business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week was a little heavy on travel, which made it hard for me to keep up with the email. So, let's see if I can catch up a bit…

Responding to the decision by California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation that bans the handing out by retailers of free single-use plastic bags, one MNB user wrote:

What is disappointing about this is that the only people who will suffer is the consumer. This is “feel good” legislation that will affect jobs, that’s right KC, these evil plastic companies have actual people working for them. If you would know the real facts, you would see that this is nothing but bunk. All of the accusations about plastic grocery bags have been disproven by facts. There is no garbage island the size of Texas in the Pacific, no more wild life than ever before is dying because of grocery bags, they are not clogging up our storm drains, and they are certainly not a major part of the liter stream. What they are is lightweight and people who do not dispose of them properly are the blame for them blowing in the wind. They may be an eyesore in trees and wire fences but no reason to ban something because people are not educated about litter.  Most every city that has put this type of ban in place has seen costs to the consumer increase, cost to the taxpayer increase since now most have moved back to bags that are not recyclable and end up in landfills, reusable bags that need to be washed on a regular basis or they may be a haven for germs of all types, and not to mention we are back to cutting down trees, which is where this has all started….paper…which costs more to recycle, clean up, and adds 10 times the weight in landfills. Here is the kicker, there is more plastic by weight inside the checkout isle than there is with the plastic grocery bags…. Here is another kicker, heavier plastic bags are now being qualified that are within the parameters of these bans which means more plastic in landfills than ever.
It is interesting that all the cities (and now California), that have banned plastic… never report about the follow up “independent studies’ that clearly show that there is no saving to anyone,… the consumer or the environment !  Next target…plastic water bottles!

And from another reader:

Bet you companies like Glad and Hefty are loving this ban because now people will have to buy bags to put in their smaller garbage cans instead of the ones that came free from the retailer.

Regarding the continuing saga of Walmart vs. Tracy Morgan, one MNB user wrote:

The legal proceeding surrounding the bribery scandal, and the lawsuit concerning the accident involving Tracy Morgan and their reactions to both just reinforce my belief they have no corporate moral compass, no sense of right and wrong.  I don’t make many mistakes on my job, but when I do, I have to own up to it.  Since I don’t try to pass the buck to someone else, I feel like those who work with me respect me more.  You have to own up to your mistakes,  when you don’t, people remember it and  you lose credibility.

Got the following email regarding my piece last week about how businesses are looking for future employees who actually know how to write:

Do u want to kno y execs r looking for strong writing skills? Bc writing skills in younger generations are limtd to 140 char.  IDK, maybe I’m old fashioned.

Me, too. I even insist on proper capitalization and punctuation in my text and email messages.

On another subject, a reader wrote:

I ask this question in all sincerity as I may not fully understand the concept.

Why would Wal-Mart build small warehouses with a depot attached, when they could just attach a depot to an existing store?  Even if it is a space issue I don't see how this differs from current methods of shopping on line and picking up at the store.

There must be something here I am missing.

Seems to me that there are a number of possibilities. One is that there definitely is a school of thought that store picking is less efficient than picking from a dedicated facility; that's what Tony Stallone, vp-perishables at Peapod, told me in a session we did together last week at the Category Management Association meetings in Orlando. By opening such a facility and testing it, Walmart can find out for itself … and then, depending on the results, can decide how to proceed.

Down the road, there is nothing that would stop Walmart from opening depots in store parking lots and still pick from dedicated facilities.

Responding to one comparison I cited here, MNB reader Philip Herr wrote:

While 7-Eleven may sell more bananas than Snickers, what’s the comparison to total candy? Comparing a single SKU to an entire (sub) category is unrealistic. Like comparing apples to M&M’s.

Actually, wouldn't the proper comparison be all candy to all produce?

I recognize that if we cited another fruit, the results of the comparison might be different. But I still think it is interesting … and a reason that 7-Eleven might see fresh foods worthy of greater investment.

Michael Sansolo cited a Bible passage last week about the size of Noah's ark, which prompted MNB reader David Pulsipher to write:

I would argue that many of us, (at least us older types), know the dimensions of Noah’s ark, not because of the Bible, but because of Bill Cosby, “Right, what’s a cubit?”; once again proving the power of a story, and humor.

One of the great comedy albums - ever.

On another subject, from yet another reader:

While I am many years removed from the buying/purchasing side of the business, I can't help but wonder what the major supermarket chain buyers think of Pepsi giving Amazon an exclusive on a product that will not be offered to them. In my day we would have a special carpet for them to be called in on.

Got the following email from MNB reader Kelly Jacob:

I am an avid MNB Reader, and I often use your website to update my organization on many of the latest retail subjects and trends since I think you have your finger on the pulse of the important conversations in retail…with attitude!!  Per the NYTimes report on the USDA and local farm support, I wanted to at least make you aware of the Pro*Act network.  We have been trying to be a solution for the local farm network for the last 2 years, but there are still some hurdles to overcome and thought you would be interested to know about them.

Retailers don’t want middlemen and feel they can manage a myriad of farmers and have direct relationships with them.  They also think farmers delivering to the back door of their stores is the epitome of local, but in today’s atmosphere of food safety outbreaks and the recent Jensen Farm settlement by Wal-Mart, I think it might be changing…or should.

Although local farmer relationships are definitely important, some farmers don’t have the proper food safety programs, IT capabilities or cold chain warehousing and transportation that could be better served by someone who can help them.  Pro*Act launched “Greener Fields Together” in October 2012 as a sustainability program that supports local farmers with a focus on food safety as well as a website for their farm bio’s and nation-wide exposure for local.  Our network of over 70 distribution points of individually owned and operated distributors are local businesses themselves and are structured to handle these smaller-scale growers.

With the changing consumer demands for fresh foods, our distributors have diversified into supporting both foodservice and retail with logistical solutions for small sized orders.  Since 2012, we have approached many retailers and local farmers with consolidation solutions, but the retailers don’t want to enforce food safety expectations on their local farmers out of fear they might sell to someone else, and the local farmer doesn’t feel they need to go to the added expense because the retailers are buying from them without it. 

After this latest Spring/Summer season, a lot of retailers are just now starting to require a minimum of GAP certification, and they have felt some backlash for it.  After the Jensen settlement, some might be going all the way to GFSi certification which will really be difficult for the local farmer.  Right now, even GAP is nominal and one outbreak affects a whole industry that is also made up of the larger growers that are doing the right things with food safety audits, etc and are actually monitored by the USDA unlike local.

The NYTimes article hit home for me since we have tried to get the word out, and many of the Pro*Act locations have had success with their local farmers, but we have only scratched the surface.  As a result, the only way we can help is letting people like yourself know that we exist and whenever you get any inquiries asking for solutions, please keep us in mind.  We know the world is changing and just trying to stay a few steps ahead of it!!

Thanks for putting MNB out every day… helps the rest of us drag our companies into the future!!

My pleasure.

Some folks have questioned my use of of certain words in our MNB Sports reports…

MNB reader Ron Pizur wrote:

I find your use of the term "decimated" interesting.

To decimate means 'to select by lot and kill every 10th person of'. Did that really happen to the Patriots?

Sorry to be critical, I just think people are over-/misusing this word.

And, from another reader, about a different word:

After the Peterson incident we Viking fans feel the terms spanked or whooped are inappropriate although your cheek was probably bulging as you typed the word.

We also think the nick name “Vikings” sends a stereotypical and incorrect meme about those  decedents of Nordic decent. Based on our state of mind after last nights game and the previous actions of the NFL a better name for the team and its fans would be the Minnesota state bird, the Loon. Go Loons.

And from another:

Your use of 'spanked' in today's sports news put a grin on my face.  Good choice!
KC's View: