retail news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

• The Associated Press reports that health officials in Indiana and Kentucky are continuing their investigation into a salmonella outbreak that has killed two people and made more than 140 people sick and that seems to be traced back to cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana. The outbreak is said to have spread to 20 states.

• The Sacramento Bee reports that Raley's has announced that it will close two Northern California stores "following a review by the company to identify stores where future sales would not be able to match increasing operating costs."

The company said that continued uncertainty created by its inability to reach a contract agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) helped to create the environment that made the closures necessary.

• The New York Times reported over the weekend on how the public seems to be cooling to the daily deal phenomenon, with Groupon reporting slower than expected growth and almost 800 of the daily deal sites closing down during the last half of 2011.

Part of the problem, the story says, is that while "small businesses were excited at first about a new way to attract customers in a post-Yellow Pages world, many soon soured on the daily deals. Customers who bought deals overwhelmed the businesses, spent the bare minimum and never returned." Add that to the problem of consumers simply getting worn out by the deluge of offers - many of them irrelevant - and you have a segment that could be on its last legs.

I have to admit that I've grown to like Groupon and have found it useful, though I have tired by the barrage of emails. Maybe they've just gone to the well too often and too fast...

• Lubbock-based United Supermarkets, LLC, parent company of Market Street, has announced enhancements to its Smart Rewards loyalty program, which has attracted more than 140,000 members since its June 2011 launch.  The Smart Rewards program, the company said, "will now feature more ways to earn points and many more options for redeeming them."

The company said that “Smart Buys” are "a new component to the program. Guests can purchase specially marked products throughout the store and receive bonus points ranging from 25 to 500 points per item. Points can be used toward a wider variety of reward options, including free products along with discounts on grocery and fuel purchases. Reward options will rotate seasonally, allowing guests to be able to pick which rewards they want for their family. Redeeming points is easy and can be done through the new touch-screen kiosks located at the front of any DFW Market Street location, on the new Market Street mobile app, or online at the store’s new website,"
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