retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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

CNN reports that coming off a "brutal year," Whole Foods may be looking for a sale of the company that could allow it to focus on Main Street concerns rather than on Wall Street and the investor class.

A number of investor sites have speculated that Whole Foods could be bought by a private equity group, with Cerberus and 3G Capital mentioned prominently. None of these companies commented on the speculation.

CNN concedes that this is not new, and that both Publix and Costco have in the past been mentioned as possible Whole Foods suitors, though "it's not clear why either company would want Whole Foods."

However, there seems to be a sense among some investors that Whole Foods' marketing and perception problems - which are both tangible and intangible - have created an environment in which selling the company may be its best option.

Granted, getting the company off Wall Street may provide some short-term relief for Whole Foods management ... but I wouldn't underestimate the pressures that could come from a private equity group that might buy the retailer. I have to wonder if what the company needs is a new CEO, someone who understands the culture and mission, but also can be clear-eyed and objective in dealing with an infrastructure that has to have some legacy issues.

• Walgreens Boots Alliance and Rite Aid Corp. said Friday the Federal Trade Commission has requested more information about their proposed merger.

"Walgreens and Rite Aid said they had expected the so-called 'second request.' The companies still expect the deal to close in the second half of 2016."

The story notes that "Walgreens in October agreed to pay about $9.4 billion to buy Rite Aid, a move to create a drugstore giant at a time when companies in nearly every corner of the health-care industry are seeking to gain advantage from bulking up. The deal was expected to be closely scrutinized by antitrust regulators, as the companies are two of the three-biggest drugstore owners in the country."

• The Kroger Co. (KR) today announced that associates working at King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado have ratified new labor agreements with UFCW Local 7. The contracts cover more than 10,000 associates working in 103 stores, 36 fuel centers and pharmacy technicians in 78 pharmacies in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder, Broomfield, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Longmont, Parker and Pueblo.

Yahoo News has a story about how Starbucks "is in the midst of yet another Christmas controversy surrounding its seasonal products" - a polar bear shaped cookie that is all white except for a red scarf around its neck. except that some people apparently think that it actually looks like a polar bear with its throat slit, with some suggesting that "the apparent attack on polar bears was actually a continuation of the company's campaign against Christmas that began back in November, when Starbucks rolled out their annual red cups for the holiday season, but without the Christmas ornaments or snowmen that have been featured as decorations in the past."

There's only one problem, the story says: "Starbucks hasn't even sold the polar bear cookies in years, reports BuzzFeed. The photos are old, and the polar bear cookies haven't been sold in stores since 2010."

Forgive me, but some people are morons. They're looking for a fight, and they're using obsolete ammunition. The problem, of course, is that sometimes people like me pay attention, which exacerbates the issue.

• The Christian Science Monitor reports that the US Department of Treasury has delayed the promised redesign of the ten dollar bill, which will put a woman on the face of US paper currency, replacing Alexander Hamilton, a founding father and the nation's first secretary of the treasury. The Treasury Department "had planned to select a woman by January 1, but faced with deluge of public opinion, it now projects making a decision some time next year. "

I don't have a strong opinion on which woman ought to be chosen, but I do think that they ought to keep Hamilton on the $10 bill by himself, and get rid of Andrew Jackson from the $20. It just makes more sense, and I hope this is why they're delaying the decision...
KC's View: