business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB user Tom Murphy had some thoughts about the A&P acquisition of Pathmark:

Having lived in NJ and shopped both A&P and Pathmark stores, this has been a very interesting acquisition to watch. Unquestionably, the new company will have some of the most intriguing locations in their markets, albeit many that are distressed to put it mildly. They both, at times, have had strong identities within those communities they serve. Both have fallen on hard times of late, as you have often pointed out in your columns. I suspect that between the two management teams, there is probably close to one good team that can lead A&P out of the doldrums. The questions are fairly simple:
1. Can past management tone it down and let someone who knows what to do, do it?
2. Can those who merchandise and market, figure out: a) the right target customers, b) the right path to serve them and most importantly, c) have the patience to stay the course during the conversion and while the early results and naysayers are negative?
Tough questions for a tough market in a tough business!!

MNB had a story the other day about how Tim Mason, CEO of Tesco’s US division, described the Fresh & Easy stores as being “as fresh as Whole Foods, with value like a Wal-Mart, the convenience of a Walgreens and product range of a Trader Joe’s. That leaves us with a specific edge in the market.”

My comment: When he says that Fresh & Easy is designed to compete with four different retailers on four different fronts, and then says that this gives the retailer a “specific edge,” well, it just doesn’t sound very specific to me.

One MNB user agreed:

The CEO's perception of Fresh and Easy, "we are everything to everybody" does not jive with the perception that Fresh and Easy is "differentiated." If you try to be everything to everybody, you wind up being nothing to nobody.

I try never to underestimate Tesco. But one of the real questions about its US operations is how it plans to out the same kinds of stores in communities as different as West Covina, Hemet and Compton – which supposedly is what the retail is doing. It is an interesting strategy that remains to be proven.

But never, ever underestimate Tesco.

Regarding Wal-Mart’s ownership of 95 percent of troubled Japanese retailer Seiyu, which is being run by Ed Kolodzieski, one MNB user wrote:

What a huge blunder to have a guy named Ed running Seiyu. This is classic marketing 101 and culture is very important to everything from the design of the building to product selection, hours of operation, labor, management, customer service…well, everything. Without a deeply engrained understanding of the culture I predict failure and I would suggest the person heading up Seiyu ought to have English as a second or third language.

Great leaders and great companies surround themselves with people who know more than they do. In this instance I don’t see that happening.

Never, ever underestimate Wal-Mart. But the point you make is a legitimate one…that Wal-Mart’s problems in Japan may be related to a lack of connection to local shoppers. That’s what a lot of people there think, and it seems logical.

MNB noted the other day about how AT&T is getting out of the pay phone business, just another reflection of how the world has changed. The piece also prompted a couple of emails with unique perspectives…

MNB user Ed Martin wrote:

About a year ago, I was in the Sacramento airport when I saw a young girl who was walking with what appeared to be her grandmother. When they passed a bank of four payphones, the child asked her grandmother what those were. Her grandmother explained how people could make phone calls by placing coins into the phone. At that point the little girl was very excited and said “Does this mean we won’t have to carry cell phones anymore?”

Very funny. And telling that she had no idea what pay phones were.

And another MNB user wrote:

A bit of history. My father had a drugstore in a small Ohio town, opened in the early 30's, closed in the early 70's. The pay phone was 5 cents during all that time. He repeated many times stories about the two "houses of ill repute" tolerated in that small town, and how the "girls" would sneak down to his drug store to call their boy friends on this pay phone as the house "mom" didn't approve of giving away the merchandise. Changing attitudes caused the town to force these operations to close in the late 30's.

Don't know about you, but I can't get past the idea that this “small Ohio town” had not one, but two brothels…and was able to support them during the Depression.

KC's View: