Economic Chum: Kroger/Ralphs Marketing, Ford Family, Small Business Credit, Job Market

Last night, I had the occasion to talk to my broker about building college funds and investing in this economy, and I pointed her to a number of articles I had seen during my lunchtime news reading. So, for today’s lunchtime chum, I thought I would share them with you:

  • From the “Targeted Marketing” Department: The LA Times has an interesting article on the Kroger chain, which out here in Los Angeles we know as Ralphs (disclaimer: My brother-in-law works for Ralphs as some sort of manager). Oldtimers in Los Angeles will remember Kroger as the one-time owner of the Market Basket chain (and if you are into grocery history, check out this site). Kroger, it seems, is making money through intensive analysis of their customer base, and by silently tiering their stores: the ones with wealthier clientele get more national brand products, the ones with more price-conscious consumers get more private-label products. They individualize coupon book mailings. Now, I’ve never particularly liked Ralphs since Kroger took over — we still prefer TJs and Gelsons — but that could be because we’re not going to a correctly-tiered store for our style.
  • From the “There’s A Ford In Your Future” Department: The NY Times has an interesting article on Ford Motors, which you’ll recall is the only US-HQed carmaker to not accept US Govt funds. The article claims that one reason is that the Ford family is still at the helm and actively involved. I should note that the NY Times also has an interesting piece on which autos are actually made in the US. By the way, when you buy that car, expect to see some colors you haven’t seen in a while. USA Today is reporting that carmakers are using colors in lieu of new models to lure buyers.
  • From the “Feeling Squeezed” Department: The LA Times has an interesting piece on the tightening credit squeeze for small business. It notes how the credit cards that small business depends upon to smooth cash flow are disappearing or having rates raised… and that the same companies that are doing this may be going out of providing private-label cards to these stores. This could affect those with private label cards (think Best Buy), or those trying to take advantage of the 0% financing deals (which are often private-label credit).
  • From the “Get A Job” Department: The NY Times has an interesting article on the job market: in particular, how certain skilled professions are begging for people. These include professions such as critical care nurses, welders, licensed civil engineers, special education teachers, geotechnical engineers, and electrical lineman. All are fields that require some aspect of professional experience or training on top of the school experience (making the people harder to come by). Interesting article, especially if you are looking for work, or know someone looking for work.