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  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    I have a Publix very close to my home. It is rather expensive for grocery shopping, so I usually go to street market or Walmart, however the staff in Publix are definitely a cut above the staff in the other supermarkets, and I also notice that the managers seem to relate very well to employees. Also you will often seen managers in long sleeve white shirts and ties, or wearing hair nets, stocking the shelves in the daytime. Maybe it is just grocery theater, but it seems to work. Also they have the names of the top half dozen managers and their photos posted in every store. One oddity of Publix is that they often have two-for-one prices posted, like 2 half gallon tubs of ice cream for $7. It took me quite a while to realize that you could just buy one and pay $3.50. So you need advanced math to shop there!
    Oct 25, 2015. 04:48 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    "I see Canadians all the time coming here for simple things like glasses. Because basic care is so limited, that even when it comes to eyesight, you have to be drawn from the lottery to get it."

    Maybe Canadians are not very smart. I live in the US and pay about $50 for an eye test and prescription, then buy the glasses online for less than $100 for good quality frames with progressive lenses. The current pair I have had for more than five years, in fact I don't even remember how long. It might be ten years.

    Computerized sight tests are available in Canada too and anyone who spends a lot of money to travel from remote parts of Canada to the US for a sight test must be nuts.
    Oct 23, 2015. 06:09 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    People travel from all over the place to get health care in England, particularly from Africa and the Middle East, but I have never heard of people traveling from England to the US for health care except in a few extremely rare cases when they needed types of surgery that are only available in one medical center in the world and there was large scale publicity to raise funds to send them.
    Oct 23, 2015. 06:02 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Wal-Mart's Problems Have Been Years In The Making [View article]
    The Walmarts here in Florida are all pretty much clean and well lit, I don't think I have ever seen a dirty one. Perhaps this is because the stores here are all pretty much modern buildings. Because of our climate, they are all air conditioned too.

    There are certain things I don't like about Walmart Supercenters, like it is time consuming to buy small quantities or just a few items due to having to park a distance away and sometimes wait in line to exit, but again most stores in our area have automatic checkout machines too, which perhaps have not yet come to all areas, but I can assure you they are coming.
    Oct 21, 2015. 01:20 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is The McDonald's Disaster Getting Worse? [View article]
    "I went out to get a Five Guys burger and had a MCD breakfast instead."

    Interesting, but had you had breakfast already, and was this your second breakfast of the day? Also, which was closer, the McDonalds or the Five Guys.

    I don't eat at McDonalds and have had Five Guys burger a couple of times, which I didn't think was anything to write home about, as well as being rather overpriced.

    It certainly is an interesting phenomenon if McDonalds are really seeing an increase in business nationwide, simply by offering breakfast fare later. Quite honestly I never knew (or cared) if they had a cut off time for cooking eggs, or that there was a pent up demand for breakfast in the afternoon.

    In England back in the 60's, it was certainly not uncommon for lower income people to eat something like a bacon sandwich for lunch, or a fried egg on toast for their supper after work, or cornflakes for a bedtime snack. It would be interesting to know if demand for breakfast later in the day is a signal of a more widespread changing trend in US eating habits.

    One presumes that people tend to drink breakfast coffee first thing in the morning to provide caffeine to fuel the workday, but it will be interesting to see whether later breakfasts will also fuel coffee sales, coffee and ice tea being more profitably, I would say, than food.

    But one really has to ask why McDonalds never thought of this before if it is such a moneymaker. Perhaps 24 hour breakfast is the key to untold riches.
    Oct 21, 2015. 01:10 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    Yes, but those stores don't sell much in the way of food. I was in a Dollar Tree the other day, and had to laugh because they posted stickers on the glass front cooler cabinets full of sodas and frozen foods saying 'Fresh Food", when the truth is that they don't sell any fresh foods at all, but I guess they think their customers are too dumb to notice.

    Yes, I agree that DG seems to do well in low income areas. Obviously the closer a store is to where people live, the more likely they are to go there first, and if you go in to get your cigarettes and lottery tickets, you may also find yourself buying a can of dog food or a birthday card or a carton of milk. Gas stations and churches also seem to thrive in low income areas.

    However, in general there seems to be little economic activity located in these areas.
    Oct 20, 2015. 02:49 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is The McDonald's Disaster Getting Worse? [View article]
    I agree, stocks that soar into earnings often flop immediately after the earnings are reported. I cannot see for the life of me how a few days of breakfast all day will make much difference to this quarter, especially since the majority of restaurants in the chain are franchises.

    Of course if the brilliant breakfast wheeze works wonders, then perhaps that will increase the value of franchises.

    I quite often go to a cheap restaurant called Country Cabin that has rather moderate food and atrocious decor, but fairly friendly staff. (I believe it is owned and run by a Russian family), has a fairly decent breakfast, for example a toasted bacon and eggs sandwich for $3.50, and breakfast is available all day and always has been, but I don't see a whole bunch of people storming the place to get bacon and eggs in the afternoon. While the odor of eggs, bacon,and coffee smells good in the morning. it isn't so appetizing later in the day.

    Obviously, though, there will be some McDonald's restaurants doing better than others, for example those located in tourist resorts may well benefit from offering later breakfasts for late sleepers. Some will be crowded all day because they have prime locations and little competition, and are supremely profitable, others are in less buoyant markets, and presumably will find it harder to make a lot of money.
    Oct 20, 2015. 02:37 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    I think the urban "food deserts" are mostly located around areas where no retail business thrives on any large scale simply a) because the residents have little money to spend, and b) because of the generally higher risk of pilferage and crime, c) the difficulty in hiring staff or finding staff who want to commute into these areas.

    For example, near where I live in a kind of middling area fairly close to some very affluent suburbs with fancy homes on the river and renovated mock Tudor mansions, there is a flea market with a deeply rutted parking lot and a few sheds open three days a week where I can buy terrific fresh local produce of freshness, quality, and variety not seen in the local supermarkets.

    Yet if you go into the food desert areas, there is nothing like this, or any other kind of (legal) economic activity going on. I contrast this with equally poor or poorer areas in the Dominican Republic where I also spend a lot of my time and everyone has some kind of hustle going on, whether it be the girl selling a few plantains or mangoes from a plastic bowl on her head, to the guy repairing car tire punctures at the side of the road, the guy selling shoes from a motorbike festooned with footwear, or people walking around selling DVDs and watches of dubious provenance.

    These urban food desert areas have almost no economic activity in the daytime, and almost no traffic other than visiting social workers and cable TV repair guys.
    Oct 19, 2015. 07:05 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    Actually if you look at the charts for WMT the stock price raced up from about $70 to $85 from May to November in 2014, for no particular reason that I could discern except that it is part of the DOW, so now it has fallen back down again, and a few dollars more. It looked incredibly overbought to me at $85 and no surprise that the stock price has retrenched. I think it can go a bit lower yet.

    I am not very impressed with what WMT is doing in e-commerce as their web sites are completely uninspired compared to Amazon. Remember that Amazon is like a flea market hosting huge numbers of other merchants, which WMT is not, and Amazon has other strengths like the product reviews which are pretty useful in spite of a certain amount of fakery, and the 1-Click purchasing, that no one else really seems to be able to duplicate (though I don't know why not.)

    I know some people who work in Walmart stores and they are very hard working and have jobs that are a lot more demanding than it might appear to the casual shopper, for example working in the deli or produce, but there seems to be a pretty unhealthy relationship between workers and managers, with managers cutting the working hours of their subordinates so as to increase their own bonuses--at least that is what I am hearing.
    Oct 18, 2015. 08:18 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Trying (And Failing) To Support The Long Case For McDonald's At $103 [View article]
    Well, yes, there are fast food places of some description every few hundred yards wherever you go, for example supermarkets have delicatessen counters that make subs, serve hot meals, sell coffee, and so on, and gas stations these days all seem to have one or more franchises selling some kind of food, whether it be pizza, sandwiches, and so on.

    But the places you are mentioning her all seem to me to be slightly pretentious and popular in predominantly white affluent residential suburbs, whereas McDonalds is on every commercial strip, every truck stop, in every mall, in every airport, at every Interstate exit, at every tourist attractions, and so on. McDonalds are also quite prevalent in low income residential areas and even inside some Walmarts. I have never seen a Chipotle or Panera in a domestic airport or at an Interstate exit.

    So I would say the target demographic for McDonalds is low income, retirees, Medicare recipients, travelers, families with children, whereas the target demographic for Chipotle is more bon viveurs and people who have heard that their food is fresh and are willing and able to pay more for slightly better food.

    However, I do think that McDonalds is a promising short at current prices, because the target demographic is not growing in disposable income. Breakfast all day is fine, but breakfast means eggs, and eggs are still about the cheapest way to get an adequate amount of protein in the diet. And if people are lining up to buy egg McMuffins later in the day at the drive in window and driving off without buying the truly profitable drinks, then it is possible that more could mean less.

    You can always get a better breakfast than what is on offer at McDonalds and similar fast food cafes simply by preparing the food yourself at home, as I did today for breakfast having a fine toasted pitta bread sandwich with Italian sausage, two eggs scrambled in butter and milk and seasoned, fried beefty red tomatoes, and a large cup of freshly ground and percolated Eight O'Clock coffee with hot milk.

    So what we are really talking about is the relative number of people prepared to exchange some money and inferior food for time, convenience, and lack of labor like washing up, and how much of their budget they are willing to spend on this privilege. When it is looked at from that angle, I don't see a lot of growth for McDonalds in my crystal ball.

    Incidentally, it really does show off the limitations of discussions of this kind, when opinions on the average annual profit of a McDonalds restaurant franchise vary from $1,000,000 a year to $250,000 a year, because even allowing for huge differences between locations and states, this is the kind of thing that ought to be well known to even have a shot at calculating how profitable is the business.

    However I would have thought that some are extremely profitable and others much less so, but the real question is what is the proportion of high flying stores to stores that are just staying alive.
    Oct 18, 2015. 03:02 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    "I have chosen to abstain from having children due to the cost."

    Well, you can go ahead and castrate yourself to save money, but evolution will gradually eliminate people like you, you will die a lonely and bitter old person, and the offspring of the Walmart associates and immigrants will inherit the earth.
    Oct 17, 2015. 10:40 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    You probably live in a different part of the country from those of us who have Publix in our area (Florida). There are only three main supermarket chains in our area, Publix, Winn Dixie, and Walmart, and Walmart is definitely a lot cheaper than Publix, and generally cheaper than Winn Dixie.

    Of course it does depend on exactly which items you are looking to buy, and sometimes it is not possible to make a direct comparison. Walmart prices most items so that you can see how much per ounce or per item, you are paying, but the other supermarkets are more obscure about their pricing.

    Obviously if the Walmarts in your part of the world are "dirty warehouse stores" I can see that you would not want to go there. I haven't seen any like that in Florida, but one of the reasons I don't always go to Walmart is that one often has to walk a long way from a parking spot and and a long way in the store, so sometimes it is better to go somewhere smaller and get the shopping done a bit quicker.
    Oct 17, 2015. 10:30 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Is Wal-Mart Taking Itself Down? [View article]
    Exactly. I go in Walmart frequently and cannot see that the customers there are any different from the people in other department stores in my city. They need cars to get there, so they can't be all that incapacitated.

    I think there is a subtle race thing going on here, so perhaps that is the elephant in the shaving cream aisle.

    The vast majority of neighborhoods in the city where I live are served by stores called "food marts" or "food stores" which seem to exist mainly to sell lottery tickets, cigarettes, beer, potato chips, and candy bars, but hardly anything that most people would recognize as food, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, eggs, fish, etc. By comparison Walmart is a veritable cornucopia selling food from all over the world to affluent consumers.

    You would think from comments here that Walmart is some kind of flea market, but actually it sells things like new automotive tires, pharmaceuticals, and iPhones with expensive add-ons like charger cables for $39.95 as well as food and electronics. I also occasionally visit Target and cannot see that the quality of the merchandise is any different from Walmart.
    Oct 17, 2015. 10:17 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Trying (And Failing) To Support The Long Case For McDonald's At $103 [View article]
    "I just got two egg McMuffins and an unsweetened Iced-T for $9. Not outrageous for Newton, MA."

    You live in an expensive part of the world, but one of the advantages McDonalds has over sit down restaurants is that there is no need to tip. I had a breakfast today consisting of a cup of coffee, a glass of ice water, two fried eggs, three rashers of bacon, hash browns, four halves of toast, fake butter, and jam for $8 served on a proper plate with stainless steel utensils in a sit-down restaurant in Florida, but with $2 added on for a tip, perhaps you got the better value.

    Incidentally items like unsweet iced tea are almost 100% profit. I make it myself at home and it costs me about $1.50 to make 6 gallons, but restaurants must be able to make it much cheaper than me and sell it for $1.75 a glass.

    If MacDonalds has breakfast all day, the profit margin probably depends on what they can persuade you to drink with you breakfast.
    Oct 17, 2015. 08:15 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Trying (And Failing) To Support The Long Case For McDonald's At $103 [View article]
    "The other question is whether people will buy $4 breakfasts instead of $6-7 lunches."

    Indeed, or will people who would have stayed in bed all day now get up for a late breakfast at McDonalds?

    I think a lot of this discussion is barking up the wrong tree and that issues like the structure of the economy, the amount of disposable income workers have, and so on is much more important when you consider that there is a McDonalds every few hundred yards in the populated areas of the US and the question is how much people are spending at McDonalds and similar places in their neighborhoods. If the breakfast initiative is really so successful, then surely the competitors will all start all day breakfast too and it will be stalemate and less money will be spent overall.
    Oct 17, 2015. 08:07 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment