retail news in context, analysis with attitude

•  In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that none of Hy-Vee's 240 stores no longer will be open 24 hours a day.

“We have changed our hours to reallocate several team members to be available to assist customers during busier shopping times each day,” said Hy-Vee spokeswoman Christina Gayman.

According to the story, "Although Cub and Walmart still have Twin Cities locations open 24 hours a day, overall numbers continue to decline locally and nationally for 24-hour supermarkets, discount stores and pharmacies. Analysts cite a number a reasons, including fewer customers in the early morning, online ordering and delivery, and an increase in shoplifting."

•  From Fast Company:

"As more and more companies look to curb food waste, fruit scraps and ugly pieces of produce that once went into the compost bin or trash can are finding second lives. Juice pulp has been turned into popsicles, wonky veggies into soups, and now Dutch company Fooditive is turning leftovers from apples and pears, along with the pieces of fruit that are unfit for supermarkets, into a chemical-free sweetener."

Fooditive, the story says, "aims to be a natural alternative to those other sweetener options in a way that’s healthy for the planet and our own bodies. Fooditive takes third-grade apples and pears - those ones with brown spots or off colors, which wouldn’t be sold in a supermarket - from local Dutch farmers, along with some fruit scraps, and extracts the natural fructose through a fermentation process. The final result is a calorie-free sweetener without many of the concerns of both sugar and other sugar substitutes."

Those concerns are largely environmental:  "Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame, found in Splenda and Equal, aren’t absorbed by our bodies nor are completely removed by wastewater treatment plants, meaning these sweeteners end up in rivers and oceans, potentially harming aquatic plant and animal life."

•  From Bloomberg:

"Visa Inc. is planning the biggest changes in a decade to the rates U.S. merchants pay to accept its cards, hoping to persuade more people to abandon checks and adjusting its fees for new businesses such as ride-hailing services.

"The company’s interchange rates - fees charged every time a consumer uses a card - will go up or down depending on the merchant and the way a consumer pays for their purchases, according to a document Visa sent to banks that outlines the changes. Higher rates are looming for transactions on e-commerce sites, while retailers in certain services categories, such as real estate and education, will see fees decline."  The company said it is "adjusting its default U.S. interchange rate structure to optimize acceptance and usage and reflect the current value of Visa products."

Bloomberg notes that "while the changes amount to just a few cents on every transaction, those pennies add up. Swipe fees are already a flashpoint between merchants, banks and payment networks such as Visa and Mastercard Inc. Retailers have long complained about the more than $100 billion they spend each year to accept electronic payments, a figure that’s grown in recent years as fees increase and consumers flock to premium cards, which carry higher interchange rates."

•  The National Retail Federation (NRF) is predicting that Valentine’s Day spending is expected to grow 32 percent compared to last year to a record $27.4 billion, with consumers saying they will spend an average of $196 apiece, compared to $162 last year.