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From an MNB reader...

On your Monday story from the NYT about list prices, retailers in California are talking about an effort by the Attorney General to end the practice of long-term TPR prices. No one seems to know what the outcome will be, but what is being targeted is apparently the practice of having a long-term or permanent TPR tag on the shelf that shows a regular price that is never in effect, and a discounted price that is actually the everyday price. Which is common for almost all supermarket retailers in CA. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

This kind of stuff may not be illegal. But it doesn't exactly sound transparent.

Regarding the regulatory issues that may derail the Staples - Office Depot merger, MNB user Bruce Wesbury wrote:

I for one hope the Government stops the merger. This will allow Office Depot to die a slow death and help Staples regain some lost market share a lot cheaper than the merger would have cost.

We wrote yesterday about tennis star Maria Sharapova, who said that she was found to have taken a banned substance in tests administered at this year's Australian Open, calling it a "huge mistake." Sharapova said that the drug was a heart medication that she has been taking for 10 years, but that recently has been placed in the 'banned substance' category by the World Anti-Doping Agency; she said that she should've known that it had been banned but did not, and she took full responsibility for her mistake.

One MNB user responded:

Bravo Maria!  I think?  She has taken a substance for her heart for 10 years and now it is performance enhancing?  Ok; if she in fact has a heart condition and she needs the medication; shame on Nike for their knee-jerk response.  I hope it is what it seems; we need role models that own what they do!  Sharapova 30; Tennis Love.

It wasn't until after MNB was posted yesterday that I saw the stories about how Sharapova was losing endorsement deals with companies like Nike (which, ironically, has stood up for some pretty sleazy male athletes over the years). I was surprised how fast some of these companies moved; perhaps they've been burned so many times that they have no tolerance for potentially risky alignments.

If Sharapova's explanation is both true and accurate, then I think they should've stuck with her.

We continue to get email about Starbucks' much discussed changes to its loyalty program.

One MNB user wrote:

Although I do not completely agree with Mr. Coupe on this one, given the choice of staying with Starbucks or drinking the likes of Dunkin Donuts Coffee; a Loyal Starbucks customer is there for the coffee.  The free item is just a perk.  A bad cup of coffee, is an all day experience!!

I work in the retail trade Nationally and the one thing you can give Starbucks credit for is a pretty good cup of coffee no matter where you travel.  It’s a lot like shopping at a Kroger or Public’s and a Walmart.

You don't have to call me Mr. Coupe, whether you agree with me or not.

From another reader:

Kevin, you might be right, but I have the choice between Starbucks and Caribou. I visited both, but used my Starbucks program more because of their reward program and payment program.  As soon as I read the new program details, I did the math and made my decision. Deleted the app of my phone, and gave all my business to caribou. Just one person, but in my mind they lowered the value of their program.

From MNB reader Kris Widener:

The change may not turn people completely away, but for folks like me that will buy 2-3 coffees per day justify it knowing I'll have a free sandwich or "fancy" drink to enjoy by the weekend are very turned off. The dissuasion to use the app should be their real concern. Kroger has the reward mechanism right and it'll be interesting to see how the less achievable "reward" impacts card use.

From another:

What a bummer about the changes to Starbucks loyalty program!  I've been a gold member for the better part of a decade now and to be fair - this may be the change that makes me just not care to go there anymore.

My husband and I usually get venti brewed coffees (diabetes runs on both sides so we try to avoid excess sugar) and the loyalty program was the only thing that kept us going to Starbucks - it's really not that great of coffee compared to some of the local roasts we can get around here (if you make it to Cincinnati - Coffee Emporium - fantastic).  When I first joined, 10 visits got me a free drink.  Now 12 and soon (by my calculation) around 15.

I never asked to have separate transactions because, well I would get to my free drink soon enough (and normally my gold membership - due to expire in Dec was renewed by March at the latest).  The local places around here all offer buy 10/12 get one free - and I'm supporting local economy, and at least one has a drive through so I don't have to wait until I get my kid dropped off at school to get my coffee (as opposed to having to run into Starbucks).

Maybe they should look into grandfathering people - or even go by the ounces of coffee? I don't know, but this will make me think twice before pulling in.

And another:

I’ll be interested to see how Starbucks values items that are not purchased at their store.  I purchase Starbucks coffee from the grocery store and wonder how they convert that ‘value’ in stars.  And, it’s been easy to be a gold member with 30 stars, now they want me to spend $150 for gold status?  Might be just as easy to maintain that status, but since my closest Starbucks is an hour away, I can’t just pop-in to take advantage of promotions.  Feeling penalized.

I don't think they'll do anything to reward people who buy Starbucks products elsewhere ... it just doesn't seem workable.

So far, I seem to be in the minority. Which I find weirdly reassuring.

Finally, in Michael Sansolo's column yesterday about the need for a little theatrical savvy in the modern retail store,, there was this passage:

So, it isn’t about Meryl Streep working the deli. (Though, in view of our ongoing infatuation with the movies, it is worth noting that Streep played the owner of of upscale grocery store in "It's Complicated.") It is about building store personality through our people, one at a time. It’s about finding people who like to interact with other people to give our store that extra edge.

Extra credit to MNB reader Cindi Sandy:

Sorry, but Meryl Streep owned a bakery in It’s Complicated.

You are absolutely right.

And for the record, that was not Michael's mistake. It was mine ... I added the line during the editing process.

My apologies for the goof.
KC's View: