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Produce Business

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Wal-Mart Looks To The Future


Former Wal-Mart Executive Bruce Peterson Presents At The London Produce Show & Conference: ASDA As A Case Study — The Pressures On Retail & The Path To The Future describes how we’ve been honored to have Bruce participate in both The New York Produce Show and Conference and The London Produce Show and Conference since their inception. You can’t duplicate the perspective of someone such as Bruce, as nobody else in produce can tell you what it is like to be hired by Sam Walton and to discuss a plan to build the biggest supermarket in the world. So we consider ourselves very lucky to have Bruce back in London this year. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out what Bruce is focusing on this year in London. 6/6/2016

Bruce Peterson, Founder Of Wal-Mart Produce Program, Will Urge Industry To Rage Against Mediocrity, Value Experience Over Education, And Merchandise To Wow The Consumer At The London Produce Show And Conference reports that Bruce Peterson sent over notice as to what he wanted to present this June at The London Produce Show and Conference. Bruce was for a time the largest buyer of produce on earth, but he never forgot the basics he learned on the Detroit Market and at store level. Most retail buyers today won’t have to worry about forgetting, for they never knew. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to get us a “sneak preview” of Bruce’s presentation in London. 4/7/2015

HEADLINER AT THE LONDON PRODUCE SHOW AND CONFERENCE: Former Wal-Mart Exec Bruce Peterson Speaks Out On Consumer Value Perception And The Future Of UK Retailing recalls that when we wrote New Opportunities To Sell Produce In The UK Market Emerging From Tumult — we realized that it was tumult in UK retailing that was redefining the market opportunities in the UK. Obviously there are many experts in the UK on British retailing, and we will have more than our fair share of them at The London Produce Show and Conference but, sometimes, an outsider to the market can both speak more freely and see things from a different perspective. So we asked Bruce Peterson of Wal-Mart fame if he would come to London to share his market analysis. Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Manager Mira Slott gave us this sneak preview. 4/30/2014

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart Dilemma: Add Labor or Reduce Complexity? received this letter from Doug Stoiber, VP of Produce Transportation Operations with L&M Transportation Services. Doug states that he thinks, “Wal-Mart is not putting enough people in their produce department.” Obviously, the produce industry would like to see the produce department of every Wal-Mart look like that of Harris-Teeter, but with that high service approach comes a need for more labor, more management, more space, more shrink, more of a lot of things, and that tends to create higher prices. Higher prices would depress sales. So, perhaps, the produce industry needs to be careful what it wishes for. It just might get it. 9/26/2013

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Empty Case And TV Commercial. Were We Being Unfair? our piece, A Wal-Mart Example — What Is The Produce industry To Do When Its Showroom Isn’t Executing Well?, brought this rebuttal from Ron Cramer, Senior Global Ornamentals Adviser at Sakata Ornamentals. We ran an anecdote, not the results of a national study. Proper merchandising is part of a virtuous circle. The fact that such a display can exist at the front entrance to a store for over two hours tells us that, at very least, there is a management systems problem in achieving and maintaining optimal retail execution. 7/26/2013

The Anti-Wal-Mart: No Protests Here — Trader Joe’s Expands In Florida — This Time In The Pundit’s Back Yard – And The Welcome Is Warm asks do you know when a retailer has achieved truly great status? It is when the whole big deal is a12,500 square-foot store and yet the politicians in town start giving themselves high-fives when the retailer announces it is opening in their town. A retailer just announced a new location a stone’s throw from Pundit headquarters, and the headline reads: “Boca Takes a Victory Lap After Landing Trader Joe’s.” 7/22/2013

A Wal-Mart Example – What Is The Produce Industry To Do When Its Showroom Isn’t Executing Well? describes how we visit a lot of retailers, and a confluence of factors — economic, regulatory, etc.— are leading retailers to reduce both hours worked in departments and the expertise of the employees available. This means that industry sales are increasingly pressured by poor retail execution. We stumbled across an extreme example. 7/22/2013

With Wal-Mart’s PTI Mandate And 100% Guarantee On Produce, One Wonders If Local Is Included Or Is There More Fluff Than Real Stuff; Unions Will Be Watching Carefully reports how, like a one-two punch, Wal-Mart has roiled the produce industry with two separate announcements. It declared that it would begin to enforce the requirements of the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) on vendors and that it would “recommit” to providing consumers with the freshest fruits and vegetables by rolling out a “100 percent money-back guarantee” for consumers. Significant organizational change would also be executed in order to accomplish this goal. The announcements are sufficiently vague to sound like PR fluff. To the extent they are specific, they raise as many questions as answers. 6/6/2013

The Failure Of Tesco’s Fresh & Easy: Diverse Voices And “Daja; Vu All Over Again” our piece, Twenty Lessons Learned From Tesco’s Fresh & Easy Failure, brought many responses. Edna St. Vincent Millay was among the first women to receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She advised that “It is not true that life is one damn thing after another. It's the same damn thing over and over.” Which is pretty much what seems to have happened here. One executive very experienced in retail questioned the viability of Wal-Mart doing any retail acquisition. 1/22/2013

Media Reaction: Unions Organize Walmart Protests; Rest Of The Nation Goes Shopping writes that if one simply read media reports, one would have expected a massive strike against Wal-Mart during Black Friday. Megan McArdle, a special correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast covering business, economics and public policy, had a great column on what actually happened. 11/27/2012

Global Trade Symposium Keynote Speaker, Professor Tom Reardon, Will Discuss The Rapid Transformation, And Increasing Opportunities, Of Produce Markets In Emerging Countries explains that we knew that bringing Professor Thomas Reardon, Ph.D., to New York was a guarantee that we could deliver on our commitment to run world-class programming and deliver on our promise to help industry members to think bigger than they had before. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to give us a sneak preview of what this gentleman and scholar would unveil at The Global Trade Symposium on December 4, 2012, in New York. 11/14/2012

Twenty Lessons Learned From Tesco's Fresh & Easy Failure mentions how the year 2012 closed with the announcement that Tesco will probably exit its US business, Fresh & Easy. To our regular readers, the failure of Fresh & Easy will come as no surprise. But it is a surprise in this sense: When we initiated our analysis of Fresh & Easy, we were told, more than in any other situation, that Tesco would get it right. The more we pointed out that they got it wrong, the more we were assured that we were underestimating Tesco. The year 2013 gives us the opportunity to draw business lessons from the debacle in the hope that we may do business better ourselves. 1/7/2013

Wal-Mart and Payoffs in Mexico: Bribery or Extortion? saw The New York Times came out with a front page article titled, “Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top Level Struggle.” The allegation in this case is that ‘gestores’, or paid ‘fixers’, with Wal-Mart’s knowledge, went beyond friendly facilitation and paid bribes to officials to secure the needed permits. In this case, the story goes on to allege that although the Mexican subsidiary tried to keep everything from Bentonville, when an unhappy former employee spoke out and the story reached Bentonville, top Wal-Mart executives did not try to stop the behavior, did not arrange for an independent investigation, and did not report the matter to the authorities — this despite the specific recommendations of Wal-Mart’s internal legal team. 4/24/2012

Wal-Mart, Food Deserts and East Harlem: Trying to Have It Both Ways extends a hat tip to Tim York, President of Markon Cooperative, for passing on this piece from the New York Daily News: “Walmart in Harlem would put other food stores out of business, report predicts.” What this article really shows is the phoniness behind all these food desert claims. Is this a horrid food desert with people unable to buy fresh produce or are there dozens and dozens of stores selling fresh produce? 1/4/2012

CANTALOUPE CRISIS ANALYSIS: While “Blame The Auditor” Frenzy Rages, It Pays To Look At Best Practices Vs Standard Practices reports that when Elizabeth Weiss of USA Today broke a story, “Listeria-linked Cantaloupe Farm Had Rated High In Audit,” that detailed the fact that Jensen Farms had received a top score — 96% — in a Primus audit done just six days before the first person fell ill from these cantaloupes, we received many letters including this one from Craig K. Harris, in the Department of Sociology, National Food Safety and Toxicology Center and Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards at Michigan State University. It would be a terrible mistake for the industry to think this was some horrid facility. It was not. And to expect auditors to impose world-class best practices on the trade without the support of either government regulation or buyer demand is to place bizarre weight on a very thin reed. 10/23/2011

When It Comes To Audits…Retailers Get What They Specify in response to a New York Times article titled, “Listeria Outbreak Traced to Cantaloupe Packing Shed,” we received a note from David Cook of Deardorf Farms, who writes in to raise more issues to think about. On the issue of PrimusLabs’ contracting out the audits conducted at Jensen Farms, two thoughts come to mind and we expand on them here. There are, of course, audits and then there are “audits,” as David Cook says, but Wal-Mart gets exactly what it wants and what it is willing to pay for. 10/23/2011

When A Buyer Is Short Of Product... Do We Have A Plan To Ensure Food Safety? received a letter from the President of a prominent Michigan-based produce firm, Randy Vande Guchte, President of Superior Sales, Inc. Randy has done an incredible job of building up Superior Sales over the last two decades. With a record of accomplishment such as his, you have to take what he has to say most seriously. We would say that his letter exemplifies many of the issues that the industry has to deal with: Randy points out that retailers who are short will buy what they need from a broker or wholesaler. So how can these buyers know they are buying acceptable product? And, the obligation of the grower, packer, shipper and processor to follow through daily that Randy mentions is certain. But it is not clear what they are obligated to follow through on. 10/23/2011

A Choice Had To Be Made: Which Was The Top Priority: Buying Cheap, Buying Regional Or Buying Safe? reports that we received more than a few irate contacts when we dared to suggest that the Wal-Mart buyer who bought this produce was focusing on local and regional, not on the highest food safety standards. Of course, everything is relative, and to some, such as Dan Cohen of Maccabee Seed Company, Jensen Farms should be seen as neither local nor small. We appreciate him giving us a chance to comment on this issue. Local has no legal definition in produce marketing. Our point was that the buyers are not in any way incentivized to make this choice based on food safety. 10/23/2011

CANTALOUPE CRISIS ANALYSIS: The Need For An Aligned Supply Chain And An FDA That Won’t Punt On Food Safety reports the FDA has now published the results of its assessment into the Jensen Farms situation. The results generally buttress the points we made previously both here and here. The FDA’s report provides much insight into the situation, and its investigation is thorough and sensible, but there is not one thing new in the investigation. That is to say that every single thing mentioned as possibly contributing to this problem was a known hazard before this season began. Wal-Mart, in many ways a great leader in food safety and certainly a company with almost unparalleled resources to make sure food safety is done right, bought these cantaloupes. How did this happen? 10/20/2011

Lessons For Wal-Mart… The Rise And Fall Of A&P And The Future Of American Retailing:
Marc Levinson To Present At The New York Produce Show And Conference
 at The New York Produce Show and Conference, we take pride in showcasing authors doing important work. This year we turn to Marc Levinson, author of “The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America
,” a writer specializing in business and commerce but also one who seeks to draw bigger lessons from the history of discrete technologies and companies. With the future of NY metro retailing to be significantly affected by what happens to A&P, we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to see if she could learn more about what Marc Levinson would present at the event. 10/12/2011

One Wal-Mart Shopper Stands Up For Civil Order And Gets Robbers Arrested, But She Could Have Gotten Herself Or Another Person Killed found that a woman by the name of Monique Lawless decided she could not abide the break down in civil order represented by thieves getting away from a Wal-Mart store in broad daylight. When the cashier didn’t act, Ms. Lawless asked her to watch her bag and ran to stop the thieves. When we wrote about Michelle Obama’s efforts to end “food deserts” here, we complained that giving people money to open supermarkets in inner cities was an evasion of the problem. Like Ms. Lawless, we thought the priority should be on making sure that civil society prevailed in these areas. 10/12/2011

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s RPC Decision Is Part Of Its Bargain-Hunting Produce Procurement Strategy received a letter from industry veteran Richard Kochersperger, Director of Food Marketing Group, who asked for an opinion on Wal-Mart’s decision to eliminate RPC's and return to corrugated boxes for produce. We happen to think this is a mistake on the part of Wal-Mart. Leaving aside all issues of efficiency and sustainability, we believe that demanding produce in a container that was not used by most wound up getting Wal-Mart better produce than it paid for. After all, a rejection by Wal-Mart was a very serious matter, leaving a shipper with product not easy to sell elsewhere. Yet it seemed to us inevitable that Wal-Mart would move away from RPCs. 9/12/2011

Pretending To Buy Local: Why Is Wal-Mart Ashamed Of Its Important Role In Bringing The Produce Of The Country And The World To Its Customers At A Reasonable Cost? explains that there is no reason not to celebrate good locally grown produce, but there is also no reason to be ashamed of a worldwide distribution network that brings peak-of-the-season produce from growers all over the country and around the world to the smallest towns in the US at a highly reasonable price. In the end Wal-Mart, and any large retailer, can’t gain from pretending to be something it is not. 8/3/2011

The Verdict On The New Walmart Express Stores: Nice Enough But Non-Responsive To The Challenge Wal-Mart Faces From Aldi, Save-a-Lot, Dollar Stores And Others paid a visit to Wal-Mart’s new Walmart Express concept recently, visiting the first two stores in Arkansas. In addition to being a fill-in between supercenters in rural areas, Walmart Express is being touted as an answer to Wal-Mart’s desire to expand into urban areas. The rural stores may work as they are relatively inexpensive to operate and can be viewed as a business unit in combination with nearby supercenters. We doubt the urban stores will work very successfully. Yet, whether the Walmart Express concept is adequately profitable where it opens strikes us a secondary question. The real problem is that it is not an answer to Wal-Mart’s problem, which is declining public confidence that Wal-Mart offers the best price. 7/6/2011

Wal-Mart Needs to Jump-Start A Virtuous Cycle And Stop Putting Onus On Shoppers To Find Lower Prices reports Wal-Mart’s first quarter earnings have come out, showing overall profits up but same-store sales down in the US. The business has changed so much that the food tail is now wagging the general-merchandise dog. One gets the distinct impression that Wal-Mart executives don’t really understand why same-store sales are down — now for eight consecutive quarters. The truth is that every quarter Wal-Mart has been pointing to higher profits and lower same-store sales. What it needs to do, of course, is invest some of its profit margin into lowering prices. This would jump start a virtuous cycle in which lower prices lead to higher sales per square foot, which would result in fewer costs per dollar sold, which could allow for lower prices ad infinitum. 5/24/2011

Pundit's Mailbag — Is Costco Repeating Wal-Mart’s Mistake? Of Engagement Rings, Wedding Dresses And Knowing One’s Customer received this note recently from Veronica Kraushaar, President of VIVA Global Marketing, LLC, who comments on a piece we wrote about Wal-Mart’s efforts to go back to the basics. Veronica points to Costco’s recent announcement that it will be testing pop-up bridal boutiques within some of its warehouses and she wonders if Costco is taking the same risk Wal-Mart did in trying to dabble in high-fashion. We think Veronica’s note illustrates how subtle differences in clientele and image can be and how important it is for businesses to really understand both. The real question about Costco’s efforts in this area are three-fold. 5/24/2011

Amidst Procurement Angst From Wal-Mart And Delhaize, Kroger Makes Changes More Transparent To Vendors discusses how Wal-Mart’s procurement changes have been a source of more angst for the supplier base than was necessary in large part because the company has been at war with itself. The Delhaize effort has been controversial because of the distinctive nature of the Hannaford operation from the Food Lion operation. In contrast Kroger is getting mostly praise from its vendors, although it is also undergoing a massive reorganization to centralize its procurement operation Why? Simple really. It has avoided Wal-Mart’s problems by being clear and transparent with its own team and its vendors. 5/2/2011

“Buying Direct” Is Not The Same As “Buying Local” — C.H. Robinson, Wal-Mart And The Perils Of Public Disclosure reports C.H. Robinson recently announced its 4th Quarter Results with these lines: “For the fourth quarter, our Sourcing revenues decreased 6.5 percent. Sourcing net revenues decreased 4.2 percent to $31.7 million in 2010 from $33.1 million in 2009, primarily due to decreased volumes with a large customer.” Being a public company offers enormous advantages. It also sometimes requires companies to make disclosures private companies do not. The announcement was widely misinterpreted. CHR was careful to explain that its biggest customer, Wal-Mart, had a new procurement policy, and it was electing to buy more “direct” rather than through C.H. Robinson. Editors and analysts who don’t really understand what is going on quickly assumed that buying “direct” is the same thing as buying “local” and so you started seeing headlines claiming that CHR’s produce business was dropping because Wal-Mart was buying local. In fact “local” and “direct” are not synonyms, and CHR’s drop in produce sales to Wal-Mart has very little to do with any local procurement. 2/9/2011

Ramifications Of First Lady’s ‘Endorsement’ Of Wal-Mart’s Health Initiative believes the decision of First Lady Michelle Obama to appear with Wal-Mart executives to endorse Wal-Mart’s new program that will, supposedly, help promote healthy eating is somewhat problematic. As a matter of approach, it is just not clear that it is a good idea for government officials or the wife of the President to pluck out individual companies for praise or approbation. Maybe that is why The Washington Post made a point of saying how unusual it was for a First Lady to get involved with a private company this way. 2/2/2011

Is Wal-Mart’s Local Produce Initiative A Public Relations Stunt? saw that The New York Times ran a piece titled, “Wal-Mart to Buy More Local Produce,” which detailed some new Wal-Mart goals surrounding its commitment to locally grown produce. The article also revealed Wal-Mart’s plans for the Sustainability Index. There are a lot of goals being conflated here and for the most part it is difficult to know if it means much at all. In fact, all this sounds like a marketing gimmick. 10/21/2010

SUSTAINABILITY SPECIAL EDITION The Battle Over The Stewardship Index: Will Wal-Mart Wind Up Taking Over? Wal-Mart has been an important player in leading its supply base to think of sustainability in particular ways. Many involved in the stewardship process have approached us with doubts about the Stewardship Index. Some feel there has been “mission drift,” and the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops is moving toward prescriptive standards. Others have asked on what basis people came to be in charge and what kind of governance has been set up on this process. One of the most public critiques has come from a respected industry consultant John Vendeland, Partner with Cirrus Partners, LLC. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from him. We also sought input from the man organizing the process, and so Mira reached out to Jeff Dlott, CEO, and Chairman of the Board at SureHarvest. The problems here are numerous and obvious. 9/21/2010

Does New Personnel For Wal-Mart Mean New Hope For The Vendor Community? considers what the exits of both John Fleming, merchandising chief at Wal-Mart, and Eduardo Castro-Wright, President/CEO of Wal-Mart’s US Division, will mean to the retailer. Despite the personal reasons given for their departure, one would be foolish not to think that if the last four consecutive quarters had been barn-burners they may still be there. The team wasn’t producing. They set out to make Wal-Mart more like Target, more like Tesco, and more like everybody else. Yet the secret to its success, of course, was being what it uniquely was — Wal-Mart. 7/27/2010

Advice To Wal-Mart’s ‘Heritage’ Farmers: Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket received several phone calls from a few of the farmers participating in Wal-Mart’s Heritage Agriculture program. The main topic of our discussions: The danger of over-reliance on one customer. This is always a danger and, in this case, we think the danger is acute. 7/20/2010

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart or Walmart? mentions that lately we have been getting some helpful e-mails on our spelling; they all relate to one company, Wal-Mart, including this note from Jim Vangelos, President & CEO of Polymer Logistics. Yes, the hyphen has disappeared from the brand and from the stores and with it the capital “M” in Mart. However, the legal name of the corporation remains Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Wal-Mart themselves put it this way. 7/15/2010

Wal-Mart’s Heritage Agriculture Program Gets Good Press But Doesn’t Make A Dent explains that although the free market is pretty efficient in determining where things are grown, buyers seeking lower prices and better product are part of that free market, so it is very desirable for a buyer of Wal-Mart’s size to have a few people out there looking to find local procurement opportunities that are unconventional and make sense. For the most part, though, as nice as this may all be, it really is not significant. To an extent, it is no more than an extension of Wal-Mart’s old “store of the community” program — trying to be locally relevant. 6/29/2010

Wal-Mart’s ASDA To Acquire The UK’s Netto Stores: Will They Bring The Small-Store Concept To America? explains that since Marketside is a bust, Wal-Mart needs a new vision for a small-store option. Wal-Mart has done what big companies typically do best: it just bought such an option. Its British subsidiary ASDA has announced that it is acquiring the British division of small store chain Netto. If it can operate these small stores profitably, it will probably try to bring them to America. The vision, however, is likely to be different than Tesco’s was in opening Fresh & Easy. Wal-Mart would have two options. 6/11/2010

Three Reasons Why Wal-Mart’s Visits Are Down explains how after enough years of listening to the way retailers announce their sales and earnings, you realize that with a few exceptions, these reports are often ex post facto attempts to explain things in any possible way except to blame management. One got that feeling in the recent Wal-Mart conference call covering first quarter earnings of 2010. Once again, Wal-Mart’s United States same store sales were down while profits were up. The explanations didn’t really make much sense, but we found three hints in the financials, press release and conference call. 6/7/2010

More Wal-Mart Straight Talk: Standards Will Drop finds some readers think we need to write more bluntly about Wal-Mart. This comment comes from an important supplier of grapes and tree fruit: "If Wal-Mart continues to try to take the margin out of its suppliers’ profits, the first thing to happen is suppliers will choose to meet ONLY the specs — or less, in tight markets." It is a funny thing with produce, the guy who gets the lowest price doesn’t always get the best deal. In large organizations everything is often about the personal career goals and compensation programs of individuals. This may explain why Wal-Mart is driven by short-term considerations. Nobody’s pay and position is determined by what the situation will be with pears in 2019. 4/19/2010

Wal-Mart Swaps Strategy For Tactics saw that Business Week ran an article titled: "Wal-Mart and the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Consumer”. The piece discusses why the US Wal-Mart stores reported negative comps for the 4th quarter. It also notes that Sam’s Club comps were up 0.7% during the same period. The article also pointed out was that customer traffic was down. The piece cited food deflation and speculated that Wal-Mart’s core customer was living “week to week” as to the reason why. This may all be true, but a Pundit correspondent, who was once a major vendor to Wal-Mart, suggested some other reasons. 4/16/2010

Wal-Mart’s Auction System Leads To Less Sustainability received a letter from Rod Farrow of Lamont Fruit Farm Inc. who sees the drop in costs from Wal-Mart’s new produce procurement operation will be absorbed by the grower, and further states that this creates an unprofitable and unsustainable situation for growers. We appreciate Rod’s input and think he has an important point but think that the point needs to be more tightly focused. Rod’s point is to note the contradiction between Wal-Mart’s self-professed desire to emphasize sustainability and its willingness to put farmers into competition with one another on an auction basis, which challenges sustainability on at least three levels. 3/22/2010

Wal-Mart Reports Strong Earnings: Is It Creating A Pricing Umbrella For Aldi? explains that recently, our series on procurement changes have made some think we were hostile to Wal-Mart. Our critique is not an attack on the Wal-Mart concept. It is a claim that some of things Wal-Mart is doing either A) will not, in the long run, help it achieve its own goals, and B) offers an assessment that there are contradictions between Wal-Mart’s professed values, particularly around sustainability, and its actions in agriculture. Which brings us to the latest news. Wal-Mart just announced strong earnings and we see long term problems growing out of the short term success. We look at Wal-Mart’s sales chart and then we look at Wal-Mart’s Profit Chart, we see something creating an opportunity for ALDI and deep discounters. 2/19/2009

The End Of The Sam Walton Era At Wal-Mart: Navigating A New Business Model reports that on February 3 Wal-Mart’s domestic buying apparatus that had been assembled mostly by Ron McCormick was “blown up.” Some made the cut, some were handed severance packages. It appears that Procurement will be divided into three sectors: Global Procurement, Merchandising and Local Sourcing. It is a big change and not just in personnel. It is a new model for doing business, and it raises at least five immediate questions we can try to answer. 2/9/2010

Wal-Mart Produce Procurement ‘Set Up For Devastating End’ explains that recently our coverage surrounding Wal-Mart has been on the effectiveness — or lack thereof — of a procurement model Wal-Mart has been testing in Washington State on apples. Now we received this letter from a knowledgeable observer who writes that its executives have effectively set Wal-Mart up for a devastating end in regards to the apple commodity. Some vendors hold out hope that as the losses become obvious, Wal-Mart may make a U-turn and reexamine a once very profitable system. 1/28/2010

Wal-Mart’s Blind And Costly Focus On FOB’s our piece, Flaws In Wal-Mart’s Produce-Procurement Thinking, brought a number of interesting responses including this letter from Dan Sutton, Director of Produce with Albertsons, who points out the enormous problem with Wal-Mart claiming that its Washington apple procurement experiment was saving it 10%. When people who don’t know the business seize on something they can quantify — cost of goods sold — and work to reduce it, they should really step back consider the consequences of their actions. 1/18/2010

Flaws In Wal-Mart’s Produce-Procurement Thinking highlights a piece in The Financial Times that reports on Wal-Mart’s efforts to reduce supply chain costs. Although Wal-Mart’s claim that apple procurement costs went down 10% in the Washington pilot project is mysterious, the bigger point is that even if Wal-Mart’s number is correct, it is surely only a portion of the story. The truth is that when it comes to produce, Wal-Mart is wildly overestimating the impact of volume — at least over the long term. 1/5/2010

Pundit Mailbag — Is Wal-Mart Adopting Other Retailers’ Buying Practices? our piece, As Manolo Reyes Takes Over Ron McCormick’s Role, Wal-Mart Squeezes Vendors To Generate Higher Profits, brought a number of interesting notes including this one from industry veteran Alan C. Fitzgerald, Chairman of Tri-Pak Machinery, Inc., who says it is basic economics: "hundreds of suppliers selling (or trying to sell) produce to only a few buyers puts the big chain stores in control of the prices." With produce, yes, in the short run, big buyers can obviously dictate the price. The produce is grown and packed and producers have to take what they can get. In the long run, though, things are more complicated. 11/20/2009

Retailers Eye Target’s Food Expansion Plans reports that the word is out that Target is expanding the amount of food — including some perishables — it will sell in some of its standard discount stores. How significant is this effort — for Target and for the broader industry? Well, we quickly got input from three well known retailers. One of these retail executive saw in the effort an attempt to capitalize on the failure of “small store” concepts such as Tesco’s Fresh & Easy and Wal-Mart’s Marketside. 11/20/2009

As Manolo Reyes Takes Over Ron McCormick’s Role, Wal-Mart Squeezes Vendors To Generate Higher Profits reports that the big news at Wal-Mart is that Manolo Reyes, a Costco veteran, has taken over the functional role of Ron McCormick’s old position as Vice President/DMM of Produce & Floral, though perhaps with a different title. Wal-Mart also has announced its earnings, and news reports say profits are up while sales are down. One reason given was an increase in advertising costs paid for by vendors. If it was significant enough to mention, Wal-Mart must really be hitting vendors up big time for advertising money. 11/13/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Produce Pricing Strategies… Does Stater Bros. Do It Better Than Safeway? our piece, Safeway and Stater Bros. Approach Recession Differently, brought a number of letters, including this one from Dave Westendorf of Bay Area Produce, Inc. We appreciate Dave’s analysis because it gives us an opportunity to think about the nature of fresh produce and the strategies likely to drive success both for individual companies and the broader industry. Price is quite important but the consumer is buying a range of services and experiences that go along with the product. If Whole Foods were cheaper than Wal-Mart, it would lose credibility with its core customer who believes that Wal-Mart is too cheap to take care of all the things this customer values. Dave makes clear that he recognizes some purchases are about image. “Oh, I went to Wal-Mart” will create a different perception than if the answer is, “I went to Whole Foods.” 11/9/2009

Tesco Shifts US Strategy... Starts Buying Real Estate explains that many have interpreted our critique of Fresh & Easy as a doubt that Tesco will survive in America. Yet we don’t think the two issues are closely related. Tesco is a large and wealthy company, and if it has made the strategic decision to stay in America — regardless of cost — it will stay, presumably trying new formats and revamping Fresh & Easy until it stops hemorrhaging money. In that sense, Tesco’s future in America has little to do with the success or failure of the current Fresh & Easy concept and more to do with its ability to pump cash in other operations. That is why if Wal-Mart really wants to lay down the gauntlet and tell Tesco it better leave Wal-Mart’s American turf alone, the place to send that message is not in Phoenix but in London. 9/15/2009

Wal-Mart’s Marketside Deli Concept recounts how Wal-Mart’s test of a small format store, which we profiled both here and here, has been problematic. There are many explanations why planned stores haven’t opened, but one thing is for sure… the problem is not that the initial four stores are making too much money. While always clear it was doing a test, big companies like Wal-Mart sometimes have a way of benefitting from new concept development other than building retail stores. One prominent industry member, who is part of this Pundit Intelligence Network, sent one notice of the way Wal-Mart is leveraging its Marketside brand and experimenting in ready meals, which begs the question, what does Marketside represent? 9/15/2009

Wal-Mart’s Global Food Sourcing Initiative Closes The Peterson Era And Threatens Sustainability Of Agricultural Base this summer an era ended with the decision by Wal-Mart to proceed with their Global Food Sourcing Initiative. The gist of the program is a decision to completely reform the procurement of perishables worldwide starting in the United States and starting with produce and, specifically, with a pilot in Washington State on apples. The ultimate plan is to set up an entity outside of the normal Wal-Mart structure to handle procurement. The very goal of expanding the pool of vendors runs counter to Wal-Mart’s other initiatives for GFSI and Sustainability. This really is the end of all vestiges of the old Wal-Mart procurement system and the beginning of a new system with ominous implications for the entire industry. 8/13/2009

Dangers And Broader Implications Of Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Index as we detailed in Wal-Mart Must Include Adequate Return On Capital In Its Sustainability “Index” Or It Will Do More Harm Than Good, Wal-Mart’s sustainability initiative is extensive. So we focused in on one glaring problem: Wal-Mart’s decision to exclude the economic sphere. The danger of Wal-Mart’s approach to this sustainability index is that by excluding the economic sphere, it is encouraging companies to make investments allowing them to score better on the index but that actively waste financial resources. Wal-Mart’s initiative is far broader than retail produce. We wanted to examine how it might interact with other industry initiatives in sustainability. To do so, we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to explore the topic more by speaking to Tim York, President of Markon Group. 8/11/2009

Wal-Mart Must Include Adequate Return On Capital In Its Sustainability ‘Index’ Or It Will Do More Harm Than Good reports Wal-Mart has announced a major new sustainability initiative by holding a “Sustainability Milestone Meeting” and issuing a statement from Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke. The gist of the proposal is to do three things: First, ask 15 questions of suppliers; second, work to establish a consortium of universities that will establish a database of the lifecycle impact of products; and third, make this information available and meaningful to consumers. We’ve heard that Mike Duke is a man of integrity, so we accept at face value that Wal-Mart means good for the world by promulgating this initiative. It is, however, a train wreck waiting to happen and will probably do real harm to the world. 8/5/2009

RPA’s RFID/RPC Study: Pathway To More Comprehensive Traceability? remembers when RFID was all the rage and the expectation was that with Wal-Mart pushing the technology, the whole industry would be rapidly transitioned to the radio frequency future. It didn’t quite work out. The Reusable Packaging Association did a study that implied dramatic reductions in the cost of RFID by utilizing tags multiple times on RPCs. It seems like some kind of traceability dream, but one could imagine an industry database with readers everywhere feeding into it. Then we remember that even with as simple a supply chain as a shipper selling to Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart delivering to its own stores, they couldn’t make it work well enough or cost effectively enough to make it happen. Of course technologies mature and, perhaps, they were just all on the bleeding edge. 8/5/2009

Assortment Rationalization And Private Label Margin saw The Wall Street Journal ran two pieces that, taken together, constitute a one-two punch against the way food retailing has been conducted for 20 years. For years retailers packed shelves with myriad brands, sizes, colors, flavors and prices, these days, less is more. Wal-Mart is approaching the matter analytically, adding variety and shelf space in the fastest-growing categories and to trim variety and space in slower ones. On Wall Street, one of the biggest jobs analysts have right now is predicting how Wal-Mart’s product rationalization strategy will affect individual companies that sell to Wal-Mart. 7/14/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Setting Policy vs. Setting Incentives revisits one of our recent pieces which drew on an anecdotal experience whereby a Wal-Mart manager demanded that employees work off the clock. The piece brought this note from George Worthy of Worthy Enterprises. His letter points to the undeniable point that attitudes are set from the top and that leaders that behave in an ethical way set the example. In the Wal-Mart situation, it still doesn’t answer why the store managers behaved in violation of company policy and the law. Certainly we have no reason to believe that the top executives at Wal-Mart in some way modeled that behavior. As we discussed in the piece, the more logical assessment is that although the policy is clear, the incentives are divergent from the policy. 7/1/2009

Wal-Mart Re-Positions Marketside explains that the launch of Tesco’s Fresh & Easy concept made the prospect of examining Wal-Mart’s Marketside concept particularly intriguing. Now comes word that Wal-Mart has decided to rebrand the stores to herald the Wal-Mart ownership. David J. Livingston, a consultant quoted in an article announcing the switch, is a frequent Pundit contributor and he points out that in this day and age, Wal-Mart executives must have decided that it was advantageous to tie in with the Wal-Mart name and its reputation for economy. We suspect such a change also speaks to how Wal-Mart intends to use the banner in the future — most likely in markets where Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets are part of a broader retail mix. As to whether it is a smart move or not, we have some doubts. 6/12/2009

With Wal-Mart’s Marketside Concept In Stasis, Let’s Pause And Examine Ready-Meals Programs remembers when Wal-Mart introduced its Marketside concept, we hailed it as a triumph but with a big proviso. We’ve dealt with issues related to prepared foods before in pieces such as Question For Fresh & Easy And Marketside: Are Americans Really Ready For “Ready-Meals”? and Why Do Ready-Meal Programs Fail? Yet the simple fact remains that, although individual market opportunities, of course, vary, the only big foodservice segments that retailers do well at nationally are chicken — both rotisserie and fried — pizza and sub and sandwich programs. If we had to identify a fatal flaw in the Fresh & Easy and Marketside concepts, it would be that they are both built around ready-meals and Americans don’t eat many of these British-type offerings. 6/10/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Poor Management Attitude Leads To Food Safety Failures our piece, Economic Reality Trumps Official Policy Every Time, wrestled with the disconnect between official policies businesses adopt and the incentive structures which often lead to unintended behavior. Frequent contributor Richard Yudin of Fyffes shares this note with us of his insights gained from setting up farm audit systems. Recently a friend working at a Wal-Mart told us that the manager, frustrated at how slowly a crew was working, ordered everyone to clock out and then finish the work. When he was CEO of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott sometimes would say that the problem at Wal-Mart is that they were known for their exceptions, so one rogue manager such as this could cause so much trouble. Now if Wal-Mart can’t stop the rogue store manager we mentioned, who is doing something clearly against the law and against policy, how much harder is it in food safety, where the buyer is not doing anything illegal — he is buying legal product — but he’s just not willing to pay extra to buy from the guy with the top food safety program? 6/4/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Lack Of Passion For Perishables our recent piece Another Sea Change At Wal-Mart, highlighting the departure of Pam Kohn from the Senior VP Perishable slot at Wal-Mart brought a surprising amount of mail, including this note from Dr. C. Brent Rogers, Associate Professor of Agriculture at Morehead State University, who gives his impressions as a Wal-Mart consumer. Alas, Wal-Mart’s problem is irregular execution in the field. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to control what happens at thousands of stores, so Wal-Mart tends to try to control what it can. So if the produce or meats are bad, the inclination is to raise procurement standards. Unfortunately small improvements in product at the door of the DC cannot make up for poor execution at store level. 5/29/2009

How Do Kroger, Safeway, Tesco And Bashas’ Stack Up Against Three Of Wal-Mart’s Store Concepts? borrows from the May 2009 issue of PRODUCE BUSINESS, which included the 19th chapter of our Wal-Mart Pricing Report and was focused on seven separate store concepts in the Phoenix, Arizona market. These reports are always intriguing, this Phoenix report, though, offered several insights of great significance for the broader industry. So we thought we would highlight some of these key points for Pundit readers. Our first highlight: The extraordinary dominance of Wal-Mart on price. 5/27/2009

Vendors Beware As Wal-Mart Alters Course On Procurement remembers when Wal-Mart came to develop its produce procurement system, it was a brave band of brothers in the early years, vendors willing to experiment and improvise, that made it happen. Now that system is in flux and many fear for the supply base… and for Wal-Mart. This old-timer who wrote to us recently accepts the critique of Wal-Mart but also warns the supply base that they can’t change the customers; they can only change themselves. It seems that the bottom line is this: Wal-Mart is changing the way it approaches vendor relations. Wal-Mart vendors have to be mindful that they now live in a much more adversarial world than they entered into years ago. 5/27/2009

Wal-Mart’s Current Behavior recalls how we’ve recently run a series of articles discussing the current impact of Wal-Mart on the industry. Now one Wal-Mart vendor sees a portent of the future… and a problem for both Wal-Mart and vendors in the Behemoth-of-Bentonville’s current behavior. In this letter, our correspondent insightfully deduces the logical implication of Wal-Mart’s intention to buy cheaply. If it continues down this pathway, Wal-Mart may find it is easy to forget how much work the vendors are doing and how hard it is to maintain a seamless supply chain. 5/22/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Fruit Patch Speaks Out our piece, Special Buys, Wal-Mart And The Meaning Of Loyalty, included a letter from a tree fruit industry participant who took a swipe at the model followed by tree fruit companies that are not, in our letter-writer’s opinion, sufficiently vertically integrated. Specifically the letter named Ballantine and Fruit Patch. Ballantine, as we pointed out here, is not in a position to respond, but in this letter included here, Rick Eastes, VP of Sales & Marketing at Fruit Patch, responds on the record. Rick’s letter is on target in pointing out that it’s not just Wal-Mart that has changed. Everything has changed. The players have consolidated; the issues — food safety, sustainability, traceability, etc. — have increased the complexity of the business enormously. 5/22/2009

Special Buys, Wal-Mart And The Meaning Of Loyalty shares the thoughts of one very insightful participant in the California tree fruit industry who had a different take on the interplay between Wal-Mart and the collapse of Ballantine Produce. We appreciate the input but find this analysis raises as many questions about Ballantine, shortages, owning fruit vs. buying fruit and loyalty, as it answers. We were brought up to believe that loyalty was a value in and of itself. We can’t get excited about a loyalty that says you still get the business as long as you are as cheap as anyone on the planet. 5/21/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Nature our piece, Did Wal-Mart Have A Role In Ballantine’s Fall? — continues to bring in an avalanche of mail. Roughly 90% of the notes we receive at the Pundit are one-liners and we don’t typically run too many of them. This time we received some short notes with some substance. Someone once told us a little saying, and we have somehow come to think of it many times while doing business. They said if an elephant and a mouse can’t get along, you have to assume that the elephant isn’t doing all it could. What Wal-Mart is doing won’t stop many people from profiting while supplying Wal-Mart. What it does, though, is reward a certain type of intelligence and expertise; it gives the edge to the crafty and the shrewd. Not bad people, necessarily, but those who figure out how to work the system and be quick on their feet. 5/21/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Retailers Should Pay For What They Say They Want our piece Mike Stuart Of FFVA Speaks Out On Ballantine And Buyer/Seller Relations brought several letters including this one from one of FFVA’s members, Tom O’Brien, President of C&D Fruit and Vegetable who comments that over past several years while retail prices have inched up, producer prices have inched down. We appreciate Tom’s earnestness and understand the frustration he feels. Pricing is a business strategy, and if one retailer wants to be very cheap on meat — and thus charge high margins on produce — we can hardly say he is “unethical” compared to a retailer who wants to discount produce and earn big margins on meat. The issue is not that retailers like Wal-Mart should always pay more, per se; the issue is that retailers should pay for what they say they want. 5/21/2009

Another Sea Change At Wal-Mart thinks that in a sense, it is not a particularly important piece of news that Pam Kohn, who had been named to succeed Bruce Peterson when he left Wal-Mart as Senior Vice President, Perishables and General Merchandise Manager, has left the division to move over to global procurement. For Bruce, being VP of Produce and then Senior VP of Perishables, was a career… a life’s work… to build and elevate Wal-Mart’s produce and broader perishables area. It was a position requiring special expertise in the field and was the fulcrum for passion about fresh foods at Wal-Mart. Now, it is a slot to be filled a few years at a time by executives who need to get their resume punched that they have perishable experience. 5/19/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Response To Ballantine’s Fall: ‘Just Say No’ received an avalanche of letters related to our piece, Did Wal-Mart Have A Role In Ballantine’s Fall? We thought this one raised an interesting point: “when you ‘Just Say No’ to a business relationship …and win the battle (if they come back) do you lose the war by selling to them again?” Philosophically we agree with our correspondent. Producers are responsible for the deals they enter into, and they are foolish if they enter into deals that will not be profitable. Business should not be a habit. A business has to respond to price signals. That being said, this is easier to do in theory than in practice. What we liked best about JC’s letter, though, is his vote for loyalty in business and it is the lack of loyalty that seems to grate so much among those really angry at Wal-Mart. 5/19/2009

Pundit's Mailbag — Mike Stuart Of FFVA Speaks Out On Ballantine And Buyer/Seller Relations received many letters on our recent piece, Did Wal-Mart Have A Role In Ballantine’s Fall?, which focused on the implications of the story for the future of the industry, including this one from Michael J. Stuart of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. Mike asks the question precisely: “At the end of the day, how are these firms going to make significant investments in food safety, traceability, sustainability and other important industry initiatives if the profitability of the business is squeezed to the breaking point? How are they going to survive at all?” As consolidation continues on the buying end, it becomes more and more difficult for producers to say no. Perhaps big retailers should rethink their interests. After all, the US did break up Standard Oil. If large retailers come to be seen as domineering — squeezing independent business people and farmers so tight they can’t make a living or can’t properly produce high quality, safe and sustainable products — the government could well decide that the US could live — perhaps live better—with smaller retail organizations. 5/15/2009

Did Wal-Mart Have A Role In Ballantine’s Fall? although we had no reason to think it was going to fail, we can’t say that the collapse of Ballantine Produce was a shock. We had heard they were slow on paying growers and that led to a loss of volume. When a few big growers decided to leave, that led to a collapse. One of the key factors that many in the industry feel led to this collapse was the way Wal-Mart has been dealing with the California tree fruit industry. Put another way, if one’s biggest customer won’t let you make any money, what is the point of struggling to continue? This is the habit that is inching through the industry, in which our best producers who take supply chain obligations most seriously are put in a position of competing with secondary producers on price. 5/12/2009

End Of An Era At Wal-Mart reports that Ron McCormick, longtime Vice President/DMM of Produce & Floral at Wal-Mart, has been reassigned to a new position focusing on local purchasing and sustainability. We are not precisely sure what this new job will entail and no replacement has been named yet, though Wal-Mart has been hot on sustainability for some time and Ron has shown interest in the subject. We, of course, wish Ron well in his new endeavors and now we have a new question for the industry to ponder: Who ought to sit in what is arguably the single most important produce-specific position on the planet earth? 4/22/2009

Mike Duke, Wal-Mart’s Leader, Recommits To Saving People Money reveals Wal-Mart’s new CEO is making some tough decisions. Here we reprint a copy of a memo he sent out to associates at headquarters which touches on changes to come. Although we doubt we will be seeing Mr. Duke do the hula down Wall Street, we actually detect something in this memo that shows Duke swims in a stream with direct links to Sam Walton: “We know that millions of working men and women are relying on our low prices more than ever before, and we must continue to be an advocate for them.” This notion ties directly into the wellspring of Wal-Mart values that it fundamentally is the buying agent for the consumer. 2/11/2009

Peterson Steps Down As President/CEO Of Naturipe, But Joins Its Board Of Directors recognizes that the man who built the largest produce operation in the world is going to be a focus of interest for this industry for a very long time. When we first announced Wal-Mart’s Bruce Peterson Resigns, the industry was dumbstruck as company after company recalled meeting with him when Wal-Mart had seven, eight, nine supercenters and recalled an earnest young evangelist for Wal-Mart telling them of Sam Walton’s vision for the largest food store in the world. They marveled at how so many players in the industry had grown with Wal-Mart. Soon though, Bruce startled once again as he moved over to selling side of the business. Now, as quickly as it began, it is over… or almost. Bruce is joining the Board of Directors of Naturipe Farms and is relinquishing his role as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company. 1/29/2009

Aldi Challenges Wal-Mart As Low-Price Leader reveals that one of the great mysteries of American retail history is why supermarkets were so slow at emulating the Wal-Mart supercenter as it rolled out across America over the last 20 years. Now one wonders if Wal-Mart, in its response to Aldi, isn’t setting itself up to fail by not moving to copy the Aldi format — just as supermarkets once failed to respond to the Wal-Mart supercenter. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece entitled, “Aldi Looks to U.S. for Growth”, detailing how an already-established and growing concept is primed to use the current economic situation to pursue even more rapid growth. A concept that consistently underprices Wal-Mart is not just another competitive concept; it is a competitor striking at Wal-Mart’s core competency. 1/28/2009

Project Sombrero: Wal-Mart To Test New Latino Store Concept observed that for several years now, the success of Wal-Mart in Mexico has been so substantial that Wal-Mart has been the largest private employer in the country. While the tiny little Marketside division has been getting all the press and the media is playing up Wal-Mart’s Marketside vs. Tesco’s Fresh & Easy as some kind of “battle of the titans,” it appears that Wal-Mart has been working diligently on still another new concept store, one that has “Success” written all over it. It is all very cloak-and-dagger with the whole enterprise being referred to by James Bond-like code names. The overall project is code-named — we kid you not — Project Sombrero. 12/18/2008

Small Format Stores And The Ever-Changing Retail Environment our analysis of small-format stores has left open one question: Do American consumers want to shop in small format stores? The basic argument against small stores is that they are inherently not convenient. We thought Wal-Mart did a better job with its Marketside concept by focusing on well known brands. Still, a smaller format almost inevitably means fewer choices. As a result, although we can see these “general interest” small format stores succeeding in urban areas, we have trouble seeing Americans abandoning their large stores in suburbia to shop in these venues, unless, of course, the supermarkets voluntarily give up their assortment advantage. 12/9/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — The ‘Culture’ Of Wal-Mart our piece — Can Whole Foods Survive Prolonged Economic Downturn? raised the issue of how Whole Foods could deal with a predictable cash squeeze, and we raised the possibility of Whole Foods selling itself to another retailer better able to carry it through the recession. We received a response from Wayne Davis of Backyard Beauties who echoes our suspicions that a Wal-Mart buyout of Whole Foods wouldn’t work because many of its employees consider Wal-Mart downright evil. So it would really take quite a tight-wire act for Wal-Mart to buy Whole Foods and keep it as anything resembling the Whole Foods of today. 12/9/2008

Can Whole Foods Survive Prolonged Economic Downturn? explains that Whole Foods has seen its stock price decline 78% over the past year, it has already eliminated its dividend and scaled back capital expenditures; now the word on the Street is that sales trends have gotten worse and that the company is expected to reduce its guidance. Perhaps Whole Foods selling itself to another retailer could carry it through the recession. Crazy as it sounds, it would also be a perfect fit for Wal-Mart, very little customer overlap, different positioning in the mind of the consumer. There is a real risk of culture clash, but if Wal-Mart could run it as a separate division it would be a winner. 11/4/2008

Advice For Wal-Mart As It Asks Chinese Suppliers To Be More Socially Responsible relates how Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, flew to China and the company issued an announcement: “Wal-Mart Announces Global Responsible Sourcing Initiative at China Summit - Company sets new goals and greater expectations for environmental and social compliance, transparency and accountability.” Yet, though Wal-Mart’s initiative is strategic and will surely have some good effect, there are really only three things Wal-Mart or any other buyer need to say and do if they want to boost the standards of their Chinese supply base. 10/23/2008

As Aldi Opens In Orlando, The Age Of Deep Discounters Is Upon Us explains how deep discounters such as Aldi have been talking up its compensation policy as it looks to attract employees. Tesco’s Fresh & Easy, whose journey to America we have been chronicling here, also promotes that it pays $10 an hour. Fresh & Easy has not promoted what it will pay managers, but we understand Aldi managers are far better paid. We wonder if both Tesco and Wal-Mart — with its Marketside stores — didn’t make a mistake in not focusing their small-store concepts on a very clear value proposition such as Aldi. Perhaps they didn’t think they could do it any better? 10/23/2008

Why Do Ready-Meal Programs Fail? our piece — Questions For Fresh & Easy And Marketside: Are Americans Really Ready For “Ready Meals”? — brought a contribution from one of America’s most respected authorities on retailing fresh foods who writes that ready-to-eat meals are not a novel concept, and it is unclear why successive attempts at making it work persist. So why did Tesco build its concept around this offering… and why has Wal-Mart chosen to also walk down this path? Everyone at retail wants to believe there’s a future for ready-made meals, yet changing consumer habits is very difficult. 10/15/2008

Question For Fresh & Easy And Marketside: Are Americans Really Ready For “Ready Meals”? points out that although these formats have much to differentiate themselves from one another, they share one important element: an emphasis on “ready meals”, specifically, food that is prepared by a vendor or in a commissary and then packaged for the consumer to reheat. Yet we wonder if both Tesco and Wal-Mart aren’t misinterpreting the consumer research as to the extent of the market for these foods in the United States. To some extent these “ready meals” strike us as an “in between” product squeezed on both ends by more compelling propositions. 10/14/2008

More Thoughts About Wal-Mart’s Marketside comments how after visiting Phoenix to see the launch of Wal-Mart’s Marketside concept, we wrote a Special Report which we entitled, A Triumph in Phoenix — Wal-Mart’s Marketside Hits The Trifecta… One Open Question: Do Suburban Consumers Want Small Grocery Stores? Now that we had a chance to sleep on it, a few additional thoughts come to mind. 10/7/2008

A Triumph in Phoenix — Wal-Mart’s Marketside Hits The Trifecta One Open Question: Do Suburban Consumers Want Small Grocery Stores? paid visits to all four stores and went to see several local Fresh & Easy operations and studied carefully to see if Wal-Mart offered the consumer a more or less compelling proposition. Our conclusion: Although much depends on day to day execution and certainly there are things we will recommend Wal-Mart reconsider, the new Marketside format is a triumph and, in almost all cases in which Marketside might compete directly with Fresh & Easy for American consumers, those consumers will strongly prefer Wal-Mart’s Marketside over Tesco’s Fresh & Easy. Here are three reasons why. 10/4/2008

Wal-Mart’s Marketside Format Opens In Fresh & Easy’s Back Yard reports that next week Wal-Mart will open the doors on its first four Marketside stores in the Phoenix area and they have made a point of emphasizing that this is most definitely a test, rather than a roll-out. What will the pricing strategy be? What will it do in this new venue? How great will the assortment and quality of the prepared foods section be? Earlier in the process, each store was going to make its own prepared foods on site, if this plan has survived, how will each store deal with food safety and variety challenges? But mostly, the question is how dedicated is Wal-Mart to the concept? 9/26/2008

Digging Into Wal-Mart’s ‘Locally Grown’ Numbers reports Wal-Mart’s announcement to buy local is nothing new, although, they seem to typically refer to produce grown “in state” as local. Wal-Mart doesn’t ever officially define what it means by “locally grown,” so it is difficult to ascertain the significance of the effort. Wal-Mart’s state by state chart of locally grown produce leaves us uncertain these products really make a lot of sense to view as part of a locally grown initiative. Once again, we come down to the meaning of local. 8/28/2008

Wal-Mart Prepares Launch Of Its ‘Marketside’ Concept explains that Wal-Mart is a giant company; it probably wouldn’t launch any concept unless it could see the potential for a substantial business. However, Wal-Mart hasn’t signed a thousand leases or done any other concrete action to commit to opening a thousand stores. It is more correct to call such an expression a hope than a plan. When the VP developing the project leaves, it raises concerns about Wal-Mart’s commitment to the project. 8/19/2008

Industry Pro Gives Thoughts/Insights On Safeway’s Small Format Stores discusses how the success of any business depends, at least in part, on the competitive environment in which it operates. Of great interest is whether small format stores will become a competitive tool. If competitors such as Wal-Mart and Safeway develop viable small format stores to combat the emergence of Fresh and Easy, it would change the competitive environment in two important ways. 6/3/2008

Tursi Leaves Wal-Mart For Seald Sweet honored as a June 2005 recipient of a PRODUCE BUSINESS 40-under-Forty award, and still not yet 40, our sense is that Steve Tursi made the right move. The truth is that with the changes in Wal-Mart’s procurement system and the cultural shifts at Wal-Mart, there was no place for Steve to go in produce at Wal-Mart. 5/30/2008

Fresh & Easy Loses Price/Assortment War To Wal-Mart In Los Angeles investigated the price competitiveness and assortment numbers of Tesco’s Fresh & Easy concept through Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS. The comeuppance: Fresh & Easy isn’t even in Wal-Mart’s league when it comes to price on fresh produce and Fresh & Easy actually did worse than the raw data implies. 5/30/2008

Will Wal-Mart’s Energy Efficient/Hispanic Store Make A Real Contribution? proposed that Wal-Mart’s introduction of energy-efficient stores and its first “Hispanic Community” store could open the door to many possibilities. Energy efficiency is part of Wal-Mart’s sustainability campaign, which can potentially lower costs. The Hispanic community store is a good idea, but may not go far enough. 5/14/2008

Wal-Mart Announces Product Removal Fee answered a letter from a loyal reader in regards to product removal fees charged to suppliers in the event of a food safety recall. But here is a theory: We will have better food safety in the industry if buyers suffer when there is a recall. 3/25/2008

Just Say No: The New Dynamic Of Producer/Buyer Relations examined how buyers, beyond big retailers, have so pressed their advantage that producers, beyond the banana giants, are increasingly just saying “What is the point?” The uncertainty of future options with Wal-Mart, for example, is one reason why Tesco’s Journey to America was so welcomed by America’s suppliers when it was first announced. Yet Tesco may well disappoint U.S. producers. 2/22/2008

Wal-Mart Uses New Food Safety Initiative As A Marketing Tool assessed a statement Wal-Mart recently issued requiring all perishables suppliers to be certified by Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards, includes an explanation in our interview with Catherine Francois, Senior Manager of Food Safety at CIES-The Food Business Forum and analysis from the Pundit. 2/8/2008

Wal-Mart Revamps Procurement System explained that on the face of it, the reorganization of Wal-Mart’s procurement system is not necessarily good or bad for the vendor community. The $64,000 question is how will these four areas interact? 2/5/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — Rough Ride For Wal-Mart/ASDA: Kievet Could Have Been A Big Asset shared a letter from Stoney Steenkamp of Fruits Unlimited in response to our piece on Danie Kievet’s departure from Wal-Mart. The problem for large companies is that leveraging that size is very difficult, and that they aren’t good at dealing with the likes of Danie, who is an entrepreneur at heart. 2/1/2008Wal-Mart Takes On Tesco With 20,000-Square-Foot Stores announced Wal-Mart will open four small-format grocery stores in Arizona this year under the trade name, “Marketside”, directly combating Tesco’s new Fresh & Easy Markets. However… you need a lot of little stores to equal one Supercenter. 1/15/2008

India’s Farmers And Traders Counter Wal-Mart By Competing continued our coverage of Wal-Mart’s expansion into India. Now comes word that farmers and traders are now going into business to block Wal-Mart — and getting public subsidies to do so. 1/11/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — Is Wal-Mart To Blame For The Decline Of The Middle Class? received a letter from Mark Boe of Coburn’s which gives us a chance to clarify precisely what has been happening with the American economy. Yes, the middle class has been declining, but the implications aren’t as ominous as it might seem. It is easy to misunderstand the process of “creative destruction” that drives capitalism. And yes, change is unsettling, though not necessarily bad. Most important, though, is to understand that what looks simple, say a supercenter opens and supermarket closes, is only part of the story. 1/8/2008

Wayne McKnight To Leave Wal-Mart reported that the brain drain of industry luminaries exiting Wal-Mart continues. We do know that this is a big loss for Wal-Mart in one of its most important initiatives, and his availability will be a big gain for some lucky food company. 12/20/2007

Is Wal-Mart’s ‘Heritage Agriculture’ An Initiative Driven By The Consumer Or By the CEO? The “Heritage Agriculture” initiative sounds great, as introduced by Ron McCormick, VP of Produce at Wal-Mart, to the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. Perhaps most interesting is that there was not one mention of consumer demand for these initiatives and it probably won’t take costs out of the system. 11/30/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Short Term Mentality Hurts Produce recognized that top executives outside of produce are trying to save money via procurement instead of through enhanced marketing efforts or improved customer service. Its actions in produce can be seen as an outgrowth of overall short-term thinking. 11/9/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart Lacks Store Level Produce TLC followed up on our series on Wal-Mart and quality with a letter from Helene Dembroski of Dembroski Orchards Inc. who agrees that when we find poor quality produce being presented to consumers, it is usually due to poor store level execution. 11/2/2007

Is Wal-Mart Foolish For Focusing On Small Savings? indicated very often the thirst to eliminate a “middleman” and the supposed “excess cost” he represents stumbles over a surprise — the value that intermediaries can often provide. The real question is, ‘Are there any savings by importing independently of that system?’ 10/30/2007

Wal-Mart’s Global Procurement Division Gets Special Pass On Quality reported Many Wal-Mart vendors have no problem with higher quality specs; in fact, the best vendors tend to see them as a competitive advantage. What is more of a concern is uneven application of the standards, especially as it relates to global procurement. 10/26/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Path Of Decreased Store-Level Execution shared industry comments that all seem to agree on our main point: That Wal-Mart’s quality problems have nothing to do with procurement and everything to do with store level execution. 10/25/2007

Wal-Mart Tightens Quality Specs explained that Wal-Mart has quality issues but the quality issues have to do with inconsistent store level execution, not with the quality being purchased. 10/24/2007

High Lettuce Prices Strain Supplier Relations With Wal-Mart discussed that though things have been quiet at Wal-Mart, with many vendors reporting a sincere effort by the company to amicably resolve disputes, the inherent tension between the desire to contract and the desire to take advantage of market dips remains unresolved. 10/19/2007

Report Card On ‘Green-ness’ Of UK Stores reported on the findings of self-proclaimed consumer advocacy group, the National Consumer Council on the “green-ness” of UK retailers, with ASDA “awarded a C grade”. 10/18/2007

Wal-Mart’s ASDA Serious About Sustainability repeated that Wal-Mart is pretty hot on sustainability initiatives, but its UK subsidiary, ASDA, is really focused. We believe consumers are skeptical that all this stuff isn’t just another way to increase profits. 10/5/2007

Wall Street Over-Analyzes Wal-Mart Woes excerpts an article from the Wall Street Journal which states the Wal-Mart era is drawing to a close, with critique of its analysis from the Pundit and our own three primary causes for the problems at Wal-Mart. 10/4/2007

Wal-Mart Joins Fray In Carbon Profiling revealed Tesco in the UK was already asking U.S. exporters to do it; now Wal-Mart is asking suppliers of select items to ascertain the amount of energy they use and their total carbon footprint, which used properly, could be helpful, but there are dangers. 9/25/2007

Wal-Mart Looks To Keep Deep Discounters At Bay reminded that although taking the margin hit is perceived as a high risk strategy, it could also be a big winner. 9/20/2007

Wegmans, Wal-Mart And Media Bias questioned glowing media reports on the opening of a new Wegmans in Pennsylvania which tell us less about the quality of Wegmans than about the cultural predisposition of the media. 9/18/2007

Wal-Mart’s ‘Save Money — Live Better’ Slogan Is Step In Right Direction announced Wal-Mart’s new slogan. The new one is unquestionably better, it is based on an important reality that Wal-Mart needs to emphasize that its low prices translate into better lives for tens of millions of families. 9/14/2007

Asda and Tesco Buyers Accused Of Arm-Twisting presented allegations of supplier abuse by Tesco and Asda and resulting investigations into forced discounts and threats of merchandise removal by the Competition Commission prompted by supplier complaints. 8/22/2007

Carrefour Judgment In India May Be A Good Sign For Wal-Mart reported news that indicates India is really changing and Wal-Mart may be correct in its judgment about the direction of Indian society. 7/26/2007

Wal-Mart Eyes India For Future Growth announced Wal-Mart’s partner in India has set the opening of its first store for mid-2008, with 200 stores by 2015 and expected annual sales in 2015 of $5 billion. Challenges include irregular infrastructure, real estate, and the hope that India will relax its laws and allow Wal-Mart to buy the stores. 7/25/2007

ASDA/Wal-Mart And Tesco Price Wars Portend Future Of Having To Take Sides foretells of trouble ahead for U.S. suppliers after an ultimatum from ASDA’s business unit director: “We will only back those who back us.” 7/24/2007

ASDA Adopts Nutrition Labeling System points out that it appears that in the U.K., there is a big, ongoing debate on food labeling systems. One camp promotes the traffic light system — red, yellow and green — and the other promotes a sort of percentage of daily requirements label. ASDA has created a hybrid that both has the simplicity and the immediacy of the traffic light — What’s green eat freely, amber watch out, red eat sparingly — but also includes low, medium and high for levels of sugar, salt, fat, saturated fat, and calories. 7/6/2007

Loblaw’s Holds Off Wal-Mart With A Fresh Foods Strategy pointed out that Loblaw is the great colossus of the north. Back in 2004, the speculation was that the goal was to keep Wal-Mart from opening supercenters in Canada. It didn’t work, but it is in a better position to fight Wal-Mart than most American chains. 6/20/2007

Wal-Mart In India Faces Tremendous Obstacles extolled that involvement in a market the size of India’s is almost irresistible, but protesters, political activists, trade federations and merchants are binding together to fight new competitors. 6/19/2007

How Wal-Mart Lost A Customer related an anecdote from an unsatisfied Wal-Mart customer who lost a day of work, his keys and his patience with the mega retailer. 6/19/2007

Working With Wal-Mart May Not Be As Bad As You Think — Tesco Could Be Tougher! examined how U.S. vendors may be excited about Tesco’s arrival in America, enabling them to diversify their business away from Wal-Mart, but the grass may not be greener once a Tescopoly takes hold. 6/15/2007

A Solution For Wal-Mart’s Organic Woes unfortunately, it is impossible for Wal-Mart to procure enough organic fresh produce to fulfill the hype. However, Wal-Mart could take the lead in selling organics while positioning itself as both a friend of the farmer and one really helping to move society on environmental issues. 6/14/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Are Supermarket Chains Catching Up to Wal-Mart? revealed an immensely important point from Keith Anderson, MVI (Management Ventures, Inc.) That Wal-Mart, it is projected, will for the first time since supercenters started rolling across America, grow more slowly than the average U.S. retail chain. 6/13/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — In Defense Of Wal-Mart excerpts a letter from Ken Kodish, AYCO FARMS, who suggests that unscrupulous vendors who gorged themselves at the expense of Wal-Mart prompted recent changes to the procurement system and audits of supplier transactions, It seems more plausible that the combined efforts of everyone to serve the consumer has allowed for the creation of so much wealth. 6/8/2007

From The Frying Pan Into The Fire — Wal-Mart Finds Another Way To Alienate Suppliers disclosed reports from Ace PACA lawyer Larry Meuers that an outside firm has begun auditing transactions between Wal-Mart and its suppliers, with discrepancies being demanded repaid. So much for the “partnership” relationship with Wal-Mart. 6/7/2007

Wal-Mart’s ‘Opportunity Buy’ Policy Reveals Much About The Company recapped our series on procurement reorganization and vendor discontent. Points out that Wal-Mart is moving away from the integrated supply chain in favor of traditional produce industry transactional deals, which has implications for the entire trade. 6/5/2007

Has Wal-Mart’s Desire To Buy Cheaper Changed Its Values? continued coverage of the procurement transformation at Wal-Mart, with detail on the slew of issues surrounding it and growing vendor dissent with the mega retailer. 6/1/2007

‘Anyone But Wal-Mart’ expanded on our earlier pieces concerning vendor dissatisfaction with Wal-Mart. Vendors have seen the writing on the wall and are working feverishly to diversify their business away from Wal-Mart. 5/30/2007

Clash Of Corporate Cultures Seen In Contrast Between Wal-Mart/ASDA Essentials And Tesco/Fresh & Easy examined problems with the Wal-Mart/ASDA Essentials small store concept including pricing, merchandising and store branding. 5/29/2007

Calls On Wal-Mart Point To More Vendor Negativity continued to show that Wal-Mart is losing priceless equity with the vending community and their former good name is being allowed to waste away. 5/18/2007

Wal-Mart’s Changing Treatment Of Suppliers explains how Wal-Mart needs its produce suppliers more than they need Wal-Mart, and unhappiness in the supply community over perceived mistreatment is fueling interest in the unproven concept that Tesco is bringing to America. 5/17/2007

Ben Stein On Wal-Mart offers commentary on the opening of a Wal-Mart in Manhattan from, actor and columnist Ben Stein. 5/16/2007

Tesco, Whole Foods And Wal-Mart Concepts Tested On Both Sides Of The Pond looked broadly at the ideas these retailers are exporting, and how they will play out in their new surroundings, in the end, success or failure may come down to the details. 5/15/2007

Wal-Mart’s Latest ‘Green’ Move Gives Pause To Explore Sustainability Rationale specified three categories for achieving sustainability initiatives: Those that produce positive ROI, those that produce a “reputational dividend, and those that lose money for a company’s shareholders. But really, what is all the fuss about? 5/10/2007

Activists Target Wal-Mart In Mexico While Company Accommodates Local Culture scoffed at activists who enjoy the panoply of retailers and restaurants in San Francisco but seem to want to deny people in developing countries the right to make these decisions for themselves and their families. 5/9/2007

Tesco’s Small Store Format Not Unnoticed At Wal-Mart asked why Wal-Mart would consider small store formats when Supercenters are still viable, plus, they’ll need thousands to make an impact. Still, they’ve given a new executive the task of developing it, a former Tesco chief executive. 5/2/2007

Is Tesco’s ‘Green’ Position A Sustainable Advantage? excerpts an interesting piece from The New York Post entitled “‘Green’ Grocer Tesco’s Building Its Eco-Friendly Brand In U.S.” The article makes two points that are important to be aware of as Tesco comes to America. The first is a contrast in the way Tesco and Wal-Mart are approaching green initiatives. The second point is that Tesco is likely to be able to legitimately brag that it is “greener” than Wal-Mart, Safeway and other competitors — but that much of this is simply a consequence of its building everything new as opposed to being stuck with legacy structures. 5/2/2007

Tesco’s US/Japan Small-Store Strategy Contrasts With Wal-Mart’s Big-Store Plan shows similarity in the competition between the Airbus A380 and the Boeing Dreamliner as compared to Wal-Mart’s lack of urgency in responding to the Tesco invasion in the Southwest, both examples, at their core, concern differing visions of the future. 4/24/2007

Good News For Wal-Mart reported that TNS figures show that ASDA is Britain’s fastest-growing retailer and is outperforming the rest of the retail sector for the first time in three years. 4/17/2007

Wal-Mart: The Name On The Door Is the Same; The Thoughts Inside Are Very Different pointed out that no one with any historical connection to Wal-Mart’s heritage exists in any major responsible position, with a quick comparison and contrast of historical core values against the new regime. 4/10/2007

What Is Wal-Mart’s Role In The New NRA Food Safety Standards? warned the Food Safety Leadership Council has been drafting new food safety requirements for fresh produce, which could blow up in everyone’s face. Wal-Mart doesn’t believe private groups should set standards, even though they helped to initiate them. 3/15/2007

Organics One Year Later — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods & Wild Oats shared reactions from the Reuters Food Summit and a news report that explains that organic versions of products are experiencing modest sales and food industry executives are increasingly sensing that growth may come with a different focus such as natural or local. 3/14/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Market Managers provided comments from Keith Anderson, of Management Ventures, Inc. on Wal-Mart’s new “Market Grocery Managers”, who are limited in the contribution they can make, and this fragmentation of authority has caused there to be less uniformity in execution. 3/9/2007

Ron McCormick Of Wal-Mart Elaborates On Its Procurement Reorganization summarized a conversation with Ron McCormick, vice president of produce for Wal-Mart on its buying structure and the reorganization of procurement. 3/2/2007

Wal-Mart Continues To Change Its Buying Practices described how Wal-Mart executives have to think long and hard about how Opportunity Buys, Global Procurement and business assignment can be done so as to avoid creating inefficiencies. 3/1/2007

Culture Clashes At Wal-Mart when a self described change agent, brought in to do just that, was dismissed, Wal-Mart should realize only the CEO can make a cultural shift happen. 2/6/2007

Wal-Mart’s Bruce Peterson Resigns the Pundit pays tribute to a man who oversaw the biggest and fastest ramp-up in history, was the next-to-last person Sam Walton ever hired, was a friend to the supplier community and was, is, and always will be a produce guy. 2/2/2007

Wal-Mart Needs To Take Lessons From Tiffany And HEB provides a case study courtesy of Tiffany & Co. for why the Wal-Mart initiative to move upscale, while maintaining its client base won’t work. 1/12/2007

Wal-Mart’s Lack Of Focus points out that making Wall Street happy, going upscale, going organic, being “green” and increasing gross margins is causing Wal-Mart to break its “Always Low Prices. Always.” promise to consumers. 1/11/2007

New Meaning Of A Value Meal: Cultural Change Needed To Factor In Food Safety notes that the organic community has been struggling with the entry of companies such as Wal-Mart into the organic business. The mystery fades only when you understand that for many organic activists, the elimination of synthetic pesticides is only one goal and a modest one at that. Instead they want to use the organic industry as a way of establishing a supply chain that is aligned with a value structure. So, although Wal-Mart may sell a lot of organics, it won’t build the kind of world these activists yearn for. Now, however, in the face of so many food safety problems, we have to wonder if the culture that pushes to reduce costs is the culture that can most effectively enhance food safety. 12/12/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Upscale Effort furthered our earlier discussion on what challenges are presented to retailers in the pursuit of “upscale”. With insightful comments from an upscale retailer. 12/5/2006

Hormel, Wal-Mart And The Meaning Of Upscale Wal-Mart doesn’t need a branding consultant. It needs a sociologist who will explain that what upscale consumers want most in their life is the one thing Wal-Mart can never deliver. 11/30/2006

Wal-Mart Picks Right Man In South Africa congratulated Danie Kievet who will join Wal-Mart, as its head of South African Procurement Operations, who the Pundit feels is the right man, at the right moment and the right opportunity. 11/29/2006

Wal-Mart Vendors Face New Challenges deals with the larger question of what global procurement and other initiatives affecting procurement might imply for the future of Wal-Mart procurement. 11/29/2006

Wal-Mart Franchise revealed how the thinking behind a new partnership with Bharti Enterprises in India could solve five problems for Wal-Mart in the U.S., which should be welcome news in the wake of the worst store sales in a decade. 11/28/2006

PRO-Wal-Mart? Hmmm wrote in defense of the Pundit’s stance on Wal-Mart and opinionated debate. 11/16/2006

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry: Westborn Markets, Schnucks, Wal-Mart reviewed a Q and A with Bruce Peterson, Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager of Perishables for Wal-Mart on the impact of the recent rash of food safety warnings and recalls. 11/15/2006

Bankrupt Brown & Cole Blames Wal-Mart showed Brown & Cole LLC filed for Chapter 11 blaming three factors: the loss of $2 million a year in dividends from Associated Grocers, healthcare costs that nearly doubled over a two to three year period and Wal-Mart. 11/14/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — Spezzano Defends DiPiazza/Wal-Mart clarified our earlier discussion on the departure of Bob DiPiazza from Wal-Mart with a note from Dick Spezzano, once Chairman of PMA and former Vice President of Produce at Von’s. 11/10/2006

DiPiazza Resignation Raises Questions About Wal-Mart told that Bob DiPiazza, Senior Vice President and General Merchandising Manager for Fresh, is resigning from Sam’s Club, and Bob’s departure is emblematic of deeper issues. 11/8/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Folly touched on Wal-Mart’s plan to retool its stores to focus on six demographic target groups, and warned there are dangers to operating multiple concepts, but they are less so than trying to make one concept serve multiple demographics. 10/17/2006

Pundit’s Pulse Of The Industry reviewed a Q and A with Ron McCormick, Vice President/DMM of Produce and Floral, Wal-Mart on Wal-Mart’s strategy for reintroducing fresh spinach to consumers. 10/2/2006

Wal-Mart Deli/Bakery Has Crisis Of Its Own gave two lessons on foodborne illness; anyone who handles perishable foods needs to be concerned and there is vulnerability at every step in the supply chain. 9/21/2006

Is Wal-Mart’s Scratch Bakery Idea Scalable? described how a scratch bakery is as much an art as a science. One wonders if it is a scalable solution to whatever Wal-Mart’s issues may be. 9/13/2006

Wal-Mart Distractions discussed Wal-Mart’s announcement that it was going to retool its stores over the next two years to focus on six target ethnic and socio-economic groups, in many ways it sounds like a step backward. 9/12/2006

Mailbag — Wal-Mart Redux gave reactions to our store tour of two South Florida Wal-Mart Supercenters the other day with feedback from other retailers, suppliers and consultants. 8/24/2006

Room For Improvement At New Wal-Marts explained how if I were a Wal-Mart exec, on one hand I would be thrilled so many people wanted to try our stores. On the other hand, I would also be very disappointed in the execution on the ground. 8/22/2006

What Andrew Young Should Have Said highlighted Andrew Young’s tactless comments that led him to resign as Chairman of the national steering committee of Working Families for Wal-Mart. The more interesting part of this story is the ignorance of both business and economics that his comments reveal. 8/21/2006

Wal-Mart Losing Sleep? told how Wal-Mart would rather Tesco not get a beachhead in the U.S., as Tesco might introduce other concepts. It is not so much a proposal for how to compete with Wal-Mart as a proposal for how to avoid competing with Wal-Mart. 8/16/2006

Wal-Mart’s Good Fish Story showed that Wal-Mart intends to sell fish for a long time and it needs a reliable supply. 8/15/2006

Wal-Mart Advances Green Movement reported how ASDA, Wal-Mart’s U.K. operation, has announced a commitment that by 2010 it will stop sending any waste at all from its 307 stores to landfills. Everything will be recycled, reused or composted. 8/8/2006


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