The Top Dozen Stories of 2003
By George Anderson
The year was certainly eventful for those working in retailing and related industries. Here are RetailWire’s picks for the top dozen stories of 2003.
- Medical cost containment
Spiraling health costs were at the center of the labor dispute between store
associates and management in Southern California and elsewhere. Chains say
they need associates to pick up a greater share of medical expenses if they
are to remain competitive with non-union retailers such as Wal-Mart.
- The lockout/strike of grocery workers in Southern California
- Business ethics issues and executive compensation
Ahold, Parmalat and the labor dispute in Calif. shine a light on the disparity
between what management says and does.
- Value-conscious consumers
The growth of price formats, such as dollar stores and limited assortment
grocery, plus continued last minute bargain hunting during the holiday sales
period demonstrates America’s love of a great deal.
Accusations continue to fly between the parties as the dispute between the
UFCW, representing 70,000 grocery workers, and Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway
continues with no quick end in sight.
The world’s largest retailer has legions of admirers and critics. In 2003,
it became fashionable in some circles to question whether Wal-Mart was good
or bad for the American way of life.
- The obesity epidemic
- Low-carb craze
- Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology
- Identity theft and coupon fraud
- Food safety
- The Changing Face of America
- Kmart and Fleming
Time ran out for the grocery wholesaler when its supply arrangement with Kmart
went south. The retailer continues its rebuilding process by: selling exclusive
brands such as Martha Stewart; closing of under-performing stores; reconfiguring
store layouts; giving store managers great autonomy; targeting specific ethnic
groups in an effort to promote itself as the neighborhood’s store.
Medical authorities say the increase of type 2 or adult onset diabetes in
small children is a clear example of how out-of-shape America is. One man
attempts to sue McDonald’s claiming the chain is at fault for his bulbous
America continues looking for an easy way to shed pounds.
Consumer privacy groups are raising the specter of an Orwellian future if
RFID is widely used, while retailers look to significantly improve the flow
of products through the supply chain.
Technology-based fraud is causing businesses and individuals to lose millions.
Concerns over the safety of the food supply remain high because of threats
posed by terrorists and disease, such as Mad Cow’s Disease. The debate over
country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements continues.
Consumer marketers and retailers continue to try and keep pace with a population
that is aging, becoming more ethnically diverse and increasingly comfortable
with the use of technology in both brick and click environments.
Moderator’s Comment: What do you think were the biggest
stories of 2003? Why?