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More commentary from an MNB user about Giant’s plans to overhaul 100 of its stores during the coming three years:

I think the most interesting thing about Giant's "Project Refresh" (which, according to the Washington Post, is what Ahold has dubbed its efforts to revamp Giant) is what it leaves out. There has been little to no mention of what Giant is planning to do in regards to changing its staff or even its staff training.

As a resident of the Washington DC metro area, I have lived near many a Giant. However, the last time I shopped at a Giant was on the way to a Redskins game over two months ago...and then only because it was the only store on the way to FedEx Field. I used to drive past a Giant to get to the Harris Teeter in my neighborhood. Giant will have a hard time competing with stores like Wegmans and Whole Foods because both cater to a niche market that I think Giant will be hard-pressed to get into the door. Simply put, if I want to find Ahi-grade tuna, I'm not going to Giant. However, I think they could learn something from Harris Teeter.

HT is much more of a "traditional" supermarket like Giant but the reason I would drive an extra few miles to shop at HT instead of Giant is that the staff in the store truly create a pleasant shopping atmosphere. I've been to several different HT stores in the area and have had the same experience at each: staff members that are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. From the employees restocking shelves to the prepared foods chef who came out from behind a counter to help me locate mascarpone in the cheese section, everyone in the store is there to serve the customer and they are proud of that fact. And the fact that this seems to be a universal experience across all stores and for different customers I've talked with seems to suggest that this is not an anomaly but a policy that is coming from the top down. Kudos to Fred Morganthall and his team!

Many of Giant's stores are clean enough and look nice enough. They are missing the point: all the remodeling in the world can't make up for a disinterested and unhelpful staff. Customers need to feel as though they are welcome in the store and not an annoyance to the staff.

Sounds like there is a real connection here to the story above about connecting with people…

Responding to a Baltimore Sun columnist who commented on products no longer carried by Giant since its operations were consolidated with those of Stop & Shop, one MNB user wrote:

But wait a minute – how do you buy Baltimore pizza dough and sausage from Massachusetts? You do NOT and that is the problem with all this consolidation. Consolidation of national brands and private label makes sense but there is a lot of “local” stuff that gets lost because no provision is made for getting the local input and buying it locally. Why would Roma sausage want to travel all the way to Massachusetts to make one sale (probably not a big one) and then there would be slotting fees etc? These consolidations are not working for the customer, just the company. And they reflect the inbred view of the retail industry “we know what is best”; cut costs and forget the consumer.

Actually, it seems to me that there are ways to buy Baltimore-oriented food in Massachusetts. There are these new fangled contraptions called phones and fax machines, and this new technology called the Internet – all of which make such buying possible. There’s a way. You just have to have the will.

MNB had a story yesterday about how Walgreen Co. plans to install kiosks that can “burn” DVDs of popular movies on-demand for shoppers into many of its stores next year. According to the company, it will take just 15 minutes to burn a DVD – about as long as it takes to fill a prescription – and the technology is seen as way of increasing selection while avoiding some of the piracy issues that have concerned the movie studios.

My view: Any retailer that has been spending time planning or developing an extensive DVD rental section probably ought to be looking at this technology as a harbinger of things to come, and an indicator that traditional DVD sections soon will be obsolete. Pretty soon, people will be downloading movies and burning disks at home…and the DVD rental/sales business will be nothing but a memory.

MNB user Ben Ball responded:

I think you are a bit quick on the trigger on this one Kevin. There is always a residual market for the physical / tangible version of entertainment. We still buy books and CD’s. Something about the tangibility is comforting. This might be construed as “generational” but I don’t think so. And there’s always the lag in adopting technology…

To use a phrase that, in fact, is from the movies…maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…

You’re right, this won’t change overnight. But the momentum is building, new generations are achieving economic power, and we have to start preparing now.

We also got an email about the jelly bean/shoplifting story that has occupied much of our time this week…this one from Kevin P. Nolan, who, it should be noted, is the director of store development for Supervalu:

I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents worth on the Florida Albertsons shoplifting story.

First, I realize this is not the main issue but I felt I needed to defend our good name. All of the Florida Albertson’s stores were sold to the Cerberus Group (same group that recently bought Chrysler) and operated by Albertson’s, LLC. They are not a part of the Supervalu family of companies. That bit of information may not make a difference to you but, as a Supervalu employee, it does to me.

Second, you have to wonder if we’ve heard “the rest of the story”? I find it hard to believe that a retailer would treat any customer this way, much less a “lifelong” customer. We all know the business pretty well and to go to this extent to make a point (for all of the reasons everyone has suggested: legal cost, collateral damage, loss of a customer) would suggest that this was bigger then “10 Beans” or not the first time this particular customer has been fingered by the Bean Police!

Maybe. But it certainly remains an interesting discussion point that, I think, goes to essence of food retailing.

KC's View: