retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• In Toronto, the Globe and Mail reports that Loblaw Cos. is acquiring Arz Fine Foods, described in the story as a "Toronto-based grocery store and bakery" and "Middle Eastern food specialist.

According to the story, Loblaw is "betting that it can expand the Arz standalone retail business in Canada and stock Arz products – ranging from pita breads to baklava and manaeesh – in its mainstream supermarkets in the battle for the multicultural customer … The move underscores the race by retailers to try to capitalize on the burgeoning New Canadian grocery market as well as a growing interest among other consumers in more exotic and foreign foods. Merchants are trying to capture more multicultural business from small, independent grocers and bigger players that are ramping up their ethnic-food aisles."

Bloomberg reports that Subway, which has more than 26,600 locations in the US, said yesterday that it has the potential of opening as many as 8,000 additional stores here.

CEO Fred DeLuca said yesterday that "maybe it will take 10 years or so … If we do a good job building consumer demand, that number might change and be higher."

The statements come as there is increased competition among fast food chains to increase US revenue, and as Subway expands its menu in test markets to include hummus, which it believes will help "maintain its appeal among health-conscious consumers."

• Published reports say that J Crew CEO Mickey Drexler is pushing back against stories that he plans to open a budget-version of the chain, called J Crew Mercantile, in an effort that would be similar to Gap creating Old Navy when he was CEO there.

New York magazine writes that Drexler says that while the company owns the name, it hasn't gone much farther than that. "Mercantile is a name we own," Drexler says. "There’s not much beyond that. It’s a name that was available and we liked. The way we run the company, we are always thinking creatively, innovating, and managing our assets. We have secured names and trademarks with either loose ideas or intentions, or with our imaginations. Sometimes things come of it, or they don’t … It’s kind of been distorted beyond the reality of what it is."

Reuters reports that "fast-food workers plan strikes in 150 cities across the United States and protests in 33 other countries on May 15 to demand higher pay and better working conditions, organizers said in New York on Wednesday. It is the latest in a series of protests over the past 18 months in the United States that have targeted fast-food chains including McDonald's Corp, Burger King Worldwide Inc, Wendy's Co and Yum Brands Inc's KFC chain."
KC's View: