retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Los Angeles Times reports that as expected, France’s Groupe Casino has sold its Smart & Final chain, based in Southern California but also with stores in five other Western states and northern Mexico. The buyer: the New York private equity firm Apollo Management. The price: $813 million.

Etienne Snollaerts, president/CEO of Smart & Final, tells the Times that he expects a new burst of capital to allow the 254-store chain to expand more rapidly than it has of late; Casino has been looking for a way to reduce its debt, and announced nine months ago that it would consider strategic alternatives for the chain.

Smart & Final, founded in 1871, serves both small restaurants and businesses as well as consumers who want a warehouse club experience (albeit a far smaller one than Costco offers) without the membership fees.

Advertising Age reports that Anheuser-Busch is under attack by the Attorneys General of 21 states who say that the company’s Bud TV website is “too easily accessed by people below legal drinking age.”

A letter to A-B signed by the government officials reads, in part: "We feel strongly that since you are creating the programming and controlling the internet-based network, not just advertising on it, you have a higher responsibility to ensure that youth are not exposed to the marketing on your site. We fail to see how your use of age verification on the site is a genuine attempt to keep youth from accessing the site's content."

Anheuser-Busch has responded that it has taken “extraordinary steps” to keep underage users off the site, but also called on parents to better monitor their kids’ Internet usage.

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that “McDonald's Corp. is overhauling its kitchens to speed up and expand its breakfast service, a move many franchisees see as a prelude to all-day breakfast.”
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