retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Reuters reports that 7-Eleven owner Seven & i Holdings Co. plans to spend $3.3 billion to buy more than a thousand convenience stores owned and operated by Sunoco, a move that brings the company close to its goal of having 10,000 outlets in North America.

According to the story, "The operator of the 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores has been aggressively opening stores in Japan as well as the United States, where it has been acquiring stores from local retailers. Its latest purchase comes as operators of traditional big-box retailers including Seven & i have been suffering weak sales as changing tastes and modest wage growth have prompted shoppers to defect to cheaper specialty chains and online outlets."

• The New York Times reports that JAB Holding Company - owner of American brands such as Krispy Kreme, Peet’s Coffee, Caribou Coffee, Keurig Green Mountain and Stumptown Coffee, among others - plans to spend $7.5 billion to acquire fast-casual Panera to its $40 billion portfolio of retail brands.

JAB is described by the Times as "the investment arm of the Reimann family of Germany, who are heirs to the consumer goods company Joh. A. Benckiser."

USA Today has a story about the growth of "grocerants," defined as grocers who are "turning portions of their stores into a nosher's delight -- and creating tough new competition for fast-food chains and traditional restaurants ... Customers get the convenience of being able to order a meal, then fill their shopping carts with home essentials while they wait. Stores pick up extra sales ... For years, fast-casual restaurants snatched sales away from supermarkets by catering to busy workers looking for a quick hot meal after a day at the office or harried moms and dads who didn't have time to make a home-prepared dinner. Now the roles have reversed. "

The story goes on to say that "while food safety creates a new challenge for stores opening grocerants, the prospect of higher sales is hard to resist. The Food Marketing Institute, a trade association, said 61.9% of its members say in-store dining gives them a competitive edge. It also can fatten profits compared to the razor-thin margins in much of a grocery story."

• The Associated Press reports that "Unilever plans to sell its spreads division and combine its foods and refreshments units as part of a major review of operations prompted by a $143 billion takeover bid by rival Kraft Heinz that fell through in February."

In a statement, CEO Paul Polman expressed his confidence that the changes "will accelerate the transformation of Unilever and the delivery of sustainable shareholder value over the long term."

• The New York Times reports that China National Chemical Corporation has won approval from European Union regulators for the $43 billion takeover of Syngenta, the Swiss farm chemical and seed company.

According to the story, "It would be the largest Chinese takeover of a foreign company and is one of three proposed mergers in a stop-and-go international race seeking greater influence over the world’s food supply." It also, the Times writes, part of a broader effort by the Chinese government "to make sure its food supply is reliable and safe as it works to feed a rapidly growing middle class."
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