business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email responding to yesterday's In Conversation piece about HealthQuarters:

The concept of HealthQuarters is a great idea, particularly for those of us considered boomers.  I see several different kinds of doctors and a dentist, all at different times.  I also take vitamins and medications, all bought at different places. For me, any of this that can be combined into one place that provides a pleasant experience would make my life easier.  If you think about it, I have already been doing much of this in one place, my computer screen, due to Covid.

I think it is a terrific concept, and if MNB readers happened to miss the piece yesterday, I'd really suggest that you check it out here.

Regarding the Teamsters' avowed goal of organizing Amazon, one MNB reader declared:

Amazon is history if they ever decide to go union……which they will not. 

I don't agree with either part of your statement.

I think it is possible that, if Amazon does not make changes to some of its employee-centric practices, the company could see unionization at some point.

I also think that while unionization would impact the company, assuming that it would kill Amazon off is to underestimate the brain power there.

In an email last week, MNB reader Tom Murphy made the following observation:

Conventional retailers think about making money on the buy-side, as well as the sell-side.  In fact, a lot of grocers would have to admit that the buy-side generates the bulk of their margins.  Things like slotting fees, promotional fees, new product introduction charges, off-invoice penalties, etc., etc., etc.  They spend countless hours and human resources trying to maximize these instead of focusing on innovation and the customer.  This is what kills conventional models.  It creates costs and aggravation throughout the supply chain, ultimately resulting in customer dissatisfaction.  That is partially why more people are shopping online…to access more for less aggravation.

One MNB reader responded:

KC, I have to agree with MNB reader Tom Murphy. A Northeast retailer just switched from Fresh Express to Dole bagged salads, for which I'm sure Dole paid a fortune, for shelf space, advertising in the weekly flyer, etc.

Two weeks in a row their truck was rejected, so no bagged salads in the affected stores for 2 days each time. Not to mention the aggravated customers. Unacceptable.

Along the same lines, this email from an MNB reader:

Lots of comments about the latest miseries suffered by retailers (especially the supermarket kind) brought up this old memory. More than 30 years ago – it was during the fear-laden days stoked by WalMart getting into the supermarket business - I was attending an FMI event. During one of the breakout sessions, a man who identified himself as a marketing VP for a major retailer made a statement that was roundly booed. Speaking about the shelf rental business that every retailer encouraged, he said and I’m paraphrasing here, “The problem we have is that is that we’re renting real estate, we’re not super marketers anymore.”

The same conversation made a reference to Market Basket being a preferred store because of price, but one MNB reader suggested that this isn't the only reason:

The perception is true, but not the whole truth.  I visited both Stop & Shop and Market Basket this week and this is what I saw.  SNS had 14 registers, 2 were open … They had 6 self-service registers with one being used.  The store was dirty, and the shelf conditions were not good.

MB (which BTW their new format does not look like the ones of old)  was rocking!  22 registers, 14 open, each with a bagger.  Shelf conditions pristine.  People available to assist, IN ALMOST EVERY AISLE.  So no, price is not the only reason MB is eating the lunch of competition.   They give the customer a good price and they get them out the door. 

Why is MB so successful?  They make their money on SELLING groceries out the door and not on selling programs in the office.  MB built a new store on the same slab as a closed Shaws.  Good luck finding a parking space. 

Another MNB reader wrote:

For the past year I have been suggesting that retailers dare not try to return to 2019 practices. In all honesty, what was being done in 2019 was already a decade behind shopper behavior. Then the pandemic affected and accelerated everything – all the long-range planning and future ideas needed implementation then and now. The real winners across the retail ecosystem will be those who not only responded well during the pandemic but continue to accelerate and invent tomorrow’s anytime/anywhere/anything environment.

And, from MNB reader Craig Espelien:

Yep - being authentic is hard especially when you start from an inauthentic state (proxy for too many companies today - saying you are authentic does not make you so).

Marc Lore makes a good point that has been a challenge for marketers for decades. Who is my customer - and, more importantly, who is not? Years ago I was involved in a Gillette Case Study on marketing. The dilemma - does a brand renew for each generation (and thus, marketing shifts to the newer needs, psyche, etc.) or does a brand stay true to the generation that made them a household name?

Gillette seemed to do a good job of balancing - right up until disrupters appeared. There is an old saying (going way back to futurist Joel Barker) that most change in an industry comes from outside - someone who is not hung up on the current limits of thinking that plague many established brands or industries.

Warby Parker is focused on staying true to their core - and if a few folks want to be seen as more relevant or hip, then they can also become a customer (but will likely not become a target of their marketing). They will begin to become irrelevant when they attempt to become something for everybody as they will then lose their core appeal.

I don't think of myself as being particularly hip (and my kids quickly will disabuse me of any illusions in that direction should I begin to have any).  But I love Warby Parker because it is easy, convenient, less expensive, and brings a frictionless quality to a retail experience that can be mind-numbing.  It also seems aspirational - and manages to walk the line in such a way that never makes people like me feel marginalized when I'm in the store.  That's a pretty compelling value proposition, and it cuts across generations.