting into different groups. One of your readers said yesterday “the organic movement has a cultural way of looking…” Exactly which organics consumers was this person referring to? As more and more consumers buy organic products, the reasons for that purchase are growing. Some, like your reader I assume, look at it as more than just food that is healthier for their body; they take into account the environmental impact, the farm workers impact, and community impact. Others, and probably by far the fastest growing segment, look at organics as simply a healthier alternative for their bodies. And there are even those that will buy it simply for the “chic” value. Which consumer is buying organics for the “right” reason? They all are doing what is right for them. The problem is starting to be that a certain segment, the ‘extreme green’ as you put it, is trying to dictate to everyone why they should buy organics.

The challenge for retailers and growers is to understand this changing segmentation and how to market to them. Over the next couple of years I easily see the organics market starting to segment where we end up with different classifications of organics. Will we soon be seeing some variations of the following: Small Farmer Organics (who decides what is small), Local Organics, Environmentally Friendly Organics, Sustainable Farming Organics, Big Brand Organics, and combinations of these and others. One thing is sure though, organics will continue to grow as a segment and it will continue to be in the headlines.

Sounds like the agricultural version of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”
KC's View: