Sure to be required reading in business school—and for fans of Coulombe’s creation as well.

BECOMING TRADER JOE

HOW I DID BUSINESS MY WAY & STILL BEAT THE BIG GUYS

The founder of the popular grocery store chain delivers a memoir wrapped in a handbook for would-be entrepreneurs.

Coulombe (1930-2020) was a born wheeler-dealer, turning a 1958 partnership with Rexall Drugs in Los Angeles into a small grocery chain called Pronto Markets. The chain flourished for lack of competition, with market leader 7-Eleven effectively held back from the region until California laws changed and barriers to entry fell. Annual sales at Pronto and its successor, Trader Joe’s, “grew at a compound rate of 19 percent per year” from the founding until Coulombe left the company in 1988; he reckons sales and net worth growth to be about that today. Success in a business with historically tight margins came from an ability to pivot nimbly, drop products that didn’t work (including, in Southern California, bullets until the assassination of Robert Kennedy), and procure products wisely from suppliers with as few middlemen as possible. “The fundamental job of a retailer is to buy goods whole, cut them into pieces, and sell the pieces to the ultimate consumers,” he writes, going on to gloss each of those mandates. Unusually for the sector, Coulombe also offered high rates of pay, which kept turnover—a huge hidden cost—low. The author, who takes a gruffly scholarly approach to many business problems, keyed Trader Joe’s to demographic changes that recognized the anti–mass-market sentiments of the counterculture and the rise in international travel that led Americans to appreciate such things as high-quality coffee and wine. Any student of social trends, logistics, and supply chains will learn much from Coulombe’s pages and the stern dicta they contain, as, for example, when he offers this formula: “my preference is to have a few stores, as far apart as possible, and to make them as high-volume as possible.”

Sure to be required reading in business school—and for fans of Coulombe’s creation as well.

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4002-2543-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins Leadership

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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