retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The New York Times reports that a federal appeals court has "ruled that American Express could stop merchants that accept its cards from encouraging customers to use rival payment cards that charge the stores lower transaction fees. The decision reversed a lower court’s 2015 ruling that such restrictions violated federal antitrust law."

The lawsuit that challenged Amex's rules maintained that it was restraint of trade for the credit card company to prohibit retailers from pushing for consumers to use other forms of payment. But the appeals court's position was that while Amex's rules may have been bad for retailers, it was not proven that they were bad for consumers, who, after all, generally know that Amex fees are higher than those for Visa and MasterCard. (The ruling only affects credit cards, not debit cards, fees for which were regulated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.)

The story notes that "the decision is a major victory for American Express, which wants to ensure that its customers, who pay higher-than-average membership fees, do not encounter any barriers to use. The ruling means that American Express can continue to enforce provisions in its contracts with merchants that prohibit them from steering customers toward other forms of payment."


• The Chicago Sun Times reports that ConAgra has acquired the packaged foods business of Chef Rick Bayless' Frontera Foods. Terms were not disclosed.

ConAgra said that "the Frontera brand is a preeminent gourmet Mexican food brand in North America," and that "it provides a tremendous platform off which we can build."


AFP reports that Aldi plans to ramp up its British expansion, investing the equivalent of $389 million (US) to "refurbish more than 100 stores in 2017 and ... also open 70 new branches, under plans to increase the number of stores from 659 to 1,000 by 2022."

The story notes that Aldi's plans seem unaffected by Brexit, the word used to describe the UK's vote to leave the European Union. And, AFP notes that discounters, which "enjoyed soaring demand in Britain during the sharp economic downturn," have managed to "remain popular despite the economy's steady recovery."


Fresh Fruit Portal reports that the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has approved the selling of genetically modified Arctic Fuji Apples, "building on Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ (OSF) already approved varieties Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden."

The story notes that the apples are mostly aimed at foodservice "due to their non-browning characteristics."
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