retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• Kroger-owned Fred Meyer Stores announced that a tentative agreement has been reached with Teamsters Local 117. The agreement covers 360 associates working at the warehouse and distribution center in Puyallup, and now goes to those employees for ratification.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that “meal preparer Orval Kent Food Co. and parent Chef Solutions Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday with a plan to sell their assets.” The companies have lined up $38 million in financing to allow them to continue to operate as the process unfolds.

• The Yakima Herald reports that Winco has, for the second time in a decade, decided not to open a store in the Yakima Valley, and the retailer will now sell nine acres that it acquired in Union Gap.

"We have been more conservative," said Michael Read, a WinCo spokesman. "We had planned for more aggressive growth. With the continuing recessionary economy, we have slowed our growth and took a hard look at all the properties in our portfolio."

• Unified Grocers announced that "Natural Directions," its exclusive brand of organic and natural products, is partnering with Gelson's Markets in Southern California to help support the Society of Design Administration's (SDA) 6th Annual Canstruction LA
Event, a unique community service project developed by the SDA and held in cities throughout North America to provide hunger relief.

Canstruction LA invites teams of prominent Los Angeles architects, engineers, and designers to showcase their talents by designing giant structures made entirely out of canned foods that will be judged and awarded prizes for ‘Juror's Favorite,’ ‘Best Meal,’ ‘Best Use of Labels,’ and ‘Structural Ingenuity.’ At the event's completion, the cans will be donated to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

The LA event is scheduled for October 7--19, 2011.

• The NY Daily News reports that Trader Joe’s is opening its first store on New York’s Staten Island, a borough that does not have a Whole Foods or a Fairway, and the new store is “ shaping up to be a mecca for foodies.”

The story continues: “Outside the 15,000-square-foot space on Richmond Ave. in New Springville, a regular flow of curious passersby pull up to the parking lot and peep in the windows.

“Captain John Martinelli (otherwise known as the store manager) has been treated like a celebrity in his Trader Joe's Hawaiian shirt. ‘I'm an all-star,’ he says. ‘Everywhere I go, if I have my shirt on, people are like, 'When are you opening?' 'Are you guys going to carry this?’”
KC's View:
The thing I love about the Trader Joe’s story is that when the store manager is interviewed, he is able to point to his favorite products in the store - in his case, the Macaron aux Framboises and the steel-cut instant oatmeal.

How many supermarket managers could respond the same way to the same question?

Not sure that I would ever describe Trader Joe’s as a “mecca for foodies.” Maybe “a mecca for desperate foodies.” But the thing is, the manager’s response shows that the company thinks of itself in terms of food and effectiveness, not just efficiency in the moving of boxes, bags and jars. And that is a huge difference.