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Continued email about the situation at Supervalu...

One MNB user wrote:

After 14 years of working for American Stores/Albertsons/Supervalu, I was one of those let go in last year's round of "reductions". (My department was trying to match experience and background of the consultants, Oliver Wyman, and since I didn't have a PhD in stats and math I no longer meet their needs).

While I was bitter for a few days I was surprised to realize that I was happier than I had been in years and while I will never be grateful for how my loyalty was treated, I probably should be grateful for the chance to leave what is becoming an increasingly toxic place to work. Like some of your other readers I was hating having to get up and go to work. I have had start over at a lower level and pay, but i am at a company that values my knowledge base and where I feel like I am making a difference.

Albertsons was a great company, (of course it was even better before Larry Johnston, but that's another story), and I understand that Supervalu was a well run successful company before the "merger" as well. The problem is that together they became a company that could not make hard decisions early enough to make a difference; that settled for common practices instead of best practices when they had the chance; that can't stick with a long term plan for more than six months; and  that was so enamored in technology as a solution to all problems instead of investing in people, (customers and associates).The disappointment is that once again the right people are not losing their jobs, just more loyal associates that have the know how keep the wheels on the bus while making Supervalu successful again.

All the latest round of cuts is going to do is make it harder for those good folks still remaining to be excited about turning around the company while doing not only their jobs, but the additional workload that 800 people used to do. In reality what is going to happen is a lot of that work is going to fall through the cracks, and unfortunately for Supervalu that is a lot of the work that was going towards helping the banners figure out how to do a better job.

And another reader chimed in:

Got an e-mail yesterday from our local produce director in a Supervalu division.  Two key persons let go in an already severely scaled back dept. All future vendor meetings cancelled (it was already nearly impossible to get a meeting or establish any kind of contact). A floral employee will now be trained to take on some produce responsibilities to try to keep the ship from sinking. Things were already bad enough.

Tough times. And probably going to get worse, because a company can’t move forward if the people on the front lines are spending much of their time looking over their shoulders.

I wrote yesterday about a presentation at NGA by Phil Lempert in which he said that statistics show that “41 percent of all meals prepared at home are being prepared by the dad.” I said that I was shocked by that number. I’ll accept it on faith, but it is a lot higher than I would have expected. (Even twenty percent would have surprised me.)

MNB user Cleve Young responded:

I’m not at all surprised by the 41% of dads preparing meals. Women make up a huge part of the workforce, and in my social and family circles it is often the male who is cooking dinner because they get home a little earlier than the working wife/significant other. Add in the growing percentage of stay at home dads, unemployed dads, and younger generation of men who are more willing to go outside of the John Wayne stereotypes, and you’ve got some real numbers. What I would find much more interesting is what, if any, differences there are between WHAT and HOW the men are cooking. Men do many of the same activities as women, but definitely have a tendency to do them differently. So if a retailer wants to help teach these men how to plan, shop, prepare and cook a meal they better make sure not to make the mistake of just showing them how the women do it.

Wasn’t it John Wayne who said, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”?

MNB user Jeff Weidauer wrote:

I have to take issue with this stat; you say you'll accept it on faith, but you also note that it's double what would surprise you. I wasn't there, so maybe there were other supporting data given for this surprising claim. Why the change, and how much of a change is it from five years ago? Is it a result of the economy and are these dads mostly un- or under-employed, trying to help out at home? Or is this a sea change in the American household and its habits? And what exactly constitutes "preparing meals?" I get cynical when someone tosses out a factoid like this without back-up data.
The other thing that concerns me is the leap from making dinner to doing the shopping. While I've seen some stats that more men are shopping, I don't know that just because they are cooking more at home (which could be heating up a frozen pizza) that it means they are now also doing the shopping. And even if they are, who is making the list?

I'm all for buying into these facts if they are indeed facts. But without the background info, and some insight into what this means, I don't know that I'd be changing my target market just yet.

I asked Phil Lempert about this, and he said that the 41 percent number comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and he was kind enough to share the entire paragraph from the written presentation:

This time it is not about the metrosexual – it is all about “dad” and family. After surveying 1,000 professional fathers from Fortune 500 companies in four different industries, Boston College Center for Work and Family learned that, “Today’s dads associate being a good father just as much with the role of effective caregiver as the traditional role of breadwinner. These men want to be engaged parents and successful professionals, yet find conflicts as they try to achieve both objectives.”

Because of the economy, more men are at home. The good news for them is that studies suggest a link between husbands who help out at home and happier relationships. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “for husbands and wives alike, the more housework you do, the more often you are likely to have sex with your spouse”, and that’s when they are not burning calories while cooking – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 41 percent of men are now doing the food preparation as compared to just about half that amount in 2003.

Wait a minute. Four out of ten men are having more sex because they are doing more cooking?

Now that’s what I call a marketing hook:

”A recipe for happiness... Go to the supermarket. Buy food. Take it home. Cook it. Feed your family. Go into the bedroom...”

Regarding using aromas to sell food (and a store’s food culture), MNB user Lisa Malmarowski wrote:

I always say... If your grocery store doesn't smell like food, time to find a new one. 

But please, no fake smells at bus stops or anywhere else. How many more synthetic chemicals must we pump into the air especially when people don't have a choice about them?!

Michael Sansolo had a piece yesterday that in part took note of how hard it is for the supermarket industry to attract new talent, which led one MNB user to observe:

Grocery career?

If the grocers have a problem with recruiting all they have to do is look at their pay scales.  I’ve worked for both a local small grocer with 31 stores, and now a food broker.   I was the HBC Manager at store level making $10 an hour with 2 college degrees, one in engineering and an MBA.  I knew I wanted to be in category management and knew I had to start somewhere.  I wanted to get promoted but I also wanted to work my way up, learn the ropes.  Well I finally got in front of the person who could pull the trigger on a promotion and was told they had that role covered.  Actually he told me that unless Mike gets hit by a bus there’s no opportunity for you here.  Of course all my friends asked me how I missed.

The bigger issue for grocers is how can you attract and retain people who would be the future of the organization when you pay $10 an hour for your top people at the store level?  My impression is that the people who float to the top were good at one thing…Putting stuff on a shelf or motivating others to do the same.  That skill or personality, primarily motivating people making $7 an hour to increase their case rate, while tactically useful is not exactly the same talent needed for making complex financial, pricing and item assortment decisions for the organization.

I really felt that the people running the chain I worked for were good at putting stuff on a shelf with limited skills needed to run a business.  More than that, there was a sense in the organization that if you worked there you must be stupid.  One incident that really sticks in my mind was when one of our best stockers interrupted a conversation the grocery manager and his territory manager were having to let the grocery manager know what his next task would be.  The territory manager - and I am not exaggerating here - looked him square in the eye and without mincing words told him to wait till he was told what to do and that he was too stupid to know what to do.  To believe it about your employees is one thing, to actually say it is another.  I couldn’t leave that environment fast enough.  The experience I gained was invaluable to what I do now as a business analyst but it was expensive training.
KC's View: