Viewpoints

Letter to the North Pole: We Could Use a Little Help

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Dear Santa, Hope you are doing well. We had a pretty tough year, although it certainly could have been worse.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but last year at this time we asked you for just a little food inflation. Not double digits, just a couple of percentage points to help us drive our comp-store sales and keep pressure off our profit margins.

Maybe you didn't receive our request. So, we're asking again this year.

Of course, food inflation won't do us much good unless you also provide a few jobs. We do our part on the employment front, but maybe you could help a few other industries out this year, so folks have a little more money to spend.

Speaking of employment, have you got any goodies in your bag for the health care reform legislation? Maybe a few provisions that keep retailers in mind, such as the proposal to allow a longer grace period before providing insurance for part-time workers?

Thanks for the food safety legislation we asked for last year, by the way. We got a lot of what we wanted with the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act. Can you do something to usher that through the final stages?

We also have a few other things on our list this year. Credit and debit card fees are still a big headache, and legislation to regulate them has been put on the back burner. Anything you can do to get Congress to prioritize those proposals would be appreciated.

And can you please ask the banks to ease up the access to credit just a tad? Some of us would like to make some capital improvements, maybe even a small acquisition or two, but the financing has been difficult for a lot of the little guys. A couple of us even had to file bankruptcy this year because of the situation.

Also, we'd like you to remind investors that our stocks are pretty attractive right now. Sure, we had a few negative surprises (see Kroger, Page 1), but look at the market! The Dow Jones Index is up more than 10% so far this year, and most of our stocks are down.

Of course you already know this, but we have been pretty good all year. We did our best to offer deals for customers, we made it easy for them to forego those expensive restaurants by providing lots of meal solutions, and we gave them plenty of affordable private-label options.

We also tried to help out in our communities as much as ever, if not more. Most of us are very active in working to provide food for the needy and in raising funds for a myriad of health-related causes. We're going green, we're going local and we're going organic. (Yes, there are a handful of us that offer reindeer meat, but they are the exception.)

So please don't forget us this year. As always, we'll leave some delicious store-brand milk and cookies out for you.

Your friend,

The Supermarket Industry

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

Jon Springer

Jon Springer has been writing about food, food retailers and food retailing for more than 10 years, and is in his second tour of duty with Supermarket News. His prior experience includes covering the...
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