retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Haggen "is in the process of collecting bids from prospective buyers for at least 14 stores in Washington – as well as for stores in California, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona – now that it has court approval to move forward with its plan to auction off stores. Interested buyers – be they anything from furniture stores or other grocers – have until Oct. 26 to notify Haggen of plans to submit bids, which must be filed by Nov. 2. The company will then auction off stores Nov. 9."

The moves are all part of Haggen trying to find its way out of the competitive morass it has been in since it grew from 18 stores to 164 with the acquisition of units that were made available when Albertsons bought Safeway and regulators said it had to divest stores for competitive reasons.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that while Yum Brands' KFC and Pizza Hut brands have been enormously popular with Chinese consumers, Yum is now spinning off its Chinese businesses, "underlining the shifting fortunes for global companies in the world’s most populous market."

According to the story, "By the end of next year, Yum China will become a separate, publicly traded franchisee of Yum Brands ... Yum provided few details of how the plan will be carried out, but said it is intended to insulate the company from the turbulence that has beset its China operations as a result of food-safety scares, stronger competition and Yum’s own miscues - while still providing it a stream of future revenue from what remains a huge and growing market."

National Public Radio reports that the European Union wants Starbucks to pay up to $34 million in back taxes, ruling that the company received illegal state aid from the Netherlands. The EU said that Starbucks shifted EU profits outside the EU through "artificial and complex methods" to lower their taxes, and now is asking Starbucks to pay up.

Starbucks says it disagrees with the decision and plans to appeal.

• The Dallas Morning News reports that speculation is that if family-owned Brookshire Grocery Co. goes on the market, it will end up being a battle between Albertsons and Kroger (and maybe HEB) for the chain's 150 stores with $2 billion in sales.

The general sense seems to be that while Kroger traditionally has been expert at absorbing chains that it acquires, like Harris Teeter, Albertsons is still laboring to absorb Safeway.

• The Teamsters yesterday announced that "a majority of its members working as drivers, warehouse workers and in dairy and manufacturing at grocery companies Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons in Southern California have ratified a new five-year agreement.  The new agreement raises work standards and compensation for the more than 2,000 employees represented by the Teamsters."
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