business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Kroger is being sued over its labeling of its Just Fruit brand of jams.  The suit claims that "despite being named Just Fruit, the Kroger-brand jam's No. 1 ingredient was listed as fruit syrup, and the product contained a number of other non-fruit ingredients such as sweeteners, added sugars, apple juice concentrate, pectin and calcium citrate … The lawsuit alleges by being named 'Just Fruit' and labeled as 'spreadable fruit,' Kroger engaged in unfair or deceptive acts caused a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding as to the source of goods. The lawsuit accuses Kroger of recklessly or knowingly engaging in conduct would cause confusion or misunderstanding."

•  The Associated Press reports that "NPC International Inc., the largest franchise operator for Plano-based Pizza Hut, announced on Monday that it will close as many as 300 Pizza Huts. The decision was made after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July, when shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic challenged its businesses."

Gee.  These guys must be doing something wrong.  (Like making lousy pizza.)  Because it was just yesterday that we reported that pizza demand was so high in the US that some pizzerias were running out of pepperoni.

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Payless ShoeSource Inc. twice filed for bankruptcy protection and last year closed its 2,500 North American stores. Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the discount shoe retailer is attempting its third comeback.

"The company, which emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January and is now called Payless Worldwide, is relaunching its website on Tuesday and plans to open as many as 400 stores in North America over the next five years, with the first location slated for Miami this fall.

"It is following other troubled brands that have found new life online or with smaller physical footprints, such as Toys R Us, RadioShack, Dressbarn and Barneys New York."

I'm a little skeptical.  I think the Payless brand is more than a little tarnished, especially when compared to, say Zappos.

That said, there is one thing about this story that intrigues me.  In opening those new stores, Payless reportedly would like to negotiate terms with landlords that would have them getting a piece of the action, as opposed to straight rent.  At a time when bricks-and-mortar is, to say the least, challenged, I have to wonder if maybe we'll see more deals like this.  (Especially at a time when Simon, the mall company, is investing in retailers as a way of keeping them operating in their malls.)

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that liquor marketer Diageo has agreed to pay as much as $610 million "to acquire Aviation American Gin, which is partly owned and pitched by actor Ryan Reynolds, and other brands in its latest bet on a celebrity-backed premium liquor.

The initial payment is $335 million, with the balance to be paid based on performance over the coming decade.  The deal is similar to one Diageo struck with George Clooney, who sold it the upmarket tequila company he co-owned, Casamigos, for $700 million, with another $300 million on the table based on performance.

The story says that Diageo actually "is buying Davos Brands LLC, a New York-based distributor and producer of Aviation American Gin and other liquors. Mr. Reynolds, who bought an undisclosed stake in Aviation in 2018, will retain a continuing interest in the brand after the deal, the companies said."

Reynolds is known for being a savvy social media marketer outside his movie career;  he is active in Aviation's marketing, and the brand has doubled its sales in the past year.

I did love the automatic response that Reynolds put on his email yesterday…which demonstrated that he knows how to get attention for his brand.

""Thanks for your email," he wrote.  "I am currently out of the office but will still be very hard at work selling Aviation Gin. For quite a long time, it seems.

"In related news, I just learned what an ‘earn out’ is... And I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone I told to go f**k themselves in the last 24 hours. My lawyers just explained how long it takes to achieve an 'earn out'... so... turns out I'm not as George Clooney as I thought. The point is, to those listed below, I'm sorry... and I'll indeed be needing your help in the coming months and years. Thanks in advance!"