business news in context, analysis with attitude

To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:

Or, to simply read the commentary in text form, continue below…

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.

Once again, I’m probably too late to the party. I often bemoan the fact that I didn’t buy Apple Computer stock when it was in the doldrums, which is just the latest example of my bad judgment when it comes to the stock market.

I have only once in my life invested in a food industry stock – it was years ago, and I was convinced that a company started up by Jim Bildner, called J. Bildner & Sons, was a sure bet. After all, he wanted to bring upscale, yuppie-oriented food marketing to the urban masses, and he was opening stores to great acclaim in Boston, New York and Atlanta. Unfortunately, Jim Bildner was underfinanced and over-ambitious, and certainly ahead of his time…and the company went down in flames. I lost the few dollars that I had invested in it, which in retrospect wasn’t anything compared to what Bildner lost. Too bad, though. I still think his stores were terrific.

When I talk about being too late to the party once again, it’s because I’m thinking that I should have found some companies that are making reusable canvas grocery bags, and invested in them a few years ago. Cleary, that’s where the shopping world is heading, and while I would have had to divulge the investment every time I wrote about the trend, it would have been worth it. After all, I have two kids in college right now, a daughter interested in private high school, and a wife who can't make up her mind between renovating the house and figuring out where we are going to retire. Some investment income might come in handy…

I mention all this not because I’m looking for stock tips, but because I’ve been thinking about canvas bags. I discovered the other day that Michael Sansolo and I, completely independent of each other, have been collecting canvas bags from the various stores we visit. On the one hand, I think this may make us grocery geeks. On the other, I think it is because we are both canny observers of the retail scene, and this is one way to track and quantify a major trend. Not sure about you, but I like the second interpretation. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

It seems to me that we’re likely to see some innovation in the canvas bag scene in the next few months and years. For example, Hannaford Supermarkets is selling these great canvas bags that actually fold up and snap into place, making them a lot more portable. I have a couple of those, because they tale up less room in the trunk of my Miata.

The local deli in my town has begun selling canvas lunch bags, which I think is a very good idea. Mrs. Content Guy, who takes her lunch to the school where she works each day, was mentioning that because we no longer have plastic bags she had nothing in which to carry her lunch, and there might do the trick. Up until now, she’s been using this small version of the classic LL Bean canvas bag that seems to work very nicely.

I got an email this week from a pair of women who were in the graduate design program at Stanford University, and who were inspired to create a new kind of bag by the simple fact that many people go into the store and forget to bring their bags with them. So they created a new kind of bag that essentially rolls up into something roughly akin to a sockball, and therefore can easily be carried in purses and coat pockets. It is called a Flip & Tumble bag and you can find out more at, go figure, I think it is a smart idea, and a harbinger of things to come. Some smart retailer will figure a way to turn this smart idea to its advantage. It might as well be you. Check it out. (And no, I don't own stock in the company.)

Here’s a prediction. Fifty percent of the United States will have banned disposable plastic bags by 2015. If I’m only half-right, it will still mean a considerable cultural shift. But it may not matter, because if I’m only half right it also will mean that the people who believe that our planet is a fragile environment in need of far greater care and nurturing will have lost the debate, and the world will be going to hell in a handbasket.

But I prefer to think that this will not happen. I prefer to think that there will continue to be innovation, that people will do the right thing ethically and morally, and that maybe we won’t even need legislation banning plastic bags because the weight and depth of public opinion has forced industry to do the right thing.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.

KC's View: