business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to our story about Walmart testing same-day delivery, one MNB user wrote:

I find it interesting that Walmart continues to ramp up their game in the name of the consumer. The Whole Foods scam has been exposed and they turn out to not represent who they claim to be and in the end they are just another chain that continues to try and stick it to the consumer, with false claims of organic and extremely high pricing. Walmart however, continues to find ways to lead and keep everyone on their heels... If memory serves...KC is/was Whole Foods biggest fan?

I think in this case you are quite literally comparing apples to oranges. Walmart and Whole Foods have entirely different business models, and so I'm not sure that building up Walmart requires slamming Whole Foods. There's room for both.

As for my preferences ... while there are things about Whole Foods that I admire, and I do some small percentage of my shopping at one (mostly because there is a Whole Foods within walking distance of my house), I'm not sure that the record would indicate that I am Whole Foods' "biggest fan."

Another MNB user took a position that is fairly consistent with how I feel:

Walmart's got a huge hurdle to overcome if they think they can compete with Amazon. In addition to the fact that Amazon has millions more product offerings given their affiliate program, they have the added value of their ratings system, which I believe is one of the most valuable - and often overlooked - web assets. Nearly everyone I know consults those reviews before executing a major purchase. And by comparison their competitors attempts are laughable.

And of course we can't overlook the fact that like everything else Walmart does, the website is ghastly. I tried to purchase a gift card yesterday and quickly bailed just because I couldn't stand the interface and process.

Walmart always thinks they can compete with the assorted sweet spots of their competitors, but does so with a ham-fisted approach that is laughable. Remember when they tried to compete with Target's hip clothing brands by trying to market their own brands like Faded Glory and White Stag?

And Jim Swoboda chimed in about the long-term implications:

Traditional retail will become a "niche" at best.  It's only a matter of time...

MNB user Mark Raddant had a comment about Kate McMahon's column:

It seems to me the Organic products sold by the larger Consumer Product Giants are missing an opportunity.  They should begin labeling their products in accordance with the California law up for approval, even to the point of stating they are doing this in the absence of a national GMO labeling regulation.  Then the organic labels can—through social media—encourage people to change the giants from within by purchasing more of the non-GMO products and letting the consumer’s buying habits determine the outcome.  It seems to me the protesters are missing the same opportunity by not encouraging the giants to shift their resources through purchasing more of the non-GMO products, and letting the market force the change.

Regarding a Starbucks story we had yesterday, MNB user Brian Blank wrote:

I’ve got to side with Starbucks on their fight against the use of the cute but definitely confusing name “Starbarks Doggie Day Care”.  Let’s start with the fact that it took me two or three times of reading this piece before I caught the spelling difference (‘barks’ vs. ‘bucks’).  Add to that a not-unreasonable (potential) consumer assumption that Starbarks could be a legitimate brand extension (think of Reebok’s children’s line “Weebok”). 

For a business/service provider to use a name that is a pun or variation on a widely known and admired brand (whether in the same category or not) unjustly (and possibly undeservedly) bestows consumers’ positive feelings and assumptions (toward the legitimate brand—in this case, Starbucks Coffee) onto the unrelated business.  And should the unrelated business fail to live up to the high expectations cultivated by the legitimate brand, it casts a shadow on the legitimate brand which has no control or connection to the offending business—regardless of whether they are in the same industry or not.  After all, Walmart isn’t in the business of selling construction supplies, but I don’t think they’d allow a Sheetrock supplier to operate under the name “Wall Mart”.

And maybe Herman Melville should have hired lawyers to keep his book from falling into public domain?

And, we got the following email from MNB user Bev Bennett:

Like you, I read the piece on the drop in Protestant affiliation. The NYT version had some interesting things to say about the impact.

These people are likely to be young:

"Now, more than one-third of those ages 18 to 22 are religiously unaffiliated. These “younger millennials” are replacing older generations who remained far more involved with religion throughout their lives."

They're likely to be liberal:

“The significant majority of the religiously unaffiliated tend to be left-leaning, tend to support the Democratic Party, support gay marriage and environmental causes,” he said.

And, they're likely to be engaged in social action:

“A lot of the younger people are very spotty in their attendance at worship, but if we have a mission project, they?re here,” said Ms. Lindner, the pastor of a Presbyterian church in New Jersey. “They run the soup kitchens, they build the houses in Habitat for Humanity.”

Do you think these qualities could have some food industry implications? I do.

The biggest implication, it seems to me, is the utter lack of trust that an increasing number of young people - and not just young people - have in major institutions. An absence of faith - and not just religious faith - can be a tough obstacle for companies to overcome in the long-term.
KC's View: