Sunday, May 25, 2008

Retail Memo: More On John Mackey's Return to Blogging...United Kingdom's Waitrose Chief Exec Mark Price Goes His Own Way in His 'The Grocer's Blog'

On Thursday, May 22, we wrote this piece about Whole Foods Market, Inc. CEO John Mackey's return to corporate blogging in his Whole Foods Market blog on the retailer's website. Our piece has thus far received a number of comments on it, which you can read here, and we've received a few email notes about it as well here at Natural~Specialty Foods Memo.

The commentors and writers (via email) all thus far seem to be in agreement that Mackey's return to blogging under his own name is either a good thing or if not good is at least pretty much just fine with them, thank you.

However, the opinions regarding his past posting of comments about pre-merger Wild Oats Markets' management and operations and about Whole Foods' then impending acquisition of the rival grocery chain, are receiving mixed reviews--some think its no big thing, others say it might have been an ethical breach but certainly nothing illegal.

Others are expressing the view that perhaps the Whole Foods CEO got away with something because neither Whole Foods' board or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) punished the CEO in any way for posting on the Yahoo Finance message boards under an assumed screename.

The fact is, the SEC cleared Mackey, so there no longer is an investigation. Further, the Whole Foods' board has cleared Mackey as well. The board did put a new policy in place which prohibits corporate executives from posting on message boards like Yahoo Finance using an assumed screename.

Other writers out in the blogosphere are posting about Mackey's return to blogging, as well the pieces and posts we've offered here at Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM).

Here's today's take on the issue from Peter Katfka, who writes the "Silicon Alley Insider" blog about all things digital, such as blogs and related technology. Click here to read the piece the "Silicon Alley Insider" posted today about John Mackey's return to blogging.

Additionally, Paul Glazowski who writes for the online publication Mashable, Inc., has a post in the blog about John Mackey's return to blogging today as well. You can read that piece here.

The United Kingdom's 'Lord of the Blog'

Lastly, as Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) has written about before, John Mackey isn't the only food retailing chain CEO who publishes a blog on a company website. No sir indeed.

Mark Price, who is the Managing Director (British business speak essentially for CEO) of the upscale United Kingdom-based supermarket chain Waitrose, also has his own blog on the company website, called "The Grocer's Blog." (Mackey is the only food retailing chain CEO in the U.S. though we are aware of who writes a blog. And Price the only one we are aware of who does so in the UK.)

Waitrose Managing Director (MD) Price, who named himself the "Chubby Grocer" because of his ample girth, originally started "The Grocers Blog" as a way to communicate the daily ins-and-outs of a weight loss program he started last year. In the blog, Price has provided readers with the most personal details of his weight-loss regime; everything from how hard it is to avoid donuts, to his walking and swimming attempts, successes and failures.

Price couldn't be expected to merely limit himself on the blog to discussing his diet and exercise regimes however.

The Waitrose MD, who also goes by the nickname "The Golly Grocer" (part because of his girth, part because of his good sense of humor), is a man of many opinions, and jokes, both in general and about his rivals in the UK supermarket industry, such as Sir Terry Leahy, the CEO of Tesco PLC. and Sir Richard Rose, the Chairman and CEO of British food, hard and soft goods retailer Marks & Spencer, who Price calls the "King of Pants" in honor of M&S's private label slacks being named "the best" in the UK last year. Price loves offering his rivals a good dig in the blog.

In his "The Grocer's Blog," Price writes short posts about his weight loss efforts, trips to Waitrose stores, personal vacations, business conferences, and offers frequent friendly digs at UK supermarket leaders like Sir Terry of Tesco, Sir Richard Rose of M&S and others.

In fact, Price seems to be one of the few British food retail chain CEO's who has yet to be knighted by the Queen. After all, there's even a 'British Lord' in the bunch, Lord Sainsbury, scion of Sainsbury's, the UK's number three supermarket chain after Tesco (number one) and number two Asda, which is owned by Wal-Mart, Inc.

Asda's CEO isn't a Sir either...yet. We almost forgot, billionaire Sir Ken Morrison, the recently-retired former Chairman and CEO of the UK's fourth-largest supermarket chain, Morrisons, also was granted the title some years ago by order of the Queen.

You can read Waitrose chief Mark Price's latest 'The Grocer's Blog" blog post here, along with his past posts and comments on them from readers.

Since Whole Foods Market, Inc., which already has one store in London, UK and is making a major push to open more in the nation, and Waitrose are now rivals and will increasingly be so as Whole Foods opens more stores in the UK, perhaps we will eventually see a "blog off" between rival CEO's Price and Mackey?

Being the UK's most upscale, premium and natural foods' merchandising-oriented grocery chain, Waitrose is arguably the grocer which has the most to lose sales-wise from Whole Foods' expansion in the UK. Therefore, Will John Mackey soon or eventually join the cast of Price's rival CEO's, many of whom are the Waitrose chief's friends like Sir Richard of M&S, as good natured fodder for the "jolly grocer" on his "The Grocer's Blog?" Stay tuned. We will be.

NSFM Editor's Note: Read more about Waitrose Managing Director Mark Price's corporate blogging, including a report on his self-proclaimed Easter Sunday, 2008 weight loss goal challenge, here in two pieces we wrote on the topic in March, 2008. Also read this piece about Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s expansion plans in the United Kingdom.

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