retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Here are some of the stories that broke while MNB was on a brief hiatus…

• The Financial Times reported that Walmart’s new Marketside small store format will feature “a natural wood finish around the entrance, and deep-purple awnings - the same colour that will be used on the aprons of the staff, and on its website … The Marketside name appears in lower case green lettering, with no reference to its parent company.”

According to the story, the first four Marketside units will open in the Phoenix market. Walmart has said that the test will involve up to 10 stores, and that at least two more sites in the Phoenix area have been acquired.

• Minnesota grocery retailer Coborn’s, which operates 34 stores in the upper Midwest, announced it has acquired and will reopen SimonDelivers as CobornsDelivers beginning in October, with customers who used the e-grocery company in its previous incarnation able to easily reactivate their accounts and access their past order histories.

• The Los Angeles Times reported that Safeway-owned Vons has joined Kroger-owned Ralphs in changing its double-coupon policy. Both companies have now changed their policies so that shoppers cannot double coupons worth more than 50 cents. The move is seen as a way of protecting margins at a time when costs are increasing.

• The Boston Globe reported that the Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner is considering the imposition of a statewide ban on the use of trans fats in all restaurant foods. California last month became the first state to outlaw trans fats; in Massachusetts, the cities of Boston, Cambridge and Brookline already have banned the artery-clogging fats.

• The Los Angeles Times reported that “two small ethnic grocery-store chains are combining in a bid to grab a greater share of the Latino market in Southern California.” The Gigante chain of seven stores has merged with its competitor, the El Super chain. There now will be 15 El Super markets in Southern California. According to the story, “The name change follows the May purchase of all seven Gigante stores by City of Commerce-based Bodega Latina Corp., which operates El Super.”

• In view of all the tumult taking place at Starbucks, the company has decided that CEO Howard Schultz and other top managers – from the vice presidential level and above - will not be getting any pay increases during the next fiscal year.

Reuters reports that CVS Caremark plans to begin testing a high end beauty concept called “Beauty 360,” which is seen as a way of competing with chains such as Sephora. Test stores are expected to open next to existing CVS units on the east coast and west coast of the US.

• The Washington Post reported that on September 16, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a public haring designed as a first step toward developing a long-term strategy that will create clearer and more useful allergy labels on the nation’s food products.

USA Today reported that Starbucks is rolling out a new breakfast menu featuring six new “better for you” items that include “hot oatmeal, an energy bar and a whole-grain apple bran muffin with fruit pieces.

“Starbucks plans to revamp its lunch and dinner menus, too, in 2009. The goal is to lure back core customers who are visiting its stores less often and spending less when they do.”

• Golub Corporation/Price Chopper Supermarkets announced that Frank Manion, the company’s Regional Perishable Merchandiser, has been promoted to the position of Zone Director.

In addition, the company announced that Scott Sabatino, Price Chopper’s Regional Non-Perishable Merchandiser, has been promoted to the position of Zone Director.

And, Price Chopper announced that Larry Ritzert, Senior Category Manager - Meat Merchandising, has been promoted to the position of Director of Meat Merchandising.

• Family Dollar Stores said that Lonnie W. McCaffety, the company’s Regional Vice President for the New Orleans area, has been named Vice President – Store Operations.

• And finally, just as MNB went on vacation, Walmart reached a settlement with its former vice chairman, Thomas Coughlin, who has been convicted of wire fraud and tax evasion. Because Coughlin’s illegal activities took place during his employment at Walmart, the company sought to void his multi-million dollar retirement package, an effort that Coughlin sought to derail.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

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