business news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• The National Retail Federation (NRF) said yesterday that December retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from November and  increased 2.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
Total holiday retail sales increased 3.0 percent, below NRF’s projected forecast of 4.1, to $579.8 billion. Additionally, non-store holiday sales grew 11.1 percent. in October forecasted a 12.0 percent growth in online sales in the months of November and December.

• Delhaize-owned Food Lion announced that its customers "can now receive additional savings by accessing in-store coupons through the company's Facebook page, powered by an app Valassis launched on Facebook Platform. The new Facebook application also gives consumers the opportunity to share their coupons with "friends" on the social media network. The app provides Food Lion an innovative social media tool to offer exclusive offers on a variety of items," including private brands.

• The Los Angeles Times reports that Jerry McDougal, the vice president of retail at Apple Inc., has resigned "to spend more time with his family."

The Apple Stores, which have come to stand for the technological and design mindset of the company, have been going through their own transition in recent months. Ron Johnson, who helped to create the division, resigned to become CEO of JC Penney. He was replaced by John Browett, formerly of Tesco and Dixon's, but Browett - who seemed to be focused more on cutting costs than delivering high service levels - lasted just nine months. And now, McDougal.

Apple says that McDougal will be replaced by Jim Bean, who has been serving as the company's vice president of finance.  No executive has yet been named to the company's top retail position.

Once again, we have to ask the question: Does McDougal's family want to spend more time with him?

All this tumult in the Apple Stores division comes at a time when there is at least anecdotal evidence that customer service levels have fallen off there (though, to be honest, I have not run into that personally). I also have to wonder whether the former vice president of finance is the right guy to focus the division more on effectiveness and less on the numbers.

The Apple Stores need a strong leader. I have some suggestions, if they'd like to give me a call.

Forbes reports that there are more than 200 "eco-labels" available on many supermarket shelves, but that a new report from Organic Monitor says that the plethora of labels is causing consumer confusion: "What a label means and the criteria behind it are not clear," the story says. In addition, "Food producers too may also be shying away from such labels because the cost of becoming certified by many groups at once is overwhelming."

"Organic Monitor says the question remains if a single eco-label umbrella will eventually emerge to help integrate many existing certifications," according to Forbes.
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