retail news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  Fortune  is out with its annual "15 best large workplaces in retail" list, and grocers make up a large percentage of the winners.

In order, the winners are Wegmans Food Markets … CarMax … Publix Super Markets … Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) … Nugget Market … Sheetz … Custom Ink … Target … Altar’d State … Burlington Stores … Wireless Vision … Cumberland Farms … QuikTrip … Trek Bicycles …. and Brookshire Grocery Co.

•  The West Virginia Metro News reports that "Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 announced Friday night the two had reached agreement on a tentative contract, averting a possible strike by more than 4,200 Kroger workers in the Mountain State."

Among the components of the new contract are improved health care benefits and raises for the rank and file.

•  MLive reports that Kroger "plans to quickly hire 2,000 people to fill positions in Southeast Michigan … using a rapid hiring process to bring people on-board in 48 hours."  Fifty of the 2,000 jobs are said to be full-time.

•  There is a story in QSR that looks at Sbarro, the food court mainstay that has been troubled by the fact that so much of its fleet is located in malls - which is not exactly the positioning that most companies would be seeking these days.

The story says that CEO David Karam remains focused on "four main categories - malls, areas of transportation (airports, train stations, travel centers, and premium end convenience stores), entertainment venues (amusement parks, convention centers, casinos, and tourist locations), and health, education, and employment (hospitals, colleges, office buildings, and military bases.)"  While a lot of those locations have been hurt by shutdowns related to the pandemic, the company seems to believe that it can continue to grow its mall footprint, saying that malls remain attractive because they require a lower initial investment and these days charge lower rent.

“My intention is to develop the brand—move it to 1,000 plus units—but continue to be disciplined about focusing on what we call this impulse pizza occasion,” Karam says. “And in that segment, we don't want to sound arrogant or cocky, but in that segment, there's not even a close second to a brand that’s as effective in optimizing sales and profitability in those types of venues."

I'm not sure which I find most dissonant about Sbarro's positioning - that it seems to believe that malls remain a viable engine for growth, or that it believes that its pizza is any good.

•  The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that "McCormick& Co. is nearing a deal to buy hot-sauce maker Cholula, according to people familiar with the matter, seeking to capitalize on demand for spicy condiments.  The seasonings company is discussing a deal with L Catterton, the private-equity firm that has owned Cholula since 2019, that would value it at around $800 million, the people said."