retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• Starbucks yesterday said that its Q3 sales were up eight percent compared to the same period a year ago, to $6.8 billion; US same-store sales were up seven percent, while global same-store sales were up six percent.

The Wall Street Journal writes that the key to higher-than-expected growth was that “cold beverages helped drive growth in the afternoon.” In addition, “Data collected by Starbucks’s digital programs is helping the company better understand what beverages customers want.”

The story points out that “Chief Executive Kevin Johnson said after taking over in 2017 that he would slow the pace of opening more upscale coffee shops and focus on improving the company’s existing stores. The chain is also opening new stores in markets where it has less of a presence, such as the central U.S.”

• The Associated Press reports that in testimony yesterday before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Juul co-founder and chief products officer James Monsees said that “his company never intended its electronic cigarettes to be adopted by underage teenagers,” and that product was developed “for adult smokers who want to stop.”

“Juul Labs isn’t big tobacco,” Monsees said, and committed to “combating underage use.”

Really? Juul isn’t big tobacco? Then how come it took $38 billion from big tobacco company Altria for a 35 percent stake in the company? Juul’s products are just another method of getting addictive nicotine into people’s systems, and Altria’s entire business model is based on keeping people addicted (and then lying about it). The earlier people get addicted the better for these companies because it means more sales and profits … and if Juul says it wants to discourage underage usage, it is only because they got caught. You’ll excuse me if I’m just a scosche skeptical of anything these tobacco executives say.

• Albertsons-owned Safeway reportedly has confirmed that a 16,664-square-foot vacant store that used to be a Safeway and later became a Fresh & Easy, in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco, will be converted to the Andronico’s banner.

According to the San Francisco Business Times, the goal is to use the Andronico’s name - it was acquired by the company in 2016 - to attract customers from upscale Seacliff, the community next door.

The company had planned to retire the Andronico’s name and instead use the Safeway Community Markets name, but now seems to have had a change of heart.

Andronico’s was for many years one of the most respected specialty food retailers in the country, and so I am happy to hear that it may be getting a second life. I would, however, sound one cautionary note. Just calling it Andronico’s won’t make it an Andronico’s. You need talent and passion and commitment to high-quality food and highest common denominator service if you are going to live up to the reputation. Otherwise, you;’re just going to diminish the legacy and disappoint shoppers.

Business Insider reports that “McDonald's is considering bringing another batch of international menu items to the US in summer 2020, with tests kicking off in Connecticut this August. Test items include Mexico's Savory Ranch Burger, France's Grand Premium Chicken Sandwich, Japan's McChicken McMuffin, and Canada's Carmel Brownie McFlurry.”

The move follows a successful test this summer, when it brought international menu items to US stores for the first time.

Real Simple reports that Trader Joe’s, looking to adopt more environmentally friendly policies, is reducing the packaging in its produce department, featuring more loose items than it traditionally has.

According to the story, efforts to this point have been successful: “The goal was to eliminate a million pounds of plastic from its stores over this year and the grocer has already surpassed it - in fact, Trader Joe’s is projected to eliminate 4 million pounds of plastic from its stores in 2019, 2.5 million of which is coming directly out of the produce section.”
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