retail news in context, analysis with attitude

CNN has a story about Whole Foods, suffering from the impact of the current economic decline, “now plans to target new stores sized between 35,000 to 50,000 square feet, more than 20% smaller than what the company identified a year ago as its ‘sweet spot’ amid successes with some large locations. The company is also renegotiating leases at several stores for smaller spaces than originally signed.

“Smaller stores come with a host of lower fixed costs for rents and utilities, and also require fewer employees to run. That can help bolster key profitability metrics like sales-per-square-foot and sales-per-employee and improve the company's return on invested capital.”

• The Orlando Sentinel has a story saying that the city’s first downtown supermarket to be opened in almost 30 years will debut this weekend when Publix opens a new 29,431-square-foot store on the ground floor of the Paramount condominium complex there.

According to the story, “ The new Publix features a number of distinctive urban elements in addition to the smaller-than-normal shopping carts. There's a 140-space parking garage directly under the store, with access provided by elevators large enough for shoppers and shopping carts. Residents of the 300-plus-unit Paramount have their own parking above the store, as well as a 24-hour doorman and a separate entrance to the market. ”

• A group of fifteen American almond growers and wholesale nut handlers filed a lawsuit in the Washington, D.C. federal court on Tuesday, September 9 seeking to repeal a controversial government-mandated treatment program for California-grown raw almonds.

According to the statement released by the plaintiffs, the almond farmers and handlers contend that their businesses have been seriously damaged and their futures jeopardized by a requirement by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that raw almonds be treated with propylene oxide (a toxic fumigant recognized as a carcinogen by the EPA) or steam-heated before they can be sold to American consumers. Foreign-grown almonds are exempt from the treatment scheme and are said to be rapidly displacing raw domestic nuts in the marketplace … The USDA, in consultation with the Almond Board of California, invoked its treatment plan on September 1, 2007 alleging that it was a necessary food safety requirement.

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