Walmart vs. Whole Foods Market

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/10/us-walmart-wildoats-idUSBREA3909I20140410

Walmart is partnering with Wild Oats and introducing inexpensive organic goods to its stores.  This move is supposed to be a threat to organic foods king Whole Foods Market.  I don’t see this move being successful at all for Walmart and I doubt that the folks over WFM are worried about this development.

WFM’s primary competitive advantage lies not with its product mix, but in its store environment.  Walmart, in comparison, does poorly in store environment.  Its low cost business model contributes to its poor store environment.

A key aspect of store environment that often is ignored because of its sensitive nature is the customer factor.  The customer factor of store environment, unlike fixtures or lighting, is not under the direct control of the store.  What type of people are shopping at the store and how does this influence who decides to shop at the store?

People who shop at Walmart, well, there is a whole website site devoted to mocking them.  Here is a short list of possibly very offensive nouns and adjectives describing the Peoples of Walmart (POWs):

  • Geriatric
  • Prole
  • Obese
  • Immigrant
  • Ugly
  • Dalit
  • Black
  • Mexican
  • Food stamps
  • Blue collar
  • Unemployed
  • Welfare

These are the people who shop at Walmart. They occupy the lowest rungs of our society and higher class people often look upon them with disdain.

Many enlightened people, rich people, brahmins, SWPLs, yuppies, etc, etc, avoid shopping at Walmart because shopping at Walmart requires them to interact with undesireables.  Few of them will admit this, and some may even be unaware of their own unconcisous biases, but I think it is true to some extent.  Standing in line behind the overweight black single mother, her brood, her basket full of fatty foods, and her fat ass in pants much too tight, is, to put it nicely, disconcerting for your average brahmin, no matter how liberal.  Not to mention the fact that she’s trying to use coupons AND food stamps which makes the brahmin in question quite uncomfortable indeed.  The fact of the matter is, the peoples of Walmart, are ICKY.  ICKY.

The marginal benefit of shopping at Walmart for organic foods(lower price) cannot overcome the marginal cost of a poor store environment.  People would rather pay more money and shop at WFM than pay less money and have to look at icky POWs at Walmart.

a person of Walmart :K

The only way that Walmart could be successful in organic foods is if somehow POWs become interested in purchasing organic foods, because I don’t think they’ll be able to convince cool people who buy organic foods to come to their stores as long as POWs keep shopping at Walmart.  I find it unlikely that POWs will ever want to buy organic foods because POWs don’t much care about their health.

Now on to WFM, where I wrote the first half of this blog post from the balcony overlooking the store sipping an iced coffee made from a Japanese Oji Machine (super neat and makes quite a tasty iced coffee).

photo1

WFM has transformed some of their stores into ¨social destinations” where one can not only shop, but hang out as well.  It has turned into a place, much like some famous clubs in NYC and LA, to ¨be seen¨.  Cool people shop and hang out at WFM and you gain  social credibility if you are seen shopping at WFM, even if you are just buying bread, milk, and peanut butter.  Most people don’t buy the obscure items that you could buy at WFM, they probably just buy the same stuff they could buy at Walmart or the local grocery store.  I’d guess that WFM operates  close to the 80/20 Pareto Principle.

WFM, in its past, appealed mostly to granolas, but has managed to transform its image and market itself successfully to rich people from both the left and the right.  The healthy living trend of the last decade has contributed to their success.

Nowadays, while you see lots of granolas working at WFM, they no longer compromise the majority of the customers.  It is a good thing too, since granolas don’t make a lot of money(because they work at WFM and are writers/artists/musicians on the side), and therefore do not generate a lot of revenue for WFM. Instead, the typical customer is an attractive white woman between the ages of 22 and 45, who wears yoga pants from Lululemon.  WFM is a hotspot for ¨MILFs¨.

Shopping at WFM is a lot more appealing for many people than shopping at Walmart because the people are significantly more attractive and of a higher social class.

WFM customer Jessica Alba

If I were the CEO of Wild Oats, I would choose to partner with Target rather than with Walmart.  People who shop at WFM probably shop at Target too for stuff they don’t get at WFM (such as tampons, because only super devoted granolas buy organic cotton tampons from WFM).

I shop at both WFM and Walmart so I theoretically I am well qualified to blog on this topic.

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Black guy acts Asian, gets into all 8 Ivy League Schools

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/31/ivy-league-admissions-college-university/7119531/

This story from USA Today has been all over major and minor media channels.  I don’t know what is wrong with media these days–what are they trying to accomplish by posting this story?  The story itself is almost satirical in nature if you take it as a commentary on affirmative action.  

USA Today discusses the gender aspect of college admissions, suggesting that the young man benefited from his gender, but wisely ignores race, even though that is the first thing that comes to any reasonable person’s mind when reading this article.  

There are a couple of things that stand out to me from this story:

1. The kid Kwasi, is a first generation American from Ghana.  Presumably, he was born in the US.   His parents are nurses and he probably grew up in a middle class neighborhood.  He is not from ¨the ghetto¨ and most likely does not speak in ebonics.  Most of the smart blacks in universities have African African backgrounds.  On a similar note, most smart Hispanics at universities don’t look like anything the people who mow your lawns, build your houses, and pick your fruit.  They are, as someone once put it to me, Conquistadors.  I would guess that more than 80% of Hispanics at the top 50 schools in the US are white.  Why the hell should Conquistadors benefit from affirmative action?  If anything, they should be punished for the Conquistador sins their ancestors committed.  

2. Kwasi plays viola and wants to be a doctor, just like your stereotypical Asian kid.  When admission officers see an Asian kid who has good test scores, plays violin, and wants to be doctor, they yawn and shrug, because, well, it is just so stereotypical.  Boring.  Next.  But a black kid?  That has admission officers salivating.  An Asian kid applying with a similar profile would probably have an OK chance at a few of the ¨lower ivy’s¨, but no real chance at HYP.  

3. 2250 on the SAT is pretty solid score, especially for a black.  While he will not be a top performer at any of these schools by any means, he will, based on his SAT score, and unlike your typical under-qualified minority, be able to handle the work and most likely make his way into a top medical school, again, by way of affirmative action.  

I don’t think abolishing affirmative action at universities is politically feasible at the moment.  There is too much opposition.  I think schools should be mandated to publish admissions data by race if they wish to practice affirmative action.  While everyone knows that blacks and Hispanics get in with lower scores than whites or Asians, the universities are pretending that the disparities really aren’t that large.  

Public data on admissions by race would be embarrassing for both schools and minorities.  I think it would be so embarrassing for pro-affirmative action parties that eventually they would begin to oppose affirmative action.  

 

 

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Race, Height, and Basketball Development

When I was younger (10?), I played on an AAU basketball team.  Everyone on my team was white, except for me and a half-black kid.  Our very first game, we played an all black team.  They pressed us relentlessly and the end result was not pretty.

Blacks mature faster than whites, who mature faster than Asians, so at this level of basketball, black kids have a physical maturity advantage.  The playing field is much more level in high school, because the maturity advantage of blacks has mostly disappeared.  Of course, blacks, on average, still hold an advantage in overall athletic ability, but it is not insurmountable by any means.  In high school, our all white+me team did manage to beat some very black teams by playing a disciplined brand of basketball.

Most people who have been exposed to competitive basketball understand that “black” does not always equal “good at basketball”.  A good percentage of adults who like to play pick-up basketball who did not grow up in a basketball environment are extremely gullible and believe “black”=”good at basketball”, so they pick black people first, even if the black person in question sucks.  Asians are especially prone to this kind of discriminatory behavior as most Asians spent more time at Kumon math class than at gyms in their youth.  FOBs  are even more prone to this behavior as their exposure to black people prior to arriving in the states is pretty much limited to watching the NBA which is dominated by black people who can jump really high.

Several of the post players on my AAU team never ended up being much good in high school, even though they were pretty good at a younger age.  The reason?  While they were considered “tall” when they were young, they ended up peaking in height at less than 6-3, which is not tall enough to play down low in competitive high school basketball, especially if you are white and can’t really jump all that high.  They were relatively slow, weren’t much good at handling or shooting the ball, but had great post moves, which unfortunately doesn’t really help when the defender is several inches taller.

The lesson here is that if you are training your kids to play basketball, teach them guard skills, no matter how tall they may seem to be.  It is easier to learn post skills than guard skills at a later age.  This has become a trend–many professional forwards and centers these days were trained as guards when they were younger.  You no longer see too many traditional post players–coaches want forwards who can shoot and handle the ball a bit.

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Leland Yee, Anti-Gun California Senator Arrested for…Gun Trafficking

And corruption.

Leland Yee reminds me of John Kwang from Chang Rae Lee’s Native Speaker.    Seemingly noble Asian-American politician is found to be a moral vacuum and connected to all sorts of seedy organizations and characters from the Asian underworld.  Triads.

This is bad for aspiring Asian politicians as everyone will be using their imaginations and wondering…jeez, is the person I’m voting connected to Asian gangsters BOK CHOY HOW?  Apparently, Leland is.

 

 

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The Trendiness of UNIQLO

 

UNIQLO  Image

UNIQLO is a fast fashion retailer from Japan.  They have a strong presence in Japan and have rapidly expanded over the last few years into greater Asia. They opened their first US stores in 2005 in NYC and have slowly begun to increase their store count (now at 17) here.  Their stores are mostly located in the NYC metro and the Bay Area, but they are starting to branch out a little more. I predict that they will have over 100 stores in the US by 2020.

What I like about UNIQLO is that it makes clothes that have an “Asian Fit”, which are usually tighter and more streamlined than the typical American clothes.  The 5$ T-shirt that UNIQLO makes is my favorite wardrobe piece.  They go well with anything and make my biceps and triceps look attractive.  UNIQLO, like Lululemon, makes clothes for thin and fit people.  However, unlike Lululemon, UNIQLO is affordable and appeals to a far broader demographic.  I think Americans, especially young and hip Americans, will start to gravitate towards UNIQLO as it expands its retail presence.  Hip and trendy people of all races have already begun to catch on to UNIQLO in NYC and the Bay Area.  UNIQLO is not just an Asian thing, it is a cool thing.  It is easy to dress hipster by shopping at UNIQLO.

American youth these days are embracing an international culture and turning their backs towards the American culture.  American clothing brands such as American Eagle, Gap, Aeropostale, and Abercrombie and Fitch, are in decline.  It’s not cool to be All-American anymore.  It’s cool to be “International”.  In the middle market of casual clothing, this means H&M (European) and UNIQLO (Japanese).  Moreover, the fast fashion aspect of H&M and UNIQLO lets these companies quickly take advantage of fashion trends. UNIQLO also does a superb job of visual merchandising.  Whenever I walk into a UNIQLO store, everything is neatly folded, the store is bright and clean, and there is a unique sense of calm, even in the NYC locations.  The store environment is second to none.  The Japanese are exacting in their standards and it shows in the store presentation.

Whenever I visit NYC, San Francisco, or Asia, I always stop at Uniqlo to shop for clothes.  The one thing I do not like about UNIQLO is that some of the clothes tend to be of poor quality.  This is understandable, given the fast fashion aspect of the company (the clothes are not meant to be worn very often), but I still find myself wishing for better quality.

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The Whiteness of Pittsburgh #1

white-people

“I have never seen so many white people in my life”-white acquaintance from the southwest on Facebook upon moving to the city.  This is allowed because it is funny, but if he were to move to, say Baltimore, and comment on having never seen so many black people, it would be very unfunny O_o and there would be all kinds of nasty comments.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game.  I had never seen so many white people in my life.  I wonder if the any of the white people at the game noticed how white it was at the arena.

The city itself is only about 67% white as compared to 87% for the metro area, because pretty much all the black people live in the city.  In some suburbs of Pittsburgh (which approach 100% whiteness), you can go entire days out on the street without seeing a non-white person.

Pittsburgh, #1 in whiteness.

List of USA’s Metro Areas by White Share of Population (2010)

.
Rank
% White .
Metropolitan Area (of over 1-million population)
1 86.9% Pittsburgh, PA
2 81.5% Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN
3 78.8% Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
4 78.8% Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA
5 78.5% Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN
6 78.0% Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
7 77.1% Rochester, NY
8 75.6% Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
9 75.6% Columbus, OH
10 74.9% St. Louis, MO-IL
11 74.8% Salt Lake City, UT
12 74.4% Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
13 74.1% Indianapolis-Carmel, IN
14 73.8% Kansas City, MO-KS
15 73.5% Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN
16 71.0% Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH
17 70.0% Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
18 67.9% Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
19 67.6% Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
20 67.4% Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI
21 66.2% Oklahoma City, OK
22 66.0% Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
23 64.9% Jacksonville, FL
24 64.8% Birmingham-Hoover, AL
25 63.8% Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
26 63.7% Denver-Aurora- Broomfield, CO
27 62.4% Raleigh-Cary, NC
28 60.3% Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC
29 59.4% Baltimore-Towson, MD
30 59.3% Richmond, VA
31 56.4% Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ
32 56.1% Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
33 53.6% Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA
34 53.5% Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI
35 53.0% New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA
36 52.4% Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX
37 51.0% Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
38 49.6% Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
39 48.5% Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
40 47.1% Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
41 46.0% San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
42 45.9% Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
43 45.8% Memphis, TN-MS-AR
44 45.6% New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
45 40.6% San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
46 37.2% Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
47 33.2% San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX
48 33.0% Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
49 32.9% San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
50 32.4% Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
51 28.7% Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA

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Selective Perception

A few weeks ago I participated in a meeting with some of our senior executives.  A week later my team was standing in the hallway with an Asian client when one of the executives came by to introduce himself.  I happened to be standing right next to our Asian client.

Executive(to client): Hello, my name is Executive.  Welcome to our office.  We are happy to have you.

Client (in poor English): Yes. Yes. Yes. Hello.

Executive(to me): Hello, my name is Executive.  And you are?

AWKWARD SILENCE

Jonah (in what Jonah assumes to be unaccented English): Uh, my name is Jonah.

Jonah’s Manager: Jonah works with us.  He just started a few months ago.

Executive: Oh….. How do you like working in XXX department?

Jonah: I like it.

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Restaurant Kids and Computer Kids

Young Asian-Americans are not one monolithic group.  We are different in many respects, be it religion, income, ancestry, etc, etc.  It is too easy for the outside to see us as one, so this is going to be the first of my attempts to detail the nuances of the Asian-American population.

Young Asian-Americans, based on my experience, can generally be segmented into two distinct groups, the “restaurant kids” and the “computer kids”.  Restaurant kids are the kids whose parents labor in restaurants/groceries/laundries/nail salons or in some cases, own these establishments. Computer kids are the kids whose parents work as engineers/doctors/lawyers/accountants.

The first wave of Asian immigrants who arrived in the early 20th century were primarily laborers.  Popular imagination does not deceive us in this regard.  The third wave of Asian immigrants who arrived after the war were a mix of students, educated professionals, and laborers.  The technology boom that occurred in the last three decades of the twentieth century provided plenty of opportunities for students and educated professionals from Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and later on, Mainland China.  As a result, many students stayed in the America, built careers, and started families. And then there were those who came not to study, but to labor.  For some, they were always laborers, and presumably, a life as a laborer in America is much better than a life as a laborer in the home country.  There were more opportunities in America, if not for the immigrants themselves, then for their kids.  Of course, there were also highly educated immigrants who became laborers, because their skill set did not have the same value in America.  Is it better to be a grocery store owner in America than it is to be a doctor in South Korea (see Chang Rae Lee’s debut novel Native Speaker for a literary take)?  Perhaps this was the case thirty or forty years ago, but as East Asian economies have rapidly modernized, this kind of logic has quickly disappeared.

My friends and acquaintances include both restaurant kids and computer kids.  I’m a computer kid, but I’ve always been fascinated with the restaurant kids.  Looking around as a young adult at the life trajectories of my friends and acquaintances, I noticed an unsettling trend.  While most of us have landed somewhere in the middle in terms of worldly “success”, the people who have “failed” are mostly restaurant kids, and the people who have “excelled” are almost all computer kids.  While it may be too early to say whether or not these trends will continue, after all, we are still young, it is unsettling nonetheless.

Studies have shown that Asian scores have steadily risen over the last twenty years while the scores of other groups have remained relatively flat.  What is the secret to this success? The secret is simply what retailers refer to as “mix”.  The composition of the Asian population has changed.  “Asian” encompasses a wide range of groups, both low achieving  (Southeast Asians) and high achieving (East Asians and Indians).  Part of the reason for this increase can attributed to greater representation of the high achieving groups in the current Asian pie.  I suspect, however, that this is only part of the story.  My hypothesis, based on my experience, is that the mix of restaurant kids and computer kids in the high achieving group, plays an equal, if not larger role in the score increase.  The computer kids, the sons and daughters of the second wave of immigrants, have arrived. The sons and daughters of grocers, laborers, and restaurateurs are at a distinct disadvantage academically when compared to the sons and daughters of STEM PHDs.  Confucian (“Tiger Mom”) exam culture is no great equalizer, both groups share this culture.  The application of “Tiger Mom” parenting to the computer kids in my opinion may generate greater returns than when applied on restaurant kids.  The parental profiles typical in computer kid families are highly uncommon in mainstream American society.  As a group, the achievement potential for computer kids is very high.

I know many of my friends who are now participating at the elite level of American society (HLS, Mckinsey, Google, MIT, etc) had parents who both possessed masters or doctorate degrees in quantitative fields.  On the other hand, I know Asian-Americans who have given their parents a hard time, having kids way too early, driving fast cars, dropping out of school or slacking in school, and generally thumbing their noses at the prospect of a middle class lifestyle.  These kids are, with few exceptions, the restaurant kids.

Here is rough sketch of what I believe to be the distribution of achievement between restaurant kids and computer kids.  The blue dots represent computer kids and the red dots represent restaurant kids.

map

Computer kids dominate high schools such as Monte Vista in Cupertino and Thomas Jefferson in Northern Virginia, areas where there is high concentration of technology firms.  It is in these areas that the phenomenon of “white flight” in regards to Asian domination of public schools has begun to rear its ugly head.  I do not blame whites for wanting to flee these schools.  The truth is, they are competing with the offspring of the some of the highest performing individuals from Asia, a competition, that few can survive.

I’m curious to see what the mix is of computer kids vs. restaurant kids in highly selective Asian high schools such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science in New York City.  The general perception is that these kids are relatively poor “Chinatown kids”, if you will, who study really, really hard to get into these schools.  I wonder, though, how many of these kids are simply middle class computer kids from the more suburban areas of New York City.

One thing the restaurant kids have over the computer kids is food.  Restaurant kids families make the most delicious food.

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“For sometimes …

“For sometimes you can’t help but crave some ruin in what you love.”
― Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea

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March 17, 2014 · 4:29 am