retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• The New York Times reports this morning that "as the nation’s largest banks stay stingy with credit and a growing portion of the population has no bank at all, major retailers are stepping into the void. Customers can now withdraw cash at an A.T.M. with a prepaid card from Walmart, take out a loan at Home Depot for a kitchen renovation or kick-start a new venture with a small-business loan from Sam’s Club. This year, Walmart even started to test selling a life insurance policy.

"Consumer advocates are torn about the growth of this shadow banking industry. Financial products are making it into the hands of people who otherwise might not qualify for them, but these products are not always subject to the same regulations as bank products are. And to turn a profit, retailers generally have to charge more to people with poor credit or none at all."

Good piece...and you can and should read the whole thing here.

• The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and National Grocers Association (NGA) have released guidelines designed to promote model practices in the “end-to-end” digital coupon process and reduce the incidence of coupon fraud.

Produced by the Joint Industry Coupon Committee (JICC), Voluntary Guidelines for Digital Coupons, is said to share "model digital coupon practices in order to ensure a positive experience for consumers, proper settlement for retailers and effective and well-controlled promotions for manufacturers ... The Guidelines highlight the key distinctions between digital and paper coupons, including the presence of barcode data, distribution methods, consumer acquisition and presentment, purchase validation and offer set-up at point of sale."

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that "Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of Wonder bread and Twinkies, began permanently closing plants after it couldn’t get enough members of its striking bakery workers’ union to cross the picket lines to keep them open." The company said that it is closing bakeries in Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

The strike began on November 9, and the company, which is already in bankruptcy, said it is just "days away" from shutting down completely.

• The Courier Times reports that A&P is closing down three Super Fresh stores in New Jersey, saying that the stores were underperforming.

Bloomberg reports that Macy's is coming under pressure - via an online petition signed by close to a half-million people - to stop doing business with Donald Trump.

The retailer uses Trump in its advertisements, and also sells men's suits that bear the Trump name. (The story notes that "on Macy's website Tuesday, $650 Trump suits were on sale for $249.99; $69.50 dress shirt for $46.99.")

The petition, according to the story, "picked up steam over the weekend after Trump, a real-estate developer, repeatedly called for a revolution after Obama's re-election last week."

"I question the legitimacy and accuracy of the website and the number of signatures claimed to have joined this petition," Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Trump, tells Bloomberg in an email.

Of course Trump questions the legitimacy of the petition. He questions the legitimacy of anything that does not serve his ego or affirm his opinion.

I have no idea whether this petition will have impact on Macy's; it is interesting to watch this kind of groundswell about someone like Trump, who just licenses his name for the suits and does some commercials.

To me, it is much ado about nothing. People should just let Trump keep talking, because every time he opens his mouth he diminishes his brand a little more. At some point, there will be nothing left but a bunch of big buildings with his name on them.

Trump is a perfect example of the notion that having money does not guarantee good taste or good sense. Of course, we don't really know how much money Trump has ... he may be more illusionist than anything else.

• The Boston Globe reports that a federal appeals court as awarded Starbucks employees in Massachusetts $14 million, ruling that "the coffee giant violated state laws that prohibit supervisors from getting a cut of pooled tips."

Starbucks said it will respect the court's ruling.
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