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• In Richmond, Virginia, WTVR News reports that Ahold-owned Martin’s Food Markets is closing down the six dry cleaning services that have been operating inside stores that it recently acquired from Ukrop’s. Ahold had acquired all 24 Ukrop’s stores, but only six of them had dry cleaners operated by Handcraft Cleaners.

• In California, the Press-Enterprise reports that Stater Bros. Holdings “will hold off on opening new stores until the economy improves, but the company is digging its heels into existing markets by remodeling or rebuilding some stores and sacrificing profits to keep prices in check.”

In a conference call with analysts, “Phillip Smith, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Stater Bros., said sales continue to be affected by intense competition and a tough economy, particularly in the Inland region, where unemployment hovers near 15 percent. Customers are coping by trading down on grocery items to manage a limited food budget -- for example, by opting for whole fryers instead of boneless skinless chicken breasts, he said. And the company is sacrificing short-term profits in order to retain customers through the downturn by maintaining consistent prices and service.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that a group of KFC franchisees is revolting against the company’s emphasis beginning last year on grilled chicken and sandwiches that are perceived as being healthier for consumers, as opposed to the traditional fried fare on which the company built its business. They say that consumers are confused, and the franchisees are suing to get back control of their merchandising and marketing efforts.

• The New York Times reports that negotiations between Barnes & Noble and Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos., have broken down and “may leave Barnes & Noble open to a messy fight with one of its largest shareholders at a time when the company, the nation’s largest bookstore owner, is trying to sell itself. If Mr. Burkle wages a proxy fight and wins, he could gain considerable control over the company — and succeed in unseating Leonard Riggio, the company’s chairman and a probable bidder.

It was expected as late as yesterday that the two sides were going to reach an accord.
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