Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Marketing takes the blame -- or helps initiate change?

Advertising Age recently profiled a study by Sonya Grier, a research scientist who found that the types of food and beverages marketed to African Americans may contribute to rising rates of obesity and other health-related issues. I hate to point this out, but doesn't this seem like the wrong kind of niche marketing? Grier's conclusions sound right on target: higher calorie products are placed at the point-of-sale displays, convenience stores are ubiquitous while grocery stores are not, and promotions emphasize fast food restaurants. Advertising does play a role in what happens. At the same time, let's not overstate the causal relationship between marketing and behavior.

Still, in this case, advertisers really should tread much more carefully, There's a long history of problematic advertising in particular communities. While African Americans span the socioeconomic spectrum, the percentage that live in poor or working class neighborhoods is higher than for many other racial groups. These neighborhoods have long been the terrain of tobacco and alcohol billboard advertisements, trying to capitalize on an already vulnerable population. In the 1970s, when African Americans made up 10% of the population, sometimes up to 20% of a tobacco company's advertising budget was spent on black neighborhoods. Current studies on the effect of alcohol advertising find that alcohol advertisers spent nearly $4.8 million in 2004 to place ads on all 15 of the programs most popular with African-American youth. Studies in Chicago show that all communities --African American, white, or Latino -- with "imbalanced food environments" -- meaning no real supermarkets within an easy travel distance -- greatly increased people's chances of getting diabetes or having a diet-related life threatening health issue. It's not the obesity that matters, per se (although the grant that Grier is working on is specifically funded to target obesity), but the health issues that come from lack of access and choice. Also keep in mind that there's currently no data on whether we're looking at a cause-and-effect scenario, or whether it's just coincidence (which the study will surely look into as well).

Perhaps its seems odd, though, that advertisers would feel it necessary to pour marketing dollars into areas where people already don't have a choice in what they purchase. So why do it? Partly because advertisers may not believe they have a captive audience -- or they want to keep it.

For a more nuanced understanding of the issue, all aspects of social environment need to be considered. In Grier's studies, she found that other health risk factors included: having a social community that valued or enjoyed fast food and living in areas that lacked opportunities for outdoor activities, sports, and school-sponsored play. Consider how difficult shopping must be: Markets in African-American and low-income neighborhoods have fewer healthy foods, and residents may have limited space in which to store fresh and frozen produce , making it more difficult to follow a healthful eating pattern even when desired. According to a recent research summary in Nature, a key variable is the way African Americans perceive their buying power (or lack thereof) in areas with limited local food availability. While there are numerous campaigns to fight diet-related illnesses, eliminate tobacco and alcohol advertising in low income areas, and bring supermarkets and local food to African American communities, Grier does hit on something missing. The advertising and marketing to people in these communities needs to change. Currently, most niche marketing campaigns to blacks focus on the upwardly mobile and wealthier African American professional class (remember my blog comments about gaming and people of color? They're one of the few markets that is starting to recognize that not all black consumers come from the very wealthy or the very poor segments of society). But for the most part, advertisers want to sell black consumers the "Real Desperate Housewives of Atlanta" version of reality: For example, Glam Media has created a new web and blog network devoted to African American women, but its sponsors include Lexus and its focus is on high end beauty and fashion.

While it's nice to see multi- media campaigns being targeted to a new audience, it'd also be a great opportunity for advertisers to tap in to a collective identity and create spots that help shift cultural values towards healthy living for everyone. Honestly, how often do you get to feel like you've done something virtuous and profitable all in the same afternoon?

The death of the survey?

I recently got a survey in the mail and I actually did something I haven't done in years: I filled it out. It was the first "traditional" marketing survey I'd gotten in what felt like a long time, and there was a crisp, flat dollar bill attached to the letter. So, whether I threw the survey away or sent it back (I honestly don't remember), I had a dollar. Or at least, I did until one of my daughters needed money while we were at an ice cream stand.

Surveys and polls used to be the mainstay of social science and consumer research. We know more about ourselves as a society than perhaps we should at this point. And honestly, there are a lot of really ridiculous and ultimately meaningless uses of survey data out there. And then, of course, it's piggybacked onto data that isn't meant to be used in the way it's being used.

Of course, maybe I'm the only one who finds the whole "freakonomics" approach to social knowledge is snake oil -- I mean, I must be, since it's spreading like crazy. Amazon recently used their sales data to create a "blue and red readers" map of the United States, suggesting that the purchase of certain political books over others would peg the individual (and eventually the state) as a Republican or Democratic. But based on my recent book recommendations, Amazon also thinks I'm a serious dieter, a heavy wine drinker, an evangelical Christian who's also interested in Jewish mysticism, a science fiction freak who also wants to learn how to draw birds, and possibly going through puberty. It might be possible to draw some inferences about why people in Texas bought more "red" books and people in Massachusetts bought more "blue," and yes that does coincide with their voting patterns -- but only by a five percent margin of difference within each state.

Moving back to marketing data from surveys, even the retail industry is becoming less certain about their usefulness. Proctor and Gamble and Unilever are working with the Advertising Research Foundation to focus more on different ways of gathering consumer information, such as blogs, social networks, and consumer feedback on websites. The emphasis is on "mining consumer insights online." That may be an interesting new source of information, but again, it's still data that can't really tell enough about how or why people use products. And while surveys get tossed in the trash, recycled, or filled out incorrectly for a lark (yes, we've all done this), there is at least a small chance that the researcher can exercise a bit of control over the sample. The Advertising Research Foundation is pitching its approach as "learning how to listen," an insight that research methods in sociology and anthropology have insisted upon for many, many years. Despite the ascendency of survey research, for its "feel" of scientific certainty and the immediacy of results, even quantitative social scientists know that good research design is both inductive and deductive.

We're not at the end of survey data, by far, despite predictions based on the ARF's push for new insights into consumer behavior. Even so, the deathknoll might push more companies towards good solid ethnographic research, where researchers can see the difference between what folks are willing to say on social media and what they actually do. And then maybe someone can create a red and blue map that actually tells us something useful!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dollar Days and Ninety Nine Cent Nights

...But Not in Texas

Dollar Stores are a hot news item these days, as the discount market grows its share of spending from budget-conscious consumer. So while Walmart and its ilk are doing reasonably well given the overall trend towards buying less, the Dollar and 99 Cent Stores are expected to increase sales thanks to shoppers who want to stretch their paychecks a bit more. Despite the sense that people who shop at discount dollar stores are struggling financially, the numbers indicate that these stores (along with big-box stores like Walmart) are gaining popularity with more affluent shoppers too. To wit, 99 Cent Store CEO Eric Schiffer claims their most profitable store is on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Even so, for the dollar stores the current economic climate is a mixed bag (not unlike those surprise goodie bags they have at the end of the toy aisle). Some are doing well – both Dollar Tree and Family Dollar report increases in sales and profits in August:

Higher household costs have sent shoppers into the nation's largest everything's-a-dollar chain looking for better prices on food, cleaning supplies and health and beauty products, said Bob Sasser, Dollar Tree's chief executive…While in stores to buy those needed items, customers also bought more party and summer-decor goods and graduation gifts, Sasser said.
But others like the 99 Cent Store are having trouble deciding whether they can really maintain their promise to keep everything in the store at 99 cents. One of the only “true” dollar stores left, the company blamed inflation and rising food and energy prices for its new prices. It will also have more variable pricing under the 99 cent range (previously, all items were either 99 cents or two for 99 cents). The increase means the maximum price in the stores will still fall below a dollar while helping the company offset some of the higher costs of doing business. And lest you think these discounts are being purchased through cheap overseas labor, CEO Shiffer explains,
The vast majority of everything we buy is made in the U.S.A. That surprises a lot of people. We sell mostly food, cleaning products, which are water-based and very heavy to ship. Health and beauty care products — again, water-based, so the shampoos and everything come from here. Our imports are probably about 15 percent. I would say the United States is by far the lion’s share.”
Some chains can’t quite hold on to the promise of the name: Canadian store, Dollarama will introduce three new price levels - $1.25, $1.50 and $2 - though it says the majority of items will still sell for $1.
"After 16 years at a dollar, we've found in the last few years sourcing dollar products has become a little more difficult," Dollarama chief executive officer Larry Rossy said in a rare interview. "Meanwhile, during our recent buying trips [to Asia] we were consistently offered 'wow' items at the $1.50 to $2 price point."
Although jokes and skepticism abound about the quality and freshness of food at these deep discounters (there are websites, programs, and cookbooks on cooking from the dollar store), the chains are actually adding more refrigerator cases, stocking more brand names, and selling food more than any other item.

People buy more than “dollar” items at these stores – witness the increase in dollar bargain bins at supermarkets. Target strategically places a rotating selection of one and two dollar items right near the entrance (because you didn’t know you needed a pair of knee socks with dancing monkeys! And a set of four ornate chopsticks in a silk holder!) These items are sometimes $2 or $3, as is the case in other discount “dollar” stores. But if you want to stick to the real thing, the 99 Cent Store gives you the pleasure of spending a dollar (not less, since there’s no change for those 99 cent items) unless you live in Texas, where all 40 stores are being closed for lack of profitability. This just means you have to hope in the car and head over to California, Arizona, and Nevada, where there are 230 stores that contribute approximately 90% of the company's sales. Be sure to pick me up some of those monkey socks and antibacterial soap along the way!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The 21st century superstore: mini or mega?

Up until recently, “bigger is better” seemed to be the best retail mantra around. Walmart redefined our notions of shopping, and despite all the critiques of “big box” stores, they seem to be here to stay. But the Clash’s song “Lost in the Supermarket” rings truer as the aisles get longer and full of even more varieties of the same product. Recently I stood, like Robin Williams’ Soviet immigrant character in the old movie, Moscow on the Hudson, apoplectic at the variety of granola bars that take up one slice of the breakfast foods aisle. My new grocery store, Giant Eagle, certainly captures the first part of its name well.

So, imagine my surprise when a new little store (with gasoline pumps) opened just off the main highway, called Get Go – at first I thought it was Giant Eagle masquerading as a convenience store and refused to go in. But then my less cynical partner-in-crime stopped there on our way out of town, hoping we could stock up on decent travel food before we were trapped in rest stop fast food hell. Sure enough, there was a produce section, fresh fruit, a small but very lively deli, baked goods, and about four or five very short aisles full of an abbreviated version of what appears in my regular Giant Eagle (because, trust me, paper towels and zinc lozenges are also indispensable on a long drive…) The coffee section had a few tables and wireless connection, just enough space to sit for a bit if you need to check your email before heading out. Lo and behold, just last week the New York Times profiled that very same Get Go in a piece examining the trend towards mini stores.

Apparently, my Get Go is just one of many new minis planned across the US: Safeway, Tesco, Whole Foods, and yes, even Walmart are all testing the mini store concept. Tesco’s version, Fresh and Easy, is open in Southern California, while Walmart is getting ready to launch its Marketside store in Arizona and San Diego. Recognizing consumer needs (buying groceries quickly instead of gaping at thousands of brands) is not the only reason for this move: San Diego has been engaged in a long fight over supercenters within the city limits.

Lest you think it’s all about food, note that groceries are not the only shrinking retail outlet. Macy’s, which has been struggling to keep itself in the black, has done well with a “mini” Bloomingdales in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, and plans to expand the idea to California and Washington DC. Not that they’re the first: there’s Barney’s Co-op, which began as a concept-store-within-a-big-store and now has some freestanding outlets around the US; and Neiman Marcus’s Cusp stores which have been open in Georgetown, Tysons Corner, and Century City since 2006. In this case, the stores are marketing to a particular demographic (young hip women shoppers) rather than a general “shrink it down” spirit.

While I like the mini trend for a variety of reasons (accessibility, good products, less taxing on the environment, less emphasis on endless variety and more on a few good things), I also recognize that what makes the mini work is the mega parent behind it. Who can afford to take the risk and open a small retail business with such a mixed inventory? Only someone who's already safe in the land of large scale sales, and already knows what the most popular products are.

Of course, the real irony is that Walmart, Whole Foods, Giant Eagle and the like are essentially re-inventing the corner store that was originally displaced by the mega-super-centers that these companies started out with in the first place.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Heinz: From red to black with ABC Soy Sauce in Indonesia

Just a small follow-up to a story I wrote about here in June, Heinz Food Corporation is indeed capitalizing on the trends I mentioned, particularly by targeting food products to consumers in different countries. Sure enough, moving from the red to the black has meant that, while the brand is still deeply associated with its Ketchup, its ABC Soy Sauce is steadily catching up as a leading item – and a brand they can extend. ABC is emerging as one of the best selling brands internationally of soy sauce. The Wall Street Journal profiled Heinz’s Southeast Asian success and explained,

There are essentially two types of soy sauce: kecap manis, a molasses-thick sauce often sweetened with palm sugar; and kecap asin, a thin, salty sauce. When ABC's kecap asin was introduced in the mid-1970s, it was sold in a glass bottle at a premium price. Eventually, ABC expanded into kecap manis, as well as lower-price smaller plastic bottles and single-use packets that now cost about 200 rupiah (two U.S. cents), helping it develop a loyal following among working-class rural Indonesians.
Part of the success comes from “tweaking” the product: Heinz has worked on the taste (not as salty as it was when the company acquired the brand) and the packaging, coming up with a better pouring spout and other new design elements. According to Business Week,
Chris Warmoth, who heads up Heinz's Asia-Pacific operations, notes that "nearly all households in Indonesia use ABC." That wouldn't seem to leave a lot of room to boost sales of its sweet dipping soy sauce, or kecap manis. So the company has introduced new products and tried to encourage broader consumer use through a "culinary academy" where chefs come up with new ABC recipes. (Up next: suggested nonalcoholic drinks made with ABC flavor syrups for the Muslim celebration of Ramadan, which starts on Sept. 1.) Heinz also added a new pouring cap for the soy sauce bottle and introduced lighter plastic pouches, a potential selling point to the majority of Indonesians who lug their groceries home.
Backing up their sales, ABC donated more than 1 billion dollars in aid money to Tsunami victims in 2005. The continued presence in Indonesia, both philanthropic and economic, has paid off, as Heinz ABC has shown greater profits and steady sales while many other food companies are faltering. Soy sauce has migrated out of its original place as an Asian staple and into a global food, which should help Heinz sell ABC in numerous markets, but at the same time, it’s smart of Heinz to keep ABC strong and flexible in its original context.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gurus, Geeks, and Geniuses: Courting the computer store customer

Okay, so I love my Mac. I still think the iPod is not only the coolest thing ever invented (despite recent drops in sales and the "less than impressive" presentation of the new lineup this week), but it’s like all Mac products: sleek and beautifully designed. And I think I've made clear how I feel about the iPhone. So there, with my biases on the table, I’m still trying to weigh in objectively about the newer retail service trends for personal computers.

Gather ‘round the campfire, as the nights are getting cool and it’s time to tell those Apple Store stories from the summer…

Here goes: in the last month I've made five (yes, five) visits to four (yes, four) different Apple Stores in three (yes, three) different states. Don't make me explain. Well, okay, you can find the longer version on another blog. But let's just say that lately I've had some good opportunities to observe the "Service is Marketing" mantra in action. For anyone who hasn't had the same multi-state retail pleasures, let me assure you that the system works.

Ah, the Apple Store! The Concierge in the orange t shirt directs you to where you need to go without trying to sell any product unless you ask. While you wait for your Genius Bar appointment, you don't have to browse. There are bar stools so you can hang out until your name appears at the top of the appointment list, which you can check on the digital sign behind the bar. The Genius bar staff, with their blue or black t-shirts, only do technical and mechanical support. They will sell you what you need -- but the two Geniuses who ended up having to sell me something beyond my repair bill almost seemed surprised to ring up an item rather than print out a tech report.

Apple has a good thing going. And of course, since it's working, Bill Gates is getting into the act: recently Microsoft announced that it’s going to introduce Gurus into major retail stores to help consumers with their PC problems. The goal is to get people to “think Microsoft” – but the problem is in confusing help with sales. Most people will likely need assistance due to problems with Vista. Microsoft's new commercials with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld are entertaining, but they seem oddly disconnected from reassuring people that the product works or can be fixed.

Consider the taxonomy of employee names: A Genius knows how to fix your problem. A Geek supposedly can diagnose what's wrong, but I'm suspicious about his or her level of training for the retail job at Best Buy. "Geek" implies something of a hacker mentality. But a Guru? A Guru gives you advice about what to do rather than doing it for you. For Microsoft, the spiritual oneness we all desire with our computers (i.e. instantaneous response time) doesn't come from the gritty work of repairing the darn thing, but in selling one that works better in the first place.

When the "Service as Marketing" mantra works, it's because (especially with new technology and computers) most people lack is the ability to fix or work the item themselves. I live with someone who has a PhD in computer science and I still ended up a the Apple Store five times...

The color-coded t-shirts are more than eye candy in the white and grey store – each denotes a job title and only some are there to sell. The Gurus don't have that luxury. As much as I believe a sales representative should know a lot about the product they’re selling, I’m much more confident when I meet someone whose job is solely to fix things and not sell you a new one.

The point here is this: in each of the Apple stores, in each of the three states, on all five visits, the experience was exactly as it should have been (even in the one where they couldn't help me). For example, I'm deliberately avoiding any iPhone temptations and even though I had to walk right by them on the way to the Genius bar, there was no sales person to push in the wrong direction. On one visit, while I was waiting for repair work, my teenage daughter spent the time playing with iPods, unhassled by salespeople. There was one section with tables that are low to the ground and have small chairs. Around the table are screens with Mac game demos running for younger children. And with a list of appointments visible on the digital display, I knew when it was my turn and didn’t have to ask, even though the concierge would check in on me occasionally.

While Gates' Guru program is using his vast resources to take a step in the right direction, it can't rival the Apple Store in the long run unless Microsoft is ready, willing and able to take over the entire store experience, from product selection to staffing to layout and merchandising. And let's not forget corporate culture.

One thing that Apple understands better than its rivals: like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, most of us don't really know how the thing works. People need non-judgmental guidance without a heavy sales pitch waiting in the wings.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gentle guidance is good marketing

Recently, Mass Mutual launched a new set of ads that they’ve been describing as “thoughtful.” When was the last time you heard a marketing campaign that was “thoughtful?” Aggressive, creative, innovative, suave, - sure, marketing comes up with every adjective possible, but "thoughtful" could mean you actually want people to think about what’s been sold.

That, I suppose, could be dangerous.

In reality, Mass Mutual’s newest campaign is much more than thoughtful. It’s smart. Taking back the notion of what really counts in life from those annoying MasterCard “priceless” ads, these spots show people making what are, subjectively, good decisions in their everyday lives. According to Forbes,

The campaign is an extension of the company's core position and tagline -- "We'll help you get there(sm)" -- that underscores the company's understanding of the real, practical issues consumers face when it comes to life insurance and retirement, and positions MassMutual as the company that helps consumers take the steps that are right for them.

Creative executions pose the philosophical and practical question: "What is the sign of a good decision?" The decisions captured in the executions are all real, almost everyday scenarios, like cutting short a fishing excursion to head for safe harbor at the first sign of a storm. Like real life financial decisions, the scenarios depicted all have consequences that can affect people beyond just the decision-maker. The campaign illustrates the value and confidence that come with making sound decisions for individuals and families, small business owners or plan managers at major corporations.
It doesn’t hurt that the ads have great soundtracks behind them (Bob Dylan on the one where a father decides to move his top-of-the-skyscraper-amazing-city-view office to his home after looking at a picture of his young daughter). Or that MassMutual puts a lot of family-friendly policies to the test in its own workplace. They've also sponsored a two-part documentary on PBS about retirement decisions and financial stability.

From a retail and advertising standpoint, engendered trust and a sense of guidance are some of the most difficult things to “sell” to customers. Not to mention that the company aims to do this at a time when established financial institutions are in trouble one way or another. The emphasis on gentle guidance is what works here – moving away from the hard sell to the simple straightforward assurance is the right move, especially for a company that could, in fact, play on people's anxieties in an anxious time. You can bet this approach won’t be appearing all over the advertising landscape, but it might not hurt for companies to stop and consider what exactly they have to offer that would make consumers choose one brand, one company over another. Brand loyalty is, of course, better if it’s actually earned.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Aldi to the rescue during crunch times?

I've never been to an Aldi store, but after reading Tim Manners's take on them in a recent Cool News of the Day post, I just might have to. Owned by the same group that owns and operates Trader Joe's, Aldi stores are apparently small, intensely focused on private label goods, and even more intensely focused on low cost. How low, you ask? Well, as Tim puts it,
"Aldi’s focus on cutting costs makes Wal-Mart look almost like Whole Foods by comparison. To save costs, Aldi doesn’t take checks or credit cards, it provides neither bags nor baggers and you even have to pay a quarter to use one of its shopping carts (it’s refunded when you return it, saving Aldi the expense of an employee to round up the carts)."
While such tactics might have turned off some shoppers in the past, with inflation rates rising and the government handing over billions of taxpayer dollars to fund bailouts of entities that should never have been allowed to exist in the first place, even upscale shoppers are looking for new ways to save a buck. Consequently, Aldi's has been growing by leaps and bounds, and expects to add another 100 stores in the US in the coming year, bringing their total to 1,050. Want a box of Raisin Bran for $1.50? How's about a frozen pizza for under $4? If so, Aldi's might be for you.

Me? I'm waiting to see what happens to the price of Trader Joe's (in)famous Two Buck Chuck before setting out to yet another new shopping destination.

Guess I'm just a creature of habit.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Supermarket Wars: Giant and Stop and Shop aim for the almighty food dollar

Two big food retailers, Stop and Shop and Giant are both re-vamping their look and their products in order to keep customers from flocking to supercenters like Wal-Mart during tight economic times. The trunk of my van holds about ten reusable shopping bags: about a third from Giant, a third from Stop and Shop, and the rest from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and miscellaneous sources. That does a fair job of capturing the distribution of my grocery shopping time.

Both Stop and Shop and Giant are my local stores (one in MA, one in PA). I’ve already confessed to being a snob and a skeptic about Wal-Mart, so I’m biased in favor of my two usual spots. I also spend a lot of my food budget at a local farm and the farmer’s markets. But I’ve also been riding the economic waves, one minute a semi-affluent shopper with lots of choices, the next crashed under a tsunami, hoping I might have some unexpired double coupons stashed in one of those bags…

So, is it good that Stop and Shop and Giant are competing mightily for my time and dollar? Absolutely. Despite the numbers that suggest more affluent shoppers are headed over to the big discount mart, I’m doubt it’s saving anyone a whole lot of money – it’s certainly not, in the long run, doing its share to improve the economy. If the folks with disposable incomes are doing the discount dance, who’s left to put dollars back into the system? We should be on their cases for not doing their patriotic duty and consuming at the level at which they are supposed to…

But seriously, regular grocery stores should be doing all they can to keep customers coming in. This summer I was happy to see how much local produce S&S had featured – almost everything in the front-of-store display, in fact. Giant Eagle can’t compete on that score – Massachusetts has an extensive network devoted to promoting local produce.

Among the new introductions are expanded private label offerings, an increased number of fresh prepared foods, including soups, new fresh-flavored rotisserie chickens and more hot and cold side dishes. The store will also offer shoppers a handheld scanner device they can use throughout the store that checks prices, keeps a running total, and generates brand-related coupons for products as they shop. ... A Delivision kiosk allows shoppers to place deli orders when they enter the store, so they don't have to wait as long on line. The company describes the changes as "a further step in Ahold's global strategy to create powerful local consumer brands"
These are interesting, but not all the things I’d feature if I were them. For example, I’d like to see the store brands get better press. My kid are now enamored of a store brand of cereal that mimics Lucky Charms. This is good for both me and them because...

a ) Mom won’t buy Lucky Charms but the generic brand slipped by her in the cart last week because
b) it comes in a big economical plastic bag instead of a box and
c) it cost a THIRD of what the name brand cereal did and
d) it had a cool name (Hocus Pocus!!!)

So, yeah, it’s going to show up in our house a bit more often as a treat even though it doesn’t meet our basic healthy food. A product that makes us feel like we got a lot, got a bargain, and got something we like is key. So much of what’s in the supermarket today is extraneous to the whole idea of actual food, I'm a bit of a softy for treats that aren't completely mired in corn syrup.

At the same time, both Giant and Stop and Shop still has a ways to go in improving store layout and design and in that category, they should take a page from Whole Foods rather than Wal-Mart. My main Stop and Shop was recently renovated but was still fluorescent and difficult to navigate. The “health” foods are relegated to their own ghetto at the very end of the supermarket, near the pharmacy; other than the nice display of local foods, the produce lacks the verve of Whole Foods and the bakery is just a fancy bread counter. In contrast, our renovated Whole Foods has a great new bakery with the smell of fresh loaves and -- who can resist a little snobbery after the Lucky Charms? --- a gelato bar!

Do you think we can get Giant to look into that option?