retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Associated Press reports that Target Corp. posted Q1 earnings $632 million, down from $635 million a year ago, on revenue that was down 5.4 percent to $16.2 billion from $17.1 billion. Same-store sales were up 1.2 percent, lower than expected, because of what CEO Brian Cornell said was a cold, wet spring and some customer reluctance to spend.


• Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry's ice cream has announced a new flavor, called Empower Mint,designed to draw attention to the battle against what activists say are oppressive voter ID laws. The Boston Globe reports that a portion of the profits from sales of the flavor - peppermint ice cream with chunks of fudge brownies and fudge swirls - will be used to support the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP; North Carolina is described by the company as "the epicenter of the fight for voting rights in the United States."

A number of states, including North Carolina, have enacted stricter voter ID laws to combat what supporters say is voter fraud that corrupts local and national elections. However, opponents to such laws say they are primarily designed to make it harder for poor people, minorities and students to vote, since those demographics tend to cast their ballots for Democrats; for example, in some cases the laws will accept gun registrations as ID, but not college IDs. Opponents also say the laws are unnecessary since there is virtually no voter fraud in the US.

The Globe notes that "it seems Ben & Jerry’s cannot stop mixing the sticky games of ice cream and politics," an approach that has persisted even though the company, founded by a couple of hippies in 1978, now is owned by a global conglomerate.


Advertising Age reports that "Taco Bell is overhauling four California locations with sleek seating, distressed wood, funky pendant lighting and other elements in a test that may help the chain appear more like a chic loft than a fast-food taco joint." The goal of the design tests is to help the 7,000-store chain to get some distance from its fast food image and make it resemble, to some degree, Chipotle.

Taco Bell says it plans to renovate some 600 stores a year, though it has not committed to a national rollout of the new designs.
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