business news in context, analysis with attitude

One MNB user wrote in to complain about a piece last week noting that published reports said that “following the announced closure of stores in its chains around the country, Supervalu said yesterday that its Jewel-Osco chain is offering its corporate employees unpaid time off between now and the end of February. The company emphasized that the program is voluntary, not mandatory, as the company looks to cut costs.”

TRUTH: The VTO (Voluntary time off) policy was rolled out company wide per home office news on 12/20 BEFORE the recent sale of stores.

There are NUMEROUS cost savings initiatives being implemented….whether it is a re-negotiating our cafeteria vendors, a hiring freeze, or the suspension of all non-essential travel…the belt is being tightened.  Read whatever you want into it.  Maybe an indication of things to come or as someone in our office joked, “someone (Herkert) finally looked at the check book”.

These things probably should have been done a few years ago.

Point taken. My apologies if I misread the timing.

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

Reality is, people eat for emotional reasons, and out of habit, and unconsciously, and all the intellectual knowledge in the world doesn’t change that – unless the person makes the choice.

Example:  My neighbor’s wife passed on at age 67, over 300 lbs – her heart finally gave out.  We didn’t know them well, had a friendly “neighborly” relationship only.  I brought him over a vegetable cheese quiche, and discovered he’d never had that in his life.  He and his wife lived on a diet of fast food.  Really.  He shared with us how they never cooked, simply picked up dinner Taco Bell, McDonalds, In and Out, daily.  Ate breakfast out, Denny’s or McDonalds too.  He had already lost a toe to diabetes (he was obese, not quite to the extent of his now deceased wife).  I mentioned a few quick simple things he could do to prevent further loss of limbs, and he said, right away:  “You know, I know all the right things to do.  I know myself.  I just won’t do them.  Thanks for the info, I’ve heard it before, but I don’t want to change”.  At least he was clear that it was his choice!

Responding to last week’s piece about BJ’s, and my questioning why the company had not been as successful as Costco and Sam’s, one MNB user wrote:

In terms of why BJ’s seems to be struggling compared to Sam’s or Costco, I think it can be summed up in two pieces.

First, their competitive mind set is to compete with the supermarkets in their area – they are focused on providing better values on traditional brands and products than the grocery stores they are located near – that is the consumer they want to pursue.  As you have pointed out many times, these consumers now have so many choices that supermarkets are suffering.  So, if that is your desired consumer, you have to be pursuing them so aggressively in order to get their attention that this may not be the best competitive platform to create growth.

Second, their merchandising – at least as it appears to me – is beyond archaic both in terms of the way they interface with vendors as well as the way they interface with the consumer.  Everything is “me too” in the stores and their approach is very East Coast/New England – too many relationships that are sacred cows that leads to stilted merchandising and product assortment that is not creative but rather more of a junk shop approach (I would say their team is more A&P like than it is Safeway like).

So, just like any other retail form, if you are not relevant to your consumer (either current or desired) you may struggle a bit.

BJ’s has some very talented folks – but the overall company seems to be stuck in the “We want to change – but only as long as it is exactly the same as what we are doing today” mode.”

Another MNB user wrote:

As it happens I have a theory on this.  In early 2006 they eliminated their Consumer Insights department that handled all the analytics and customer research.  From what I have been told since then they have done virtually no customer research.  When Herb Zakin came back as the CEO at the end of 2005 he used the phrase “We can force the customer…” during a company meeting.  It was clear he didn’t actually intend to say that because he quickly re-phrased his statement but that he would have that kind of a slip of the tongue spoke volumes to me!  It was at that moment I knew the research function at BJ’s was very likely at risk and indeed within 6 weeks it was gone.

I commented last week that I thought it was a good thing that Pete Rose is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, which led MNB user Bill Welch to write:

You are letting your New England bias show through.

I disagree. This has nothing to do with a New England bias.

Pete Rose lied about betting on baseball. He bet on baseball while managing a major league team. He accepted a banishment from baseball rather than have a report on his activities published, and then continued to lie about his gambling for years until it made economic sense to confess in a book. And he had to know that it was wrong, since the rules on gambling on baseball are posted in every MLB clubhouse in America.

Pete Rose is getting what he deserves, IMHO, and it has nothing to do with where I live.

Commenting on some movie notes that I passed along last friday in “OffBeat,” one MNB user wrote:

Since all my dolls were truly alive when I was little, I have been fascinated moved by the Toy Story movies since they originated.  My dolls went to bed at night tucked into their beds w/blankets exactly up to their chins, all in their night clothes.  If a doll went outside w/me in the winter, she was duly protected by either a snowsuit or double blanket.  I had the luxury of having a mother, grandmother, and aunt, who all sewed magnificent doll clothes, so appropriate clothing for my dolls was routine business for me.  It used to drive me nuts to see friend’s dolls w/no clothes on or, God forbid, missing limbs and having ratty hair.  But I digress.

I saw Toy Story 3 in the theatre this summer and was somewhat mortified to find tears streaming down my cheeks more than a few times but, most notably, when they all held hands going down the garbage chute to the fire and, again, when Andy and Bonnie played together in the yard; for Andy, this was the last time.

For my 6 year-old grandchild, I bought him all 3 dvd’s for Christmas.  He had never seen any of them so watched them in order.  As he watched the hand holding scene in 3, tears just unabashedly ran down his face.  My point in writing.  I am pretty sure some children “get it”.

The stakes were almost impossibly high for the creators of the 3rd movie, but I think you would agree that they met and exceeded the challenge.


And another MNB user wrote:

You actually watched The A Team on purpose??

Call it a father’s love. My sons were watching it, and I got to spend a few hours with them.
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