Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fresh & Easy

I've noticed a large number of new grocery stores opening in town recently named Fresh & Easy. I've never seen such an aggressive business expansion in my life, let alone an aggressive expansion during a global economic downturn that rivals the Great Depression.

I noticed that it's taking Fresh & Easy quite a long time to open a couple of their stores. One that I am aware of is on Stockdale, and the is other on Coffee. They remain empty, in spite of the fact that the buildings have been ready for several months now. Curious why they would spend money to set up a storefront, only to leave it empty, I decided to do a little research on what Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is all about. Hint: Perhaps it should be spelled Neighbourhood ;)

The first place I visited was the website for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. The website has such a calculated earth-muffin "green" look it made me laugh a little (Really. check it out!). I guess they are going after the Trader Joe's crowd. Trader Joe's is "Your Neighborhood Grocery Store", in case you weren't aware of that fact. Such nice neighborly companies! Gotta love that marketing.

Apparently all is not well in the world of Fresh & Easy "Neighborhood" stores, however, because the second link I located was this one: Someone has an axe to grind against Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets, and their parent company, Tesco., by the way, has some tiny 2pt font at the very bottom admitting that "Fresh and Easy Facts is a project of grocery workers, food industry professionals and the United Food and Commercial Workers."

Whatever Tesco/Fresh & Easy has done, they have angered unions enough to hire Blackrock Associates, an online marketing and fund-raising firm, to oppose expansion. I'd suspect it has something to do with a non-union workforce, in which case you would expect much cheaper groceries.

Back to Tesco, though. Let me just rip this straight from wikipedia and brutally expose you to the concept of a British-based mega-corporate "Neighbourhood Market".

"Tesco plc is a British-based international grocery and general merchandising retail chain. It is the largest British retailer by both global sales and domestic market share with profits exceeding £3 billion. Currently the third largest retailer based on revenue, Tesco is second only to Wal-Mart in terms of profit"

There you have it. "Neighbourhood" Markets will never be the same, with a WalMart-like entity playing the game.

The Upshot: If you just want cheap groceries, and aren't swayed by the earth-muffin marketing, shop at WinCo. At least they aren't a foreign-based megacorp masquerading as a 'green' Mom & Pop store.

If you want a REAL (non-corporate) neighborhood grocery store, shop at the Green Frog Market. Just don't shop at Trader Joe's or Fresh & Easy, deluding yourself that you are supporting a real Mom & Pop store. You are not.

The pathetic thing about this entire blog post is that as much as I learned about Fresh & Easy/Tesco, I was unable to learn the one thing I wanted to learn: Why haven't the stores opened?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jaw-dropping chart

Courtesy of Chart of the Day

According to the chart itself, this is the inflation adjusted earnings of the S&P 500 going back to 1935. This is an unprecedented crash in corporate earnings. It also explains why companies are shedding employees. They cannot afford to keep them with no earnings to pay them. Just in case you were confused, and wondering if things are getting better...

I have been surprised by the legs of the recent rally in the stock market. The length and breadth have been decent, although "the surge" has been on low enough volume to make it suspect.

Moreover, I have been deeply skeptical about what job growth/income is going to drive the economy into the positive territory. Most of the experts all seem to see positive growth in the second half of this year.

From what rebound in jobs? Automotive? Housing construction? Newspapers? Retail shops? Government work? Casinos? Last time I checked, all these sectors of the economy (as well as many others not mentioned) were shedding jobs by the thousands.