retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Chicago Tribune reports that "Jewel-Osco has decided to wait to ask job applicants about their criminal histories until the final stages of hiring, a practice that many other Illinois business would have to adopt if a bill pending in the legislature is approved … House Bill 5701, known as the 'Best Candidate for the Job Act,' would bar businesses with 15 employees or more from inquiring about, or requiring applicants to disclose, their criminal records before offering the individual a job interview or a conditional offer of employment. After an interview is offered, the employer would be free to conduct a background check."

USA Today reports that McDonald's is testing a new seasoned french fry, called Shakin' Flavor Fries, in Northern California and St. Louis. The seasonings are Garlic Parmesan, Zesty Ranch and Spicy Buffalo, the paper writes but "you don't buy the fries pre-seasoned. Instead, they come with special packets of seasoning that consumers are advised to open, pour and shake into a specially made mixing bag."

The story notes that Burger King tried a similar concept about 10 years ago, and it didn't take. But McDonald's seems to be willing to try anything as it looks to generate fresh sales and profits.

• Barnes & Noble, seeking to identify ways in which it can turn around what has been a depressingly moribund sales and profit trend, plans to open as many as 300 bookstores on college campuses over the next five years, which will bring its total to about 1,000.

Of course, to do that it has to convince "more schools to outsource their bookstore operations with the lure of nicer, higher-grossing stores and by poaching accounts from larger rival Follett Corp, which runs 940 stores."

The story suggests that the ultimate goal for Barnes & Noble may be to add some sales to its bottom line so the company looks healthier if management tries to sell it.
KC's View: