2020 marks the fifth anniversary of writing this blog. Yay! Happy Anniversary! Five years goes by so fast. I was talking to a 20-year old employee the other day, and we talked about how 20 was kind of no-man’s land of ages. Too young to buy booze or smokes, but too old to blame it all on being a teenager. I, on the other hand, as I turn a seemingly ancient 56 a few days ago, think back to how fun my 20’s were. So I thought about how this blog has evolved over the last 5 years, and decided to look back and see just what the hell my ramblings conveyed in the early years of blogdom. This one below, my third blog ever, struck me as still being very relevant and I decided to re-blog it. Our recipient list has increased by about 1,000 people since then, so I felt it was relevant to share again.The Most Important WMost of us who went to school remember the 5 W’s. Who, What, When, Where, and Why. In this age of equality for all words, letters, colors and numbers, is there really one that is most important? Is there one word that proves that there is a master word among the millions of words available? I assert that when it comes to our field of marketing and branding the maverick gro...read more
You are evolving, offering new products and services.
Every year at New Year’s I hear and read about people who have died during the year. Actors, musicians, famous people. It makes me reflect on the year and how fast it went. According to Credit Suisse, more than 7,600 retail stores closed in the United States through October of this year. That’s a mournful number. That’s also a record number of closings through that point, ever. Even during the Great Recession, which we all lived through. To make it even more alarming, it happened during a very prosperous economy. The S&P 500 department stores index dropped 30% this year. Yikes.So what are great grocery retailers like you doing to not be a statistic of losers? You are evolving, offering new products and services. You are solving “What’s For Dinner?” and giving lunch options that nutritious and a good value. You are taking a “Less is more” approach and streamlining operations and maximizing what you offer in limited space. And you’re not giving them a reason to go somewhere else or order online. So, here on December 31, 2019, I will raise my glass to you, the independent grocery retailer. You’re not a statistic and you make me hungry every time I visit, and t...read more
I was reading the Los Angeles Times newspaper (usually on my ipad, but on weekends we read the old fashioned real paper, which has become thinner, narrower and radically more liberal over the years – still I like the Sports and Calendar sections). On Thursdays they have a Food section, which was recently “reinvented” with much more photos and two new restaurant reviewers. It’s OK. Just OK. So we got talking about the days where restaurant reviewers went to great pains to hide their identity. Wigs, fake names, never doing anything in public – things like that kept their anonymity so the restaurants they visited wouldn’t know who they were, thus giving them preferential treatment over what the average Joe Schmo like me would get. It’s a nice thought, but a little flawed. I learned of some great restaurants over the years, trying several just based on the review I read. Especially a decade or more ago, many of the published reviews were really horrible.The restaurant might be called out for undercooked pasta, bland fish or indifferent service. I always hated the negative reviews because I wanted to read about someplace to go, not somewhere not to go. Absolutely nothing positive resu...read more
I’ll be thankful for the friends and family that I do get to see.
Just before Thanksgiving a friend was telling me how Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. More than Christmas, I asked? Yeah, he said, because it didn’t involve the stress and craziness of buying gifts, decorating, making sure everyone is happy and the pressure that came with it. To him Thanksgiving was about family and friends sharing a big meal and, well, just being thankful. As we close in on Christmas, I really have given his opinions some thought. The hosts of Christmas gatherings have the pressure to make sure everyone is happy. Guests have to decide where to go, when to go, who to go with. Lists of gifts and recipients to be fulfilled, who to see, what to cook. Combine that with the hectic and extremely busy season that befalls grocers, and it gets almost overwhelming for some people. I love Christmas, and this year I am going to try and take my friend’s view of Thanksgiving and apply it to Christmas.I’ll be thankful for the friends and family that I do get to see. I’ll take their desire for us to be together on the holiday as a compliment and not an obligation. The focus in our house is going to be one of gratitude and appreciation. I’m getting all ...read more
At the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was saying goodbye to each of her traveling partners – the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion (talk about a nickname you’d like to shake!). She tells each how she is going to miss them as she heads off back to Kansas and when she gets to the Scarecrow, she tells him she’s going to miss him most of all. Right there in front of the other two. I don’t think her world was the politically correct one where you couldn’t say what you felt because you might hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel left out. She didn’t have to call him aside and whisper “Don’t tell those other two, but YOU are my favorite and I am going to miss you most.” It’s OK to have favorites. My brothers know that I am mom’s favorite. After all, she has great taste and judgement. My daughters know I have a favorite. We have favorite flavors, movies, colors and employees. Our favorites make us happy and comfortable. They bring us joy, amusement and love. So this holiday season, it’s OK to express your favoritism. Life is not a sport where everyone who plays gets a participation trophy. Some people suck, and some people rule. Just like there can on...read more
Sunday I was putting up the Christmas lights at our house. There’s a particularly high apex over the garage that I really have to stretch to get the string of lights to. My ladder is 8’, and I am 6’ 1”, so when standing on the top rung of the ladder and stretching my arm up with the light string makes it about 14-15 feet off the ground. It’s fairly precarious, but I’m not scared of heights, so no big deal. Suddenly the ladder shifted and slipped, and I knew I had to move quickly or I would fall, grabbing the clay drain pipe that extends from the house should have helped, however it was not a clay pipe at all, just a styrofoam decorative piece painted to look like clay that broke off in my hand. I moved down a couple steps as I started to fall and was able to avoid the trees below, escaping without injury.It made me think about how, in moments of having to make a split second decision I would react to danger around me when others might be affected. We all talk about taking one “for the team”, and the ultimate example of that was by a Marine in WWII named John D. New from Mobile, Alabama. During the intense fighting against the Japanese on the island of Peleliu, Private New threw himself on a Japanese hand grenade...read more
Weird: of strange or extraordinary character : ODD, FANTASTICI love weird. Weird is unique, interesting, funny, quirky, different. I have two daughters that have pretty much called me weird from the time they could talk. I think it was in the top 10 first words. I’m sure that when I was feeding Holly as an infant, and gave the dog a taste of her baby food, then back to her, she was thinking “This is weird. Am I getting the dog’s food or is the dog getting my food?”Being a weirdo is a badge of pride to me. I don’t want to be the boring old dad that just acts like every other dad. I don’t want to be the brother, son or husband that is predictable, with no spikes on the radar. Weird is fun, and I search out products (like our new Bacon Flavor Lip Balm, Ruth Bader Ginsburg ‘Dissent Mints’ and Mac & Cheese flavored Candy Canes) that will leave an impression on people. It’s a great opportunity for independent retailers to do something that will get people talking, taking photos and sharing with their friends. Weird is youthful energy that I want to mai...read more
Old brands that just didn’t take care of themselves.
There’s a few things that can kill your business overnight. Especially if you’re not a huge corporation. I’m not talking about a physical event like a fire. I’m talking about things you have control over and that the vast majority of independent retailers are diligent about. Overnight killers include food poisoning that emanates at your store. The community finding out you have rats in your storeroom. Or roaches in your kitchen. E-Coli that is traced to your meat department. In 1993 an E-Coli outbreak was traced to undercooked hamburgers at Jack In The Box. Four children under age 10 died from it. Many lawsuits resulted and the company, had they not been so large, most likely would have failed. Chipotle faced similar problems recently, having repeated incidents of food poisoning originating at their stores. Sudden death is almost always preventable. Diligence and care are pretty much all that is needed to keep your store healthy. The real killer of conventional retailers is more like a slow death. Like heart disease, you feel mostly fine. Maybe you get tired a little faster or sometimes don’t feel good, but hey, we’re all getting older, right? Stores like Sears, K-Mart and Dominick’s were old brands that j...read more
All those years of extra effort goes right into the crapper.
It’s all about instant gratification, right? To quote the Ramones “We want the world, and we want it now.” Businesses and employees alike are under the constant pressure to please now. Right now. More and more, what you did last year, last month, last week and even yesterday is forgotten. As a business, we have invested thousands of hours and many years working on the little things that we hope will build a foundation of loyalty with our customers. But with the barrage of alluring messages from competitors, our years of effort depreciate pretty fast. Without constant reinforcement, reminders and exceptional service our customers memory becomes fuzzy and fades to black quicker than ever. You may have the best butcher in town but one disappointment raises an eyebrow. The second casts serious doubts and anything after that you have lost that customer no matter how long you have served the family.Employees seem to have an even shorter leash. For years you have given 100%, sparked innovation and ideas, helped with the evolution of your store and made substantial contributions to sales and profits. But due to the increasing pressure on financials, those years of efforts are m...read more
More about the little things. During our nightly debriefing of how our respective days went, my wife is always sticking ideas out there that she thinks would be good blog topics. So she’s telling me about how she was getting gas (not the fart kind this time) and there was a girl gas station attendant emptying trash. Linda asked her how her day was going, and the girl seemed surprised that someone would care enough to ask how she was doing. She said she was good and sincerely thanked her for asking. They exchanged a few words and the girl said something along the lines of “Well, you know, I’m just a gas station attendant…” As if it had been hammered in by her boss or her boyfriend or someone that she was doing a lowly job which merited no respect, not even by herself.I don’t know about you, but I have been to gas stations where trash is overflowing, windshield squeegee water is filthy, paper towels are out and the bathroom is so disgusting that I hold it until I can find a nearby McDonalds. Oh, how I wished that they just had a gas station attendant. Self- esteem and pride are built by you, the boss. Anyone who feels that they are just an unimportant piece of your organization reflects nega...read more