business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB had a piece yesterday about how Kroger was expanding its financial services offerings, which led one MNB user to write:

Interesting on two counts: The similarities to Tesco are striking. And both are extensive users of dunnhumby's data mining services. (Probably no coincidence.

And they do this quietly while Wal-Mart gets frozen out by Congress.

No doubt this will increase speculation about how Wal-Mart proposes to get into financial services.

No doubt.

Regarding the purchase by Rouse’s of a number of A&P stores in Louisiana, MNB user David Livingston wrote:

This is a unique opportunity for Rouses. The population of New Orleans should start to rebound now that Road Home money is getting distributed, schools are being rebuilt, and another hurricane season will soon be over. Winn Dixie, despite all the hype, is still the same ineffectual competitor they always have been. Perfect timing for Rouses, a Louisiana based chain, to make their move. Even more good news is that they don't have to worry about Wal-Mart coming. Wal-Mart is already there.

We have a continuing discussion of the apparent trend toward banning the use of throwaway plastic bags.

MNB user Renata Muller wrote:

My own household despises plastic bags, recognizes that going back to strictly paper bags is not a good green solution, has purchased no less than 4 Whole Foods bags, (including 2 of the nifty wallet-sized folded bags), a great thermal Trader Joe's bag and two tiny and strong folded 2" x 3" Container Store nylon bags that can go on a (women's) keychain. However, do these bags make it the car? If they make it to the car, do they make it to the store? Sadly, no, most often they do not despite the best intentions. I have slightly better success than my husband but he, unfortunately, is our primary shopper.

We are trying to be good earth shoppers and take some persona responsibility here but I confess we are so far pretty pathetic in our execution. Consider those that are uncommitted or unaware!

Never thought I would advocate grocery stores behaving like banks with their fee orientation, but I think it is time that retailers:

a) announce they want to be good stewards of the earth and drop the use of
plastic bags altogether,

b) run intermittent promotions for frequent shoppers to receive free logo'd reusable bags, maybe even offer a free bag to any shopper that purchases over x dollars in goods... lots of opportunity for gimmicks here.

c) announce only paper bags will be available henceforth for those who come in and forget their own bags,


d) paper bags still exhaust valuable resources, so to discourage the use of them and encourage reusable bags, they are available henceforth for purchase at $.25/bag.

Only when retailers cease giving bags away for free will anyone really make a dent on the green initiative of reusable bags. As shoppers, we need training and encouragement on this.

Of course, the industry must proceed in common or the bags simply become a competitive weapon and soon we are all back to square one. But consider if it isn't possible to have downstream cost savings that make this a prudent financial measure as well as one that is a community-responsible earth-friendly one? I would like to think our industry can behave on the basis of either motivator, not necessarily both, but whatever works to get us off this bad practice we have cultivated, I am in favor of exploring. Retailers need to take leadership on this.

Or maybe we should sit tight and wait till it is all legislated for us and guess who is left holding the bag?

PS. Not a popular concept for the world of store front aesthetics, but retailers may want to consider the additional recycling step Costco and Bev Mo encourages by offering merchandise boxes or trays for consumers to bring goods home in. Instead of flattening it all after one use, the boxes and trays get at least one more use and the need for bags is somewhat obviated. For those who forget their reusable bags and don't want to pay the $.25/bag, stack some boxes and trays under cover in front of the outside of the store near the entrance or near the carts and refer to it as the Green Room and play up the eco reasoning/bag alternatives.

MNB user Dana Wise chimed in:

I have a large family and every time we go to the store, we return with a bunch of plastic shopping bags full of food and consumables. I would gladly move to a reusable method (bag or container) to transport my groceries and other items to the house, but I would then have to buy one item that never makes it into my shopping cart – tall plastic kitchen garbage bags. Why? Because I reuse every one of my plastic shopping bags as a garbage bag in my home. I usually end up with more plastic bags than I could ever use for trash, so I recycle those back to the store where I purchase my items. If someone can come up with a trash liner that does an equivalent job to the plastic for a reasonable price, I will switch in a heartbeat.

Ditto from another MNB user:

As much as I agree with the benefits for the environment as a result of the success of this ban, In my case (as well as many others I know), I re-use these bags for bathroom and bedroom trash cans as well as lunches. I get many uses out of these plastic grocery bags partly because they are essentially free trash bags and partly because I am making an effort to do my part in recycling and helping the environment by double usage. If a ban like this spreads, and we are all made to use re-usable bags, people like myself will end up buying small trash bags and then they will end up in the land fills thus defeating the purpose.

I realize not all people re-use these plastic bags, but there are many people that do, probably many more than don't.

Another MNB user wrote:

Oh my gosh! As the parent of 5 dogs, the earth may be greener but the yards we walk by will be browner. I have to use self scan lanes and double bag each item in order to keep up. What the heck am I going to do?

Pooper scooper?

Finally, I noted yesterday that over the weekend, Tiger Woos won both the PGA Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, as well clinching the first FedEx Cup, the PGA Tour’s first playoff system. He won $1.26 million for the first, and $10 million for the second. And I commented: I never write about golf here, because I know nothing about it. But this apparently is a big deal.

Or not.

One MNB user wrote:

There was nothing about this event that made it a big deal, except the cash. There was no tradition, no grueling course just cash. I guess cash makes an event important all by itself. I suppose that what makes professional television sports, including poker (!?!) so important is the cash, too. Makes me sad that other sports, that may inspire some kid somewhere, don’t rate because they don’t involve cash. This was simply an effort by the PGA to keep itself in the forefront of television viewer interest. By the way, I like cash and I like major championship golf. I just look for a little more redemption in sport than just cash.

Point taken. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not going to write about the sports I know absolutely nothing about.
KC's View: