retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• The Washington Post reports that today is the day that major credit card companies set as the deadline by which merchants should have updated credit card terminals that are more secure: "The technology uses cards with chips embedded in them, and is supposed to cut down dramatically on incidents of thieves stealing card information and making fake copies."

The story notes that businesses have been adopting the new terminals slowly, and that while consumers won;t necessarily notice the change, retailers that have not installed the new terminals "could be on the hook for any losses caused by credit card fraud. (As opposed to banks being liable, as is the case now.)"

• The Bergen Record reports that the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. "will begin one of the most important sales of its 156-year history Thursday, when the Montvale-based supermarket chain starts the auction process for another 128 stores it is hoping to sell as part of its bankruptcy process."

The story goes on to say that "A&P has already received bankruptcy court approval to sell 95 stores — including 11 in North Jersey — to the Acme and Stop & Shop chains for approximately $370 million ... Wakefern Food Corp., the cooperative behind the ShopRite stores, has bid $40 million for 12 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Key Food initially submitted a bid for 17 stores, but that deal has not been finalized. "Food Bazaar, a Queens, N.Y.-based chain of 18 stores with an emphasis on selling foods native to Latin America, has placed bids for four stores."

• The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Michael Jordan's lawyers are in settlement talks with Jewel-Osco, as the retailers looks to avoid a fate similar to that suffered by Dominick's.

Jordan sued the two retailers after they both ran ads in a special commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated that he said violated his rights because they implied a commercial endorsement that normally would cost them millions. Dominick's lost its case, and Jordan was awarded $8.9 million in damages; Jewel-Osco clearly is hoping to get away for less money.

Good luck with that. Jordan is not known for letting up the pressure on opponents.

• The Associated Press reports that "Whole Foods will stop selling products made using a prison labor program after a protest at one of its stores in Texas." While the company said that it saw the program as a way of helping prisoners eventually become "contributing members of society," it will end the program "because some customers were uncomfortable with it."

The discomfort apparently stems from the fact that some people think the prisoners are being exploited, doing work for virtually no money, which helps Whole Foods pad its profit line.

The New York Times reports that Chick-fil-A, the privately held and highly successful fast food chain that also became somewhat controversial a few years ago when its CEO declared an opposition to same-sex marriage, is scheduled to open its first full-service franchise in the liberal bastion of New York City.

The company says it believes this store could be its busiest, and is already looking to the opening as a second store as a kind of relief valve that will take some sales away from the first unit.

It only has been a couple of years since the Chick-fil-A controversy, but I think it has become close to a nothing issue. The country has moved largely in the direction of acceptance and tolerance, the law has been settled by the Supreme Court, many franchisees did not share the CEO's stated concerns, and Chick-fil-A has backed off its financial support of organizations actively opposing same-sex marriage. I used to think that in 20 years, kids would ask what all the fuss was about. I'm now thinking it could be more like 20 months ... this issue is largely settled. Done. Over. Let's move on.

• The Seattle Times reports that Costco announced that it will open its first store in France, in the Paris suburb of Villebon-sur-Yvette, next year, probably sometime during the summer.

The opening, the Times writes, "comes amid a big ramp-up in the company’s international operations, which show lots of promise — even if in the latest quarter, translating profit earned in weak foreign currencies into a stronger U.S. dollar took a toll. In its fiscal 2016 year, which started in September, Costco plans to have 32 more warehouses in its portfolio, 10 to 12 of which will be abroad."
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