Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Better Late than Never for Wal-Mart and its Groceries

 Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is working to keep its produce aisles fresh, announced steps to improve the quality of its fresh fruits and vegetables.

The nation's largest grocer and retailer said Monday it is making more changes in its operations, training and sourcing as it looks to increase sales of bananas, lettuce and other produce and instill more confidence among shoppers looking for healthier choices.

-from an AP report in today's Herald.

Here's more:

But analysts say that despite Wal-Mart's pledge to make its food healthier, its produce often looks tired and well below the quality of rivals like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco and Kroger. C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, says that at Wal-Mart, some of the "produce is fresh, some isn't."

"It's not consistent," he says, describing some of the fresh fruit as "wilted."

Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group says it's key for grocers to make sure they offer the freshest strawberries, cabbage and the like since produce carries 50 percent higher profit margins than canned fruits and vegetables. It also adds a halo to the store brand and fosters shopper loyalty.

"Consumers don't have confidence in Wal-Mart's fresh produce the way they have confidence in Whole Foods, Costco and other competitors," says Flickinger. He and others say that a big factor is that Wal-Mart has cut so much store staff that it doesn't have as many workers to stock the shelves in a timely manner.

Look at those profit margins on produce.  One can do well by doing good in the retail food business.  What a concept.

The comment about Wal-Mart cutting its staff is very telling.  I remember a successful businessman in my church years ago telling me that "You've got to have good people working for you, Paul." 

Later, a successful business consultant, my older son's father in law, told me that he had never met a lawyer yet who had enough help.  What he was referring to is the tendancy of "good" lawyers not to let things go, that is, not to delegate and to develop people who are competent to receive delegation.  (You can't bill for teaching, and we worship the billable hour.)  He made that observation just as I was leaving the big firm and opening the small one.

It was the best practice advice I have ever received, and it came at just the right time.  At the old firm, I had a paralegal, a half a secretary, and one half of an associate.  (Plus a gigantic staff for 300- 400 lawyers, a staff with its own inertia and inefficiency.) The firm would not allow me to hire anyone else.  (Their advice was to work harder, if I had more work than I could presently handle.)

Now we are six lawyers, three paralegals, one secretary, and a lot of technology - all growing from the same practice.  (Plus a staff of five, some part time, who are extremely efficient and nimble.)

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