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U.S. retail sales in May are weakest in 16 months

U.S. retailers in May reported the biggest decline in sales in 16 months, largely owing to lower gasoline prices and fewer Americans buying new cars and trucks.

Sales at retailers nationwide sank 0.3% last month, the biggest drop since January 2016, the government reported Wednesday. The May sales report was generally weak across the board.

Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast flat sales in May.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-retail-sales-in-may-are-weakest-in-16-months-2017-06-14

 

 

MIDDAY-MidwestDigest-06-20-17

I know it's only June, but no self respecting male would ever deal with Christmas shopping this early, but there may be more incentive than ever to do holiday shopping early as UPS will slap on surcharge for those busy days just before Christmas.

Water standing in places in farm fields in places you wouldn't expect. My farmer friend mentioned it to me this morning. He thinks it's related to last fall's compaction.

Police in central Minnesota are seeking the person who stole the New Holland manure spreader that was sitting out by the road for sale near Wadena.

Will U.S. Open return to Erin Hills? It's likely.

Right Horse Initiative, Zoetis announce educational partnership

Zoetis and The Right Horse Initiative announced their partnership today to help horses in transition. Each year, hundreds of thousands of horses change careers or owners; a growing number of these horses end up at risk of inhumane treatment.

Led by the WaterShed Animal Fund, a division of the Arnall Family Foundation, The Right Horse Initiative works to unify equine industry professionals, welfare advocates and the public to improve the lives of horses in transition and promote adoption as a preferred method of finding a horse.

“Industry-wide collaboration has been the missing element in solving equine welfare problems in the United States. The Right Horse’s success will be achieved through our partners’ collaboration. We are thrilled the list of Right Horse partners is growing and positioning the initiative for real impact,” The Right Horse Initiative president Christy Counts said.

As the leading global animal health company, Zoetis said it is proud to support this effort to help safeguard equine wellness for all horses.

“Zoetis will continue to work to help resolve this issue as part of its dedication to innovation and passion for animal health,” said Dr. Jaci Boggs, senior equine marketing manager with Zoetis. “We best serve our customers when we have honest face-to-face conversations about real needs and the solutions we can deliver to help meet them. Our partnership with The Right Horse Initiative serves as an extension of this promise.”

Zoetis joins existing industry partners, adoption organizations and equine advocates, including the Certified Horsemanship Assn., Equine Sciences-Colorado State University, Equus Foundation, Institute for Human-Animal Connection, Interscholastic Equestrian Assn., Retired Racehorse Project, Time to Ride and Unwanted Horse Coalition.

Right Horse partners offer their voice, support and expertise to grow the conversation and create a unified effort to promote adoption as a preferred method of finding a horse. By working together, partner organizations serve as champions for education, proper training and public awareness on a national level.

Together, Zoetis and The Right Horse Initiative will support a national movement to reframe the equine adoption conversation.

The Right Horse Initiative is a collective of equine industry and welfare professionals and advocates working together to improve the lives of horses in transition and increase horse adoption in the U.S.

Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products, genetic tests, biodevices and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2016, the company generated annual revenue of $4.9 billion and has approximately 9,000 employees.

The Right Horse Initiative and Zoetis announce educational partnership

The Right Horse Initiative and Zoetis Announce Educational Partnership

Zoetis and The Right Horse Initiative announced their partnership to help horses in transition. Each year, hundreds of thousands of horses change careers or owners; a growing number of these horses end up at risk of inhumane treatment. Led by the WaterShed Animal Fund, a division of the Arnall Family Foundation, The Right Horse Initiative works to unify equine industry professionals, welfare advocates and the public to improve the lives of horses in transition and promote adoption as a preferred method of finding a horse.

“Industrywide collaboration has been the missing element in solving equine welfare problems in the United States. The Right Horse’s success will be achieved through our partners’ collaboration. We are thrilled the list of Right Horse partners is growing and positioning the initiative for real impact,” said Christy Counts, president of The Right Horse Initiative.

Zoetis, the leading global animal health company, is proud to support this effort to help safeguard equine wellness for all horses.

“Zoetis will continue to work to help resolve this issue as part of its dedication to innovation and passion for animal health,” said Jaci Boggs, DVM, senior equine marketing manager with Zoetis. “We best serve our customers when we have honest face-to-face conversations about real needs and the solutions we can deliver to help meet them. Our partnership with The Right Horse Initiative serves as an extension of this promise.”

Zoetis joins existing industry partners, adoption organizations and equine advocates, including the Certified Horsemanship Association, Equine Sciences Colorado State University, Equus Foundation, Institute for Human-Animal Connection, Interscholastic Equestrian Association, Retired Racehorse Project, Time to Ride and the Unwanted Horse Coalition. 

Right Horse partners offer their voice, support and expertise to grow the conversation and create a unified effort to promote adoption as a preferred method of finding a horse. By working together, partner organizations serve as champions for education, proper training and public awareness on a national level.

Together, Zoetis and The Right Horse Initiative will support a national movement to reframe the equine adoption conversation. To learn more about The Right Horse Initiative, visit therighthorse.org.

The Right Horse Initiative is a collective of equine industry and welfare professionals and advocates working together to improve the lives of horses in transition and increase horse adoption in the United States. The Right Horse Initiative is empowered by the WaterShed Animal Fund, a division of the Arnall Family Foundation.

Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products, genetic tests, biodevices and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2016, the company generated annual revenue of $4.9 billion with approximately 9,000 employees. For more information, visit www.zoetisUS.com.

22 ways to make customers feel valued

customer service

The famed author Thomas Merton said we value people, not for whom they are but for their usefulness. This is the same mistake companies make with customers. They value them for their usefulness—for what they spend.

Customers see it differently—quite differently. As Gallup, Inc. researchers point out in commenting on the economy, “Consumers are spending money, but they’re more inclined to spend it only on businesses they feel good about.” Not businesses they may like or where they’re treated nicely. In other words, their money is going where they feel valued.

Most businesses do a fairly good job “pleasing” customers—getting orders right and delivering them on time, but that bar isn’t nearly high enough. Here are 22 ways to meet today’s major challenge of making customers feel valued:

1.     Never ask a customer to call back. It’s rude and demeaning. Take their number and call them back or let them know who will be in touch with them.

2.     Never leave customers hanging. Always close the loop by letting them know what to expect or what’s going to happen next. It relieves frustration, uncertainty, and unnecessary unhappiness.

3.     Always follow up right now. Fast action is impressive; it says you care.

4.     Ask customers if they would like help in filling out forms. This takes away the drudgery. Just the offer alone sends the message that you’re willing to take the time to be helpful.

5.     Make all messages, written and spoken, customer centric. Start by never using “I” or “We.” They’re a turn off. Work at keeping the focus on the customer.

6.     Give customers a contact person. There’s nothing worse than feeling abandoned and that’s what happens to customers when they can’t penetrate a corporate firewall. Having a personal connection relieves stress.

7.     Never let the size of the sale influence the way you treat a customer. When making a large purchase, customers expect the “red carpet” to be rolled out. But when a customer gets the same attention making a small purchase, it creates a lasting positive impression, one that keeps them coming back.

8.     Never fail to acknowledge a customer even when you’re busy. Failing to do so may be the unforgiveable business sin. It diminishes the customer, is never forgotten, and damages the relationship.

9.     Never make excuses. They’re always a failed attempt a make yourself look good. They send a message to others that you’re weak and deceitful, someone who can’t be trusted.

10.  Always ask questions. There is no substitute for getting another person to talk. Customers will be surprised and impressed because they’re always afraid no one will listen.

11.  Give believable answers when you’re asked questions. Short answers satisfy customers, but always ask if what you said is clear.

12.  Never leave a customer wondering. The test comes after the customer leaves or you get back to the office. That’s when they get to thinking about what you said—and when the questions come to mind. Always encourage them to call, email, or text you.

13.  Be precise when you tell a customer you’ll get back to them. Let them know when they can expect to hear from you, and, if there’s a change, keep them informed. It’s a matter of trust.

14.  When there’s a problem, take ownership. Now the customer can relax and not worry about what might go wrong. They know someone will follow through for them.

15.  Surprise them with something unexpected. It may be free shipping, upgraded delivery, a discount on their next purchase, a gift card, a discount, or an enhanced warranty.

16.  Acknowledge purchase anniversaries. Shows your appreciation and keeps you top of mind. You might send a letter with a gift certificate or some other indication of your appreciation.

17.  Help people feel good about their purchase. Reinforce its value: “This will be an enjoyable addition to your home,” “You’re going to have a lot of fun driving this car,” “Your friends will enjoy coming to visit,” or “You’ve made a terrific choice.”

18.  Check-in with customers a week after making a purchase. Make it a time to ask if they have questions and what they like best—and least—about their purchase. They’ll appreciate your continued interest; that you haven’t forgotten them.

19.  Use the one word that reassures customers. When customers ask you to do something, say, “Sure.” Then figure out what to do—and do it.

20.  Help customers avoid “buyer’s remorse.” Customers always want to feel good about their purchases. Yet, feelings of uncertainty often set in and they doubt their decision. To help them avoid getting “cold feet,” remind them why they made the purchase, what they liked about it and share third party testimonials to validate their decision.

21.  Always say “Thank you.” Every conversation is an opportunity to express appreciation, whether it’s responding to a problem, greeting a new customer, hearing about a mistake, or getting an order.

22.  Stay in touch. Getting customers is hard work; keeping then is even more demanding. Send periodic emails, but don’t make them ads! “Buy, buy, buy” drives them away. Offer helpful information and be sure to ask their opinion of a product, service, or customer experience.

Most companies want to do the right thing by their customers. Yet, far too many fall short, believing that giving them a good deal or schmoozing them is all it takes. It isn’t.

Actor and director Adam Arkin says it’s hard to believe that the factor affecting the final outcome of a film is still news: “When people are treated well,” he says, “and they're made to feel valued, they give 110 percent.” That goes for customers, too.

 

 

MORNING-MidwestDigest-06-20-17

A college boy who traveled to North Korea with Chinese based tour group has died at Cincinnati hospital. He was charged with trying to steal a poster from a hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for that. There were no visible signs of injury to his body.

While weekly crop report has corn looking pretty good right now and soil moisture conditions improved with rain last week. While about 50% of U.S. corn in pollination by mid-July, some may not pollinate until August. If look at worst corn right now, it's in some of the major corn producing states.

Has there been training for medical injuries where you work? At Blain's Farm and Fleet they saved their 7th life yesterday. Through staff training and installation of AED, Blain's has been able to jump in and help people in urgent need.

Farm Progress America, June 20, 2017

Max Armstrong looks at the demand picture for pork, which will also impact the pork processing industry. The rising production will be coming from small to mid-size producers and more processing facilities are being built to meet that need.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Amazon positioned to disrupt retail food sector

Amazon purchases Whole Foods
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 16: A portion of the sign advertising Amazon Go is seen outside the grocery store's location on June 16, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon announced that it will buy Whole Foods Market, Inc. for over $13 billion dollars. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Amazon’s announcement last week to acquire Whole Foods Market, Inc. for approximately $13.7 billion ($42 per share—all cash) wasn’t really the black swan investors and business pundits like to marvel over. By most common terms, a black swan is something unpredictable, inconceivable even, a rare event—once-in-a-lifetime—that completely changes the face of what a particular business is and how it trades and interacts with consumers.

By those measures, Amazon’s acquisition of a food retailer, rather than merely providing third-party merchandising and delivery services, is more of a gray swan. A broad enough mind could have expected someone to take a stab at reinventing the retail food business; arguably, some are in the midst of trying. Plus, Amazon has a history of transforming entire retail industries, so such occurrences, though infrequent, aren’t necessarily rare.

Remember bookstores? They were the rule rather than the exception as recently as a couple of decades ago. Mergers and acquisitions led to a couple of ponderous national chains. Then along came Amazon in 1995, born as an online bookseller.

In 2011, e-book sales were $1.1 billion, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Sales of hardback, paperback and mass-market books that year were $5.3 billion. The former was $1.6 billion in 2014; $5.0 billion for the latter. By last year, physical book sales (hardback, paperback and mass-market) were $5.3 billion, while e-book sales declined to $1.1 billion. Last year, total book sales tracked by AAP were $7 billion compared to $6.86 billion in 2011.

If anything, Amazon’s disruption of the retail book marketplace helped grow the pie of book sales. As buying books online (both physical and electronic ones) became more commonplace, attrition continued among brick and mortar bookstores.

It wasn’t just hanging out its shingle as an online bookseller that disrupted things, it was myriad innovations that helped Amazon become the most dominant online bookseller, while building tools that others could use or copy. Things like one-click shopping, encouraging and publishing customer reviews, affordable same-day delivery, etc. In recent years, Amazon has been working to make delivery by drone a reality—the company provided a successful public demonstration in March.

Where many credit Wal-Mart with pioneering just-in-time inventory management as a way to reduce cost and retail price, Amazon is a pioneer of what might be termed perpetual optimum pricing, which can provide both buyers and sellers the most value for every transaction.

After books, Amazon disrupted the retail sale of consumer electronics. Giants in the sector, like Radio Shack and Circuit City, are now footnotes to history.

Similarly, Amazon continues to lead the ongoing charge for online retail sales of all kinds. That and pressure from the big box stores is a reason that some shopping malls are struggling as much as the name-brand retailers they house, stores like Sears and J.C. Penney.

In every case, on the outside looking in, Amazon identifies what consumers dislike about traditional shopping and/or what they would prefer if given the choice. Things like convenience, endless variety, competitive pricing and commitment to customer service.

Organic and natural is likely just the entry point

Whole Foods Market is known as a purveyor of organic and natural foods. There are 466 Whole Foods Market stores in 42 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.

It’s hard to believe that Amazon’s acquisition of the company is all about the organic niche, unless they plan to disrupt the production side of the business, too.

According to a new report from CoBank, the dollar value of U.S. organic produce sales doubled from 2011 to 2015 and annual sales now amount to $5.5 billion. Currently, 15% of all U.S. produce sales are organic. Although organic acres nearly doubled over the last 10 years, the pace of supply-side growth is sluggish relative to demand.

“Sales of organic fruit, vegetables and nuts have increased dramatically in recent years and this growth trend will continue,” says Christine Lensing, CoBank senior economist, specialty crops. “More than half of U.S. households are now purchasing some organic produce. But for a variety of reasons, production has not been keeping pace with demand and the supply gap is widening.”

Among those reasons is the economic risk versus potential reward of transitioning acres of conventional production to organic.

According to estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service, fruit and vegetables are far and away the largest organic food category in terms of annual sales, followed by dairy. Meat, fish and poultry are far and away one of the smallest.

For the first quarter of this year, natural and organic beef accounted for 4.1% of the total beef dollar (sales), according to Retail Marketing, funded by the beef checkoff. That’s based on FreshLook Marketing Data. In terms of pounds, natural and organic beef comprised 3.1% of the beef sold in the first quarter.

Amazon’s size and vision over time suggest they have more than a niche in their sights. That might be why share prices of leading, publicly traded grocery stores tumbled in the wake of the announcement.

Editor’s note: Completion of the transaction is subject to approval by Whole Foods Market's shareholders, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The parties expect to close the transaction during the second half of 2017.

Nominations open for BEEF Trailblazer Award

2016 Trailblazer Award winners
Dawn and Grant Breitkreutz, and their daughter, Karlie, operate a farming and ranching operation near Redwood Falls, Minn., called Stoney Creek Farm. They were honored as the 2016 Trailblazer Award winners.

For 20-plus years, BEEF magazine has honored a cattle producer with the Trailblazer Award. The Trailblazer Award recognizes a cattle producer for efforts beyond the ranch gate to make the beef business better.

As such, it is not a production award that recognizes on-ranch efforts. Rather, it is an award that recognizes those who go beyond their own operation to influence public opinion or public policy regarding the cattle business.

Nominations are now open for 2017. There is no formal application to fill out, so if you know of somebody who might qualify, please send contact information and a short description of their work on behalf of the beef business beyond the ranch gate. Send your nominations to Burt Rutherford at [email protected]

Click on the links below for articles on previous winners:

 

 

Here are the most trusted sources for food-related issues

Industry At A Glance - Trusted Food Sources

Last week’s Industry At A Glance focused on recent survey results from the Center for Food Integrity (CFI)Inside the Mind of Influencers – The Truth About Trust. Survey participants were asked about their most trusted sources around food related issues. The good news was that farmers made the list – but that bad news is they ranked below six other sources including nutrition advocacy groups, which often can be agenda-driven.

Meanwhile, this week’s illustration features respondents’ overall impression, knowledge, and interest in knowing more about food and agriculture. Nearly 70% of respondents possessed either a very positive (25%) or somewhat positive (43%) impression of food and agriculture.

Meanwhile, nearly 80% expressed an interest in knowing more about the food system and where food comes from. Lastly, nearly one in five (19%) declared high knowledge of farming/agriculture and over half (56%) expressed having some knowledge about food production. 

This week’s data is generally favorable. That is, consumers appear to perceive the food industry from a positive viewpoint despite many of the stories to the contrary – especially in social media. For more on that see Everybody Lies, Maybe Even About Food.

Moreover, four out of every five people are open to learning more. That’s a clear opening for agriculture in terms of its communication efforts. And if agriculture could capitalize on that opening, perhaps farmers/ranchers would move up the list of most trusted sources.   

How do you perceive these results? Are you surprised by the data? Do you perceive consumers becoming more favorable towards agriculture? What needs to be done to take advantage of these perceived openings? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Nevil Speer is based in Bowling Green, Ky., and serves as vice president of U.S. operations for AgriClear, Inc. – a wholly-owned subsidiary of TMX Group Limited. The views and opinions of the author expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the TMX Group Limited and Natural Gas Exchange Inc.