business news in context, analysis with attitude

We reported yesterday that the American Bar Association (ABA) has named Wal-Mart as the recipient of its 2007 "Spirit of Excellence Corporate Award,” saying that the company has been exceptional in promoting diversity in the legal profession. And we joked that while “we’re sure that Wal-Mart is sincere and accomplished in promoting diversity in the legal profession…all we could think of when we saw this press release was that Wal-Mart is responsible for the hiring of so many attorneys that it is no wonder the list is diverse.”

One MNB user didn’t find us funny:

Cheap shot, Kevin.


Our kids tell us that we’re about half as funny as we think we are.

This may be proof that they are right.

We also had a piece yesterday in which we suggested that Whole Foods employees are people who are “living the life,” not just cashing a paycheck. Which led one MNB user to disagree with us. Really, really disagree with us.

The Whole Food employees, well at least about 30 or so of them, aren't living such a good life at the new store in our town. They've been laid off.

Contrary to what is often espoused on your blog, all is not rosy for Whole Foods or their employees. Supermarket retailing is tough, often cutthroat, and predatory. Whole Foods isn't any different - they're just shined up better than most.

Sorry, but your comment that the employees aren't just earning a paycheck, they're living a life is in my opinion a load of crap. Just like anywhere else, for some it's true and for others, it's just a paycheck - they're toeing the company line so they can pay the bills. Then they leave and shop at Pick n Save.

You’re right – for us to suggest that everybody is living the life probably was naïve. But we still think that we’ve found an unusual level of commitment and engagement among the Whole Foods employees that we’ve met over the years.

We reported yesterday that Tesco plans to expand its nonfood website Tesco Direct from 8,000 SKUs to 10,000 and launching a 1,000-page print catalog to support the site. currently gets one million visits per week, according to the company, and the company eventually plans to have as many as 16,000 SKUs featured on the site.

MNB user Mike Griswold responded:

I guess Tesco is familiar with the “long-tail” theory. They clearly get it and it will be interesting to see how long it will take before this is available in the states. My guess is not very long. Finally, who would not want one million visits a week? I’m not sure who in the US could boast that many hits.

Tesco isn’t just familiar with the “long tail” theory, it probably helped invent it.

For those of you who don’t get the reference, go to right now and order “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson. The book’s essential premise is that the future of business is selling less of more, and that the Internet is enabling a radical change in consumer buying habits.

Yet another comment from an MNB user about Publix, to follow up on the continuing discussion this week:

As a consumer, I do see changes in Publix that make me sad and get me to shop other places often. I see my choices being taken away in the deli as well as the meat department. Everyone does not want Boars Head or Publix brand. When I visit your deli, that is all that I am offered. I am seeing more and more Publix and Greenwise in the Meat department and less brand choice in the fresh meat case. Remember, you can not take gross to the bank.

I have actually been told by these people that the reason they no longer carry an item is that they make more money on Publix product. I believe that Boars Head must own about 50% of your company. Publix is not the store that it was 5 or 6 years ago sad to say. You need very much to remember who made you what you were. It was not bean counters nor consultants.

Responding to yesterday’s story about Safeway’s health care initiatives, one MNB user wrote:

Yes, this is light at the end of the tunnel. I like the idea of Safeway using cards to monitor how much employees are working out. At 17,000 square feet they could employ personal trainers, nutritionists, and fitness instructors. Perhaps even massage therapists and a chiropractor -- seriously. Casinos monitor gamblers with cards and give them comps. Safeway can do the same with the amount of exercise someone puts in. Then get their vital signs monitored from to time.

On the subject of Aldi’s continuing expansion plans, one MNB user wrote:

Why they opened stores where they have mystifies me.

In my hometown of Martinsville, VA, there is an Aldi store.

Now, Martinsville was a once bustling city of about 15,000 population in the city with 55,000 in the surrounding county. Once bustling because the world's first (E. I. duPont) nylon plant was opened there in 1940 and employed 3-4000 citizens at its peak closed several years ago due to lower manufacturing costs elsewhere. The local businesses were mainly textile, i.e., fleeced goods made into sweat suits, etc., now entirely closed due to lower costs in the Far East. Household furniture manufacturing, led by Bassett(VA) Furniture Industries, the industry's largest manufacturer, is now 100% closed with the announcement last week of the closing of Hooker Furniture's last domestic plant. All goods are now manufactured overseas.

Guess where? China, of course.

We posted an email from an MNB use yesterday wondering how Minneapolis could be one of the nation’s fittest cities, considering how cold it is much of the year. Which prompted another member of the MNB community to write:

Obviously Joe Cannon hasn’t been to the Land of 10,000 Hockey Rinks. I moved to the Twin Cities 10 years ago. Our family loves it here. You will not find a better quality of life. I was out yesterday in 20 degree weather in only a sweatshirt, and no coat. 20 degrees with a bright sun in your face actually feels quite warm after a few days where the high doesn’t get above 0. I saw others out cross country skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and playing hockey. Minnesotans embrace each of the four seasons. The great outdoors is a very important part of that quality of life.

And, on the subject of Roundy’s planned expansion into the Chicago market, one MNB user wrote:

Perfect site and perfect timing. The site is near the Gold Coast, yuppies, DePaul University, the "L" train, and credit card millionaires. The area is extremely understored with small high volume, high sales per sq. ft Whole Foods, Trader Joes, a double decker Dominicks, Jewel, and Treasure Island. With Safeway confused about the future of Dominicks, the closing of stores, and the delays in its remodels, plus Supervalu going through its learning curve with Jewel, Roundy's could not have timed it better.
KC's View: