retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Lakeland Ledger reports that Publix has opened a new prototype store in Valrico, Florida, described as a 54,000 square foot unit that “trades extra backroom storage space for more room on the shopping floor, which in turn allows Publix to increase its offerings in nearly every department and aisle. There are more varieties of ethnic, organic and gluten-free foods, and diverse produce choices like kohlrabi and Thai guava. The seafood department has a lobster tank and fresh sushi. The wine section is roughly double the size of those found in most Publix locations.”

• GFS Marketplace, which promotes itself as being a warehouse club store without any membership fee, has opened its first Florida store, in Altamonte Springs, with several more scheduled to open in central Florida over the next few years, the reports.

The story defines GFS this way: “GFS Marketplace, a niche player in the market, has 144 stores nationwide. Each is small, about 15,000 square feet, and sells mostly groceries. Traditional warehouse clubs offer everything from flat-screen TVs to eye exams in spaces that can reach 10 times that size. The marketplaces are a division of Gordon Food Service, the country's fourth-largest food distributor. The Michigan-based company started them years ago because its business clients — along with some regular folks — wanted to buy in huge quantities without the hassle of ordering through a warehouse.”

• The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has arrested a New Jersey man and charged him with sending death threats over the internet to his employer, Danny Wegman of Wegmans. If convicted, the man could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Advertising Age reports that “despite a weakening economy, Campbell Soup Co. is not backing off its plans to plow more money into innovation and marketing and cut back on heavy discounting,” a move that means the company will continue with plans to invest $100 million more than originally planned into marketing and innovation in the current fiscal year. The effort is aimed at putting more emphasis on taste and creating for the brand a differential advantage that will get it through tough times.

CEO Denise Morrison tells Ad Age that "in this environment it is critical for us to deliver meaningful innovation focused on consumer needs and to differentiate our brands through effective marketing that emphasizes our products' tangible benefits and value relative to the competition."

Natural Foods Merchandiser reports that a New York City law firm has “filed a class-action suit against Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods for labeling its four Wesson brand cooking oils ‘100% natural,’ even though they're made from genetically modified organisms.

According to the story, “The case may have a far-reaching impact. The Food and Drug Administration has not defined the term ‘natural’ and few rules exist for its use. Some experts feel that this lack of regulation is why ‘natural’ now appears on roughly 70 percent of processed foods and beverages, according to the Center for Food Safety.”

• The Los Angeles Times reports that Toys R Us is enhancing its site to store service, which allows shoppers to buy products online ands then pick them up at a local Toys R Us store. According to the story, “Now shoppers can designate an alternate person, such as a friend or family member, to pick up their order through ‘family and friends pick up’.

“Toys R Us also opened a new distribution center in McCarran, Nev., dedicated solely to the fulfillment of online orders. The company will also begin using store inventory from about 760 Toys R Us and Babies R Us locations to help complete online orders.”
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