May 25, 2006
Whole Foods vs. the Outpost
I maintain a page on being a vegetarian in Milwaukee. On that page, I discuss a local natural foods grocery chain, the Outpost, and the eagerly-anticipated arrival of Whole Foods. I wrote: "When Whole Foods gets here, I don’t know how the Outpost is going to successfully compete" because the Outpost is very expensive and Whole Foods has such a strong brand.
In response, I got an email from Lisa Malmarowski, Director of Brand and Store Development of the Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative. With her permission, I'm quoting her response:
"I really wanted to communicate with you personally about your question regarding how Outpost will compete with the national chain Whole Foods moving into our market.
It's no secret that Whole Foods has been looking for a site in the Milwaukee area for more than 10 years. During that time, we haven't been content to rest on our cooperative, community owned laurels. We've been actively improving our operations, opening new locations and striving to lower prices without compromising quality.
Outpost currently employes more than 350 people, we're a UFCW union workplace too (unlike Whole Foods), we expect to net more than 22 million in sales from our three locations, magazine operations and catering division this year and we're co-owned by nearly 13,000 area residents. We're not going anywhere! We're in a stable position, ready to compete - not just with the nationals, but also with places like Pick N' Save, Sendik's and other strong regional players.
We are also connected with other food cooperatives across the nation via the National Cooperative Grocers Association. Co-ops nationally are second only to Whole Foods in their buying power and are still viable, vibrant businesses. For example, the Riverwest Co-op is one of many new co-ops that have opened across the country.
We plan to compete by offering a unique shopping experience, a fast in an out trip and excellent customer service. The Milwaukee grocery market has become increasingly competitive in the last 5 years with new grocery stores opening (Sendik's expansion), the Public Market, Pick N' Save's new locations and others. Yet we have still grown.
In other markets with strong cooperative groceries where Whole Foods has opened, these stores have survived and thrived, sometimes seeing an initial nominal drop in sales, but then a sales increase. Whole Foods positions themselves to compete w/ big stores, especially those that feature gourmet, fresh selections. They also do a great job of increasing awareness for natural foods and savvy retailers can draft off this awareness.
Hopefully you've stuck with me through my marketing discussion. What you said struck a cord in me and reminded me of that famous quote by Mark Twain, "The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” We'll do okay, and even Beans & Barley will do okay, because the main part of their business is the service restaurant. Sure, folks will check out the new places, but I imagine that many Milwaukeeans will want to continue to patronize the places that make and keep Milwaukee unique - that's a position that Whole Foods can't own since they're a national chain."
I think it would be great if Whole Foods has a tentpole effect of stimulating demand for natural foods across-the-board. At the same time, while Milwaukee isn't California, there's a lot more options for the natural foods consumer than we imagined there would be. Not only are there venerable institutions like the Outpost and Beans & Barley, but as Lisa says, there has been an expansion in the market, such as the new Riverwest Co-Op, the new Public Market (which is terrific, BTW) and the expansion of Sendik's. The market has gotten noticeably richer in the past 4 years, even without the arrival of Whole Foods. In any case, Milwaukee is lucky to have the Outpost, and I hope it continues to thrive.
Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful response, Lisa. And good luck to you and the Outpost!
May 17, 2006
Bar/Bri Class Certified
Plaintiffs' counsel in the Rodriguez case has announced that its class has been certified, clearing a major hurdle in the antitrust litigation over Bar/Bri's alleged efforts to divide and conquer the bar exam preparation market. The judge also appointed a special master in the case.
Note that there are at least two other pending lawsuits in the same matter:
It's not immediately clear to me what, if any, effect the Rodriguez class certification will have on these other lawsuits.
May 07, 2006
Vanity Monitoring Tools
At the Bloggership conference, a few of us discussed tools to track citations to our blogs or articles. It quickly became apparent that I ranked high on the vanity-o-meter due to my extensive knowledge on this topic. So, at the risk of publicly confirming my vanity, this post discusses some of the vanity monitoring tools that I use:
* Technorati. Technorati is notorious for having rankings that are out-of-date and for randomly failing to count links it knows about, but it's still a very large and useful database.
* Alexa. Alexa generates its data based on people who use its toolbar; but my understanding is that marketing types are the principal users of the toolbar (because they are trying to get this data). So I'm not sure if the rankings are very reliable.
* PubSub. They offer a daily RSS feed.
* BlogShares. I don't totally understand this site. It tries to establish a trading market for blogs, so in theory it's possible to compare market values of blogs. However, its link calculations are woefully incomplete, and I don't understand how it calculates the market value. I use it mostly to see if it picked up inlinks that other sites missed.
* Kinja. Another aggregation of stats.
* MarketLeap. This site allows searches on the number of in-links from various search engines. I don't find it all that valuable.
I know a lot of bloggers use The Truth Laid Bear, but I can't figure out this site or how to get ranked by it.
Another blog ranking service, of sorts, is Google's PageRank. I use Google's toolbar, so I see the PageRank for every site I visit.
Blog Citation Alerts
* Technorati. I have Technorati alerts set up on my name and my blog URLs. This gets delivered via RSS. I find that this RSS feed in Bloglines is inoperable a lot.
* Google Blog Search. Google allows you to set up an RSS feed for search terms. This has worked pretty well for me.
* BlogPulse. This tool is pretty flaky, buyt it does offer an RSS feed.
* Talk Digger. A meta search engine that combines results from a variety of sources. The searches can sometimes produce some interesting results.
* Google News alerts. I've set up an automatic search in Google News for "Eric Goldman" and some of my article titles. These results are delivered via an RSS feed. Unfortunately, this RSS feed doesn't do a good job screening out past results, so I get identical results every time I access Bloglines.
* Westlaw Westclip and Lexis Alerts. I have alerts set up for my name and my articles in the law journal and news databases (as well as some KeyCite alerts set up for my articles). These results are emailed to me.
Google supports alerts from its main organic database (in addition to its news and blog search databases). I've tried setting up alerts there as well, but I've had little success with this.
Please email me or comment if I've missed a good tool. Please do NOT email me telling me to get a life or to bash my obsessive navel-gazing (I know).
May 02, 2006
On Sunday I sent out a mass email to 300+ of my closest friends letting them know that I was switching jobs. The resulting email frenzy was predictable. I got lots of emails from friends and colleagues back, and this sparked dozens of exchanges. The damage: I sent about 130 emails yesterday between 10 and 7 pm--including an overwhelming 43 outgoing emails between 5 and 6 pm (or, about one outgoing email every 75 seconds). It was great reconnecting with so many people, but it's also exhausting!