retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• Walmart and American Express yesterday announced that their Bluebird debit/checking accounts now will be eligible for insurance provided by the Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation (FDIC), expanded security that the companies say will give Bluebird accounts "the ability to receive direct deposit of government payments, such as social security payments, military pay, and tax refunds."

The companies also said that Bluebird customers "can also balance their Bluebird checkbook in real-time with pre-authorized check writing, add checks to their Bluebird Account by mail and add funds up to $100,000 annually."

Bluebird has been designed by the two companies to appeal to the unbanked and under-banked segment of the US population.

• The Conference Board said yesterday that its monthly index of consumer confidence dropped 8.3 points to 59.7 in March, a drop that it blamed on federal budget cuts forced by the sequester earlier this year.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that "protein is the buzzword that is helping sell many kinds of foods. Food companies are placing more prominent protein labels on packaging and adding protein to such products as drinks, bars and cereals ... A label that says protein has what researchers call a 'health halo effect' that goes beyond just the promise of protein. When people see the word, they also believe the product will make them feel more full or give them energy."

The irony, according to the Journal, is that "health organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the average meat-loving American actually eats more protein than needed, which adds to the daily caloric intake."
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