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Retail Business Insight Alert Archive

Have a look at some of our recent alerts. These give broad coverage of the industry - if you want something more specific create your own here.

<<3456789101112>> Total issues:161

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January 01, 2015, to January 15, 2015

Calories, Sodium, Sat Fat Constant In Fast-Food Menu Items Since 1996

USDA researchers who compared menu items from popular fast-food chains from 1996 and 2013 report that average calories, sodium and saturated fat were relatively constant over the 17-year period. The only exception was a consistent drop in trans fat in French fries. The researchers said levels varied from chain to chain, but remained high in most of the menu items analyzed. It was especially true for menu items sold together as meals, “pushing the limits of what we should be eating to maintain a healthy weight and sodium intake”.

Online Grocery Shopping/Delivery Company Raises Another $210 Million

A company whose app allows shoppers to order groceries from several stores at once using only one Web site has raised another $210 million from venture capitalists after raising $44 million last June. Instacart, which also provides same day delivery of purchased groceries, is reportedly now valued at $2 billion. The company did not say how it would use the funding from the current round, but indicated in June that the first round of funding would be used to expand into new regions, improve customer service and experiment with new delivery models.

Despite Some Financial Worries, Shake Shack Sees Rosy Future With $1B IPO

A business that started ten years ago as a hot dog stand, and now has 63 outlets in more than 30 cities worldwide, will go public this year with a goal of raising $1 billion on the New York Stock Exchange. The company emphasizes top-quality ingredients – all-natural Angus beef, vegetarian fed, humanely raised, source verified. But its IPO comes at a time when growth is slowing and profits are sliding despite a 41 percent increase in sales to $84 million in the 39 weeks through Sept. 24. The company plans to open 10 new company-operated stores a year starting in 2015, and hopes to eventually reach 450.

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December 15, 2014, to January 01, 2015

Keurig Brewing Machine Recall Deemed A Major Setback

Vermont-based Keurig Green Mountain issued a voluntary recall of seven million Mini Plus Brewing Systems after 200 owners reported overheated water escaping from the machines. Ninety of the incidents resulted in burn-related injuries. Analysts said it is a major setback for Keurig, which is in the middle of a major marketing campaign for a new generation of brewing machines, known as Keurig 2.0. The recalled machines sold for about $100 at major retailers, including Target and Walmart. The company’s stock dropped 2.3 percent on the recall announcement.

New York-Based Online Grocery Company Has The Formula For Success

A 12-year-old Long Island City online grocery business, one of the five largest in the country, may epitomize the future of the $700 billion grocery industry. Nationwide, online business still accounts for less than four percent of grocery sales. But industry experts say it is the “the next frontier”, a fact well understood by Amazon and Walmart. From the beginning, online grocer FreshDirect operated under a unique vision, despite skepticism. It is not a delivery service for an established supermarket chain. Rather, the founders built the company independently, sourcing products directly from farms, and always emphasizing quality. So far, FreshDirect is available in five East Coast states, and would love to expand. But not, its owners say, at the expense of quality.

Taiwan’s Love Of Fruit Juices Lures Jamba

California-based Jamba Inc., which makes smoothies and other health drinks, will open its first outlet in semi-tropical Taiwan, where consumers have been obsessed with fresh-squeezed juices for years. The drinks – watermelon juice, avocado, vegetable cocktails -- are sold at mom-and-pop kiosks on busy city streets. Jamba is trying to figure out how to formulate its smoothies in a way that will appeal to Taiwanese tastes, which are used to tropical flavors like papaya. Thriving Taiwanese juice vendors say they aren’t too worried about a Jamba incursion. The company will probably stick to shopping malls rather than city streets, they say.

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December 01, 2014, to December 15, 2014

German Retailer Buys Start-Up That Applies An Advanced Digital Grocery Buying Model

German global retailer Metro Group has acquired a 15 percent stake in online food retailer Emmas Enkel, which also operates two conventional brick-and-mortar stores in Düsseldorf. Metro’s plan is to support expansion of Emmas Enkel stores in Germany and to continue supplying the company – through Metro’s sales line Real – with food, produce, household items and drugstore products, along with house brand items. Founded in 2011, Emmas Enkel sells its products at centrally located corner stores, or via smart phone and online. Purchases are then delivered to customer homes.

Walmart’s Problems In China Have Deep Roots

A Bloomberg analysis of internal Walmart documents related to its business in China, as well as information gathered from employees, tell a tale of long-developing problems in the country, including questionable accounting, unauthorized sales practice and severe inventory problems. Some stores, for example, were booking sales when no merchandise left the shelves. Some stores were routinely making unauthorized bulk sales to other retailers. After years of crowing about its success in the region, the company finally admitted in August its operations in China have been in serious trouble. The revelation led to a management shake-up and cuts in staff.

KFC Launches PR Campaign In China To Prove Its Operations Are Hygienic

After a food safety scare at one of its Chinese suppliers, KFC has invited fried chicken lovers in the country – the biggest market for parent company Yum Brands -- to come and see for themselves that the restaurant chain maintains high standards of hygiene. The problem arose when a TV report alleged that workers at a KFC chicken supplier were adding expired meat to products. Customers can book a tour showing employee hand-washing, clean cooking oil, safe chicken raising practices, and use of purified water.

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November 15, 2014, to December 01, 2014

Maine Grist Mill Breathes New Life Into Organic Flour Production Locally, Nationwide

Growing demand for locally grown organic flours led to the creation of Maine’s Somerset Grist Mill, one of whose goals is to “reinvigorate the grain production market” in the state. The Skowhegan stone grist mill itself – acquired in Austria -- stands eight by five feet in a pinewood frame, housed in a 112-year-old former jail. Two round four-foot stones turn slowly atop one another at low temperatures that preserve the nutritional value and taste of the grain grown by local farmers. The product – mostly certified organic flour and rolled oats – is sold wholesale to bakers, grocery stores, and smaller markets in five- and 50-pound bags. The venture faces challenges, like finding skilled manpower and further funding for growth. But it has reinvigorated interest in local milling both in Maine and nationwide.

Salad Vending Machines Encounter A Basic Problem: Some People Hate Salad

A 28-year-old Chicago-based entrepreneur is betting his future on a belief that if people could find fresh, delicious, convenient – and yes, healthy – food, they would spend money like there was no tomorrow. Luke Saunders’ vending kiosks are designed to deliver on that belief. For seven dollars and up, customers can buy fresh salads made from a variety of healthful ingredients, including blueberries, kale, fennel and pineapple, all delivered in layers in plastic canning-style jars. The Farmer’s Fridge machines are placed where there is a dearth of salad restaurants – in private office buildings, food courts, and convenience stores. They offer more healthful fast foods than McDonald’s or Wendy’s. But in his short experience testing the kiosks, Saunders has encountered one frustrating fact: some people just won’t eat anything but “the usual” -- burgers, pizza, chicken, etc.

Wal-Mart Slims Down Management Ranks Of China Unit

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it is eliminating almost 30 director and midlevel management jobs in China as part of the retailer's efforts to reduce costs and improve declining sales in the country. Retail sales in China grew 12 percent in the first 10 months of 2014, compared with 13 percent in the previous year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Wal-Mart, which has about 400 stores in the country, reported sales dropped 0.8 percent in the third quarter of 2014.

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November 01, 2014, to November 15, 2014

New Pizza Hut Menu Debuts Soon

On November 19, Pizza Hut will introduce a new menu, a new ordering system and a new logo. The menu will feature 11 new signature pizzas, six new sauces, 10 crust flavors and four "drizzles". It’s a strategic gamble, according to industry experts: keeping up with the times by offering “bold new flavors”, avoiding irrelevance, all while keeping current customers happy. (Old favorites -- Stuffed Crust, Meat Lover’s and Supreme -- will still be on the menu.) After a taste preview with other media members, Time food writer Josh Sanburn gave a positive review. He said the new offerings taste – “thankfully” – better than they sound. “The Cock-a-Doodle Bacon," he asks. "Why?”

Crumbs Bake Shop To Test Snack Bar In Ill. Supermarket

The Roundy’s Supermarket chain has agreed to test a Crumbs fresh, sweet and snack bar featuring Crumbs cupcakes and brownies in a Manano’s store in Westchester, Ill. Crumbs Bake Shop operates 25 retail stores in the U.S., and sells its products online. The joint venture Lemonis Fischer Acquisition Company acquired Crumbs Bake Shop in mid-August after Crumbs closed all its shops. Roundy’s operates 160 retail grocery stores and 98 pharmacies under the Pick ‘n Save, Copps, Rainbow, Metro Market and Mariano’s banner.

Walmart Orders Store Managers To Improve Fresh Section's Performance, Sales

Walmart instructed managers at its stores across the United States to improve the performance of “Chilled and Fresh” items in the retailer's dairy, meat, and produce sections. Part of Walmart's efforts to stop sales from declining further, the move also seeks to deal with customer complaints about the state of its fresh produce business. Reminding store managers that their primary responsibility is driving sales, the memo issued by Walmart also calls on managers to cut backup inventory to reduce costs and urges them to avoid exceeding store budgets. Some retail market analysts, however, believe that Walmart's problems are caused by its failure to deploy enough employees in its stores to perform the many tasks that need to be accomplished, such as identifying old stocks and keeping store shelves fully stocked.

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October 15, 2014, to November 01, 2014

Whole Foods Launches Ad Campaign To Communicate Its Special Brand

Whole Foods Market has launched a multichannel advertising campaign to tout its quality standards, healthful offerings and various milestones as an innovator in the natural and organic food industry. A company executive said “now is the time to overtly communicate” how Whole Foods has given customers a way to make “meaningful choices” about the foods they eat. The list of standards relates to the source of food sold at its stores, what happens to it on the way to the store, humane treatment of animals raised or caught for food, etc. The company hired New York-based Partners & Spade to develop the creative approach. Austin, Texas-based GSD&M will handle media strategy and placement, which includes spots during prime time television shows

Irma Stops Selling Fabric Conditioner In Denmark

Denmark-based supermarket chain Irma said it will stop selling fabric softener at all of its 81 stores across the country. Part of the company's clean water initiative, the decision was made following the decline of sales of softener products in recent years. Irma's parent company Coop, however, said its other retail chains will continue selling the product.

Wal-Mart Looks At Matching Online Prices To Grab Bigger Slice Of E-commerce Pie

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is evaluating a program that would match online prices offered by rivals, such as Amazon.com Inc., for the coming 2014 holiday season. Likely to adversely affect the company's profits, the move aims to expand the retailer's share of the online market. Consumers are forecast to spend more than 44 percent of their holiday shopping budget on online purchases in 2014, compared with 31 percent in 2009, data from the National Retail Federation showed. For quite sometime, Wal-Mart has refused to match online prices; however, its failure to attract shoppers to its large supercenters prompted it to invest significantly in ecommerce and small-format stores. As part of these efforts, Wal-Mart introduced its online and mobile app Savings Catcher, which compares prices and refunds price differences between its offerings and those of its competitors.

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October 01, 2014, to October 15, 2014

Pepsi Joins Coke In Experimenting With Online-Only Soda Marketing

The latest version of the 120-year-old soft drink once known as Pepsi-Cola will be sold exclusively by online retailer Amazon.com. Pepsi True, sweetened with sugar and stevia, is a mid-calorie soda that will launch in mid-October to compete with mid-calorie Coca-Cola Life, also sweetened with sugar and stevia. Coke is marketing another of its soft drinks, Coca-Cola Surge, exclusively online. Analysts say introducing new beverages online is a “good move”, because online sales will “build scale” in the market before expanding to traditional retail outlets. Sales of diet sodas are sagging as consumers grow more concerned about soft drink consumption and obesity.

Study Names Top Five Brands In Digital Gifting

A benchmarking study by Retail Systems Research (RSR) on the digital gift card industry has found that the brands with the highest overall scores across verticals, and therefore the most comprehensive omni-channel digital gifting offerings, are Sephora, Starbucks, Home Depot, Best Buy and Dunkin’ Donuts. RSR focused on differentiating capabilities in making its selections, including both mobile and social experiences, "to reflect the evolving use of digital gift cards in omni-channel commerce". RSR took notice of retailers’ prioritization of gifting as a whole, the ability to digitally “thank” a gift giver, and integration with loyalty and marketing programs.

Accelerating Purchase Of Swiss Pharmacy Chain Leads To Walgreen 4th Q Loss

Walgreen posted a book loss of $866 million in the quarter ended August 31 because it chose to buy the remaining stake in Swiss health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots earlier than necessary. The purchase pushed Walgreen’s overall fourth quarter loss to $239 million, which was within Wall Street forecasts. The company had until next year to buy the remaining 55 percent of the retailer, the U.K.’s biggest pharmacy chain. Exercising the purchase option early meant that Walgreen had to remove its value from the books, leading to the non-cash charge.

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September 15, 2014, to October 01, 2014

Instagram’s Systrom Joins Walmart Board

Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom, 30, was named to the board of directors of Walmart. Systrom, a software engineer and entrepreneur, will also serve as a member of the company’s technology and e-commerce committee and the compensation, nominating and governance committee. Founded in 2010, Instagram was acquired by Facebook in August 2012. Systrom is responsible for its day-to-day operations and has overseen its growth to more than 200 million monthly active accounts.

U.K. Potato Chip Company Launches Innovative “Peel And Share” Package

A British potato chip (crisp) marketer is launching a new package that allows customers to peel open the front to allow sharing at parties, for example. Seabrook Crisps’ peelable package, which has a tamper proof seal, has no impact on shelf life. Designed for “on the go” snacking and sharing, the innovative package will be sold at gas stations and other retail convenience locations. The peel-and-share design will only be available on the lattice-cut 40-gram crisp packs.

Most Popular New Grocery Products Are High-Carb Comfort Foods

A rating service that gauges the popularity of newly-introduced items on grocery store shelves finds that high-carb comfort foods are grabbing a lot of attention. This despite reports that Americans are increasingly rejecting carb-rich processed foods in favor of “cleaner” foods. UStamp’s Instant.ly Shelf Score Index ranks Eggo’s blueberry cobbler waffle at No. 1, tied with a new artisanal bread mix from Pillsbury, while DiGiorno’s new Design a Pizza product came in at No. 3.  “Interestingly,” says uStamp’s CEO, “in addition to being comfort foods, two of the top three products this month also require some degree of preparation by the consumer.”

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September 01, 2014, to September 15, 2014

Brand Loyalty Fades As Latinos Become More Acculturated

A national poll of U.S. Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers finds that the long-held marketing axiom that Latinos are brand-loyal for life is eroding. The survey found that the least acculturated Latinos (47 percent) are far more loyal than bicultural (38 percent) and acculturated Hispanics (34 percent). The survey asked about seven specific products, finding almost no difference in brand loyalty between Hispanics and non-Hispanics.  Across all seven products, thirty percent of Hispanics and 29 percent of non-Hispanic said they "always" buy the same brand. However, brand loyalty rises for both groups  when it comes to toothpaste (63 percent), laundry detergent (62 percent) and toilet paper (61 percent).

Starbucks Announces Aggressive Plans To Showcase Small-Batch Coffee Line

Starbucks announced plans to open what it calls a Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle to showcase its small-batch “Starbucks Reserve” coffee line. The 15,000-square-foot “coffee theater” will house a coffee roasting, education and retail space that will allow increased production of the Reserve line and expanded availability to 1,500 global locations. The company also hopes to open 100 new stores to highlight the Reserve line and to test express stores offering fewer products and speedier customer service.

Whole Foods Follows Through On Price Cutting Strategy

A Bloomberg report on grocery shopping trends in Manhattan found that a sample shopping cart at Whole Foods was cheaper than carts at several competitors. The finding is in line with the company’s strategy to shed its image as the “Whole Paycheck” grocery retailer. The sample basket containing 97 items totaled $391.39 at Whole Foods, compared to New York City chains Fresh Direct ($398.44) and Gristedes ($458.84). But the Whole Foods cart cost more than Fairway Market’s, which came in at $347.10.

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August 15, 2014, to September 01, 2014

McDonald’s Restaurants In Moscow: Pawns In A Larger Geopolitical Game?

A Russian food monitoring agency that has a history of banning food from countries out of favor with the government has closed four McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow because of “sanitary violations”. In the past, the agency has prohibited wine from Georgia and dairy products from Belarus after they sought closer relations with western nations. Recently the agency outlawed canned vegetables, fruit, fish, juice and certain beer and vodka from Ukraine. McDonald's said it was trying to figure out what it needs to do to get the restaurants re-opened “as soon as possible".

McDonald’s To Sell Bagged McCafé Coffee In Retail Outlets Starting In 2015

Building on the success of McCafé coffee in its restaurants, and hoping to boost sales, McDonald's has partnered with Kraft Foods to offer McCafé premium bagged coffee at retail grocery, mass merchandise, club and drug stores in the U.S. beginning next year The roll-out follows successful testing in the U.S. and Canada in 2013. A McDonald’s spokesman said the decision to market bagged coffee was “a natural next step”, considering that more than 70 percent of coffee in the U.S. is consumed at home. Products to be offered will include ground, whole bean and single-serve coffee in varieties like premium roast, breakfast blend, French roast, Colombian, etc.

“Roadside Burger” Chain Plans IPO

Shake Shack, which bills itself as a modern-day “roadside burger” restaurant chain, is planning an initial public stock offering, according to news reports. The company evolved from a New York City hot dog cart and kiosk facility to the current incarnation serving burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, shakes, beer and wine to customers in four states, the District of Columbia and Turkey. Majority owner Union Square Hospitality Group LLC has been interviewing banks to appoint as underwriters for the IPO, Fortune magazine reports.
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