business news in context, analysis with attitude

Thoughts and stories to consider as the workweek begins…

• There was an interesting piece in over the weekend that was addressed to Ukrops’ management and its handling of all the rumors that the company is up for sale.

The piece notes that there were differing responses from the community to the sale speculation. On the one hand, longtime supporters of the company worried that a company strongly identified with the city of Richmond and a wide range of philanthropic programs might end up in less charitable hands; but there also is a segment of the city that apparently feels that Ukrop’s reflects the city’s white, upper-middle class traditions more than Richmond’s more diverse present and future.

The site correctly writes that Ukrop’s CEO Bobby Ukrop dismissed speculation as “rumors, anonymous blog postings and industry chatter,” even though it was clear that the company had put itself up for sale.

The site writes: “The Ukrops had an obligation to quickly explain the matter to the two main groups that supported it for 52 years – employees and customers. Instead, the company has declined comment to the media and been disingenuous with employees, whom they expect to continue to show up each day with a good attitude until they’re told not to.”

• Intriguing note in the Puget Sound Business Journal, which reports that one of the side benefits for in its acquisition of might be a better customer service culture.

Larry Pluimer, business development manager for Amazon’s outdoor recreation store, wrote a message to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh on Twitter that said: “Dear Tony: Please teach Amazon about Twitter … And if you could help us get an 800 number on the home page that would be awesome.”

The Journal writes, “The message went to the heart of Amazon’s $800 million-plus gamble on Zappos — the largest acquisition in its history. Seattle-based is getting not only a category leader in online shoe sales, but an innovative company known for its quirky culture, well-developed customer service, and heavy use of social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for marketing and brand development … Amazon plans to let Zappos continue to operate independently, but it’s also poised to draw some lessons from the Zappos model as it develops its e-commerce strategy going forward.
KC's View:
Over the years, to varying degrees and for different reasons, both Ukrop’s and Amazon have gotten a lot of attention for being progressive and effective retail engines. It is interesting to read these two stores, in part because they point out that every company has flaws. The real excellence of a company, it seems to me, is determined by an ongoing ability to learn, to grow, to challenge itself.

That even goes for paragons of excellence like Ukrop’s and Amazon.