business news in context, analysis with attitude

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Enriched pandemic-era food stamps made a big mark on supermarket sales in the past three years. Those extra benefits are soon coming to an end, possibly spoiling supermarkets’ outlook for the year.

"The federal government started beefing up households’ food budgets starting March 2020 to address food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the last three calendar years, that added up to about $98 billion of extra assistance—known as emergency allotments—on top of regular food stamps issued through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, according to HSA Consulting, a retail industry research firm. Those boosts made food stamps an important component of food sales. In 2022, SNAP benefits (including the emergency allotments) made up 12.3% of total at-home U.S. food and beverage retail sales, up from 7.1% in 2019, according to HSA Consulting."

The Journal notes that "Congress in late December put an end to that food-stamp boost, which will mean that SNAP-eligible households in 35 U.S. states and jurisdictions will lose at least $95 a month in benefits starting in March, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute … Food stamps account for more than 10% of overall dollar-store revenues and can account for more than 20% of supermarket sales in lower-income areas, according to Howard Jackson, president of HSA Consulting. Ending those extra payments could have a noticeable impact on the stores’ sales."

•  From the New York Times:

"A federal judge in Michigan issued an injunction on Friday banning Starbucks from firing U.S. workers because they seek to form a union or engage in other collective activities.

"The move is the first nationwide judicial mandate related to the labor campaign that has led to the unionization of more than 275 company-owned Starbucks stores in little more than a year. Starbucks said it would appeal the decision.

"Experts said the injunction would allow the National Labor Relations Board to come before the judge and seek more rapid reinstatement of workers who it believed had been terminated for union organizing. Normally, the process could take months or even years.

"The union organizing Starbucks stores, Workers United, has accused the company of firing more than 200 workers because of their involvement in the campaign. It is illegal for a company in the United States to fire workers for so-called protected concerted activity such as seeking to unionize."

Starbucks has argued that the affected workers for fired for other reasons, such as violations of company policies, and that "the extraordinary measure for injunctive relief prior to a full legal review of the matter is unwarranted and … actions taken were lawful and in alignment with established partner policies."

•  Kroger announced that its Kroger Health division, its pharmacies, and health insurance company Medical Mutual have reached an agreement "to provide pharmacy services to Medical Mutual's Medicare Advantage members … This agreement, effective Jan. 1, 2023, allows Medical Mutual's MedMutual Advantage plan members to continue using Kroger as an in-network pharmacy. "

"We're excited to work with Medical Mutual as we continue to make healthcare more accessible for the communities we serve," said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health. "Our collaboration demonstrates a continued commitment to providing patients with quality, affordable healthcare services."

•  From Fox 5:

"Approximately 200 employees at Lidl US headquarters in Arlington, VA have been laid off, according to a statement from the grocery story chain.

"The German-owned grocery store chain has been growing quickly in the D.C. area and throughout the East Coast. Lidl representative Chandler Spivey confirmed to FOX 5 that no store employees are impacted by the layoffs.

"'While we remain committed to the long-term success of Lidl US and look forward to continuing our expansion along the East Coast, we are continually evaluating our operations to ensure we are supporting our stores effectively,' said Spivey in a statement. 'We are grateful for the contributions of our team members, both those impacted and those remaining'."

•  From Reuters:

"Britain's biggest retailer Tesco Plc is planning to review its presence in the UK banking sector in a move that could lead to a sale of its banking arm … The supermarket chain operator is lining up Goldman Sachs to advise on the future of Tesco Bank."

The report suggests that no deal is imminent, and that it is possible no deal - whether an outright sale or joint venture - will take place.