business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that arguments have begun in Washington State in a case where Costco is challenging the state government’s regulations for distributing beer and wine.

Costco maintains that state regulations essentially restrain trade by preventing retailers from negotiating directly with out-of-0state wineries, instead requiring them to deal with in-state distributors.

• The US Department of the Treasury said that it will begin distribution of a newly designed $10 bill – more colorful (with red, yellow and orange highlights), and with security features that prevent counterfeiting – next March 2.

• French retailer Carrefour announced that it will expand its private label offerings, bringing out 2,000 new own-label SKUs during the next 24 months. Not a bad move, considering that the company says that 90 percent of its customers buy private label items, and that own-label accounts for 25 percent of total sales.

• The Wall Street Journal reported the other day about the newest innovation in in-store kiosks – GE’s consumer finance division is putting them in IKEA stores, allowing people to apply for and get credit cards in just a few minutes. Shoppers get credit certificates on the spot, and then an IKEA-branded credit card a few days later in the mail. The system is similar to one being tested by Wal-Mart.

• Aeon, the Japanese retailer, is testing the use of a four-foot-high robot made by Fujitsu to escort customers to specific locations or carry their grocery bags, according to a report by The robot gets its instructions via a voice recognition system, though consumer also can use a touch panel.

The company will reportedly test the robot for three weeks before deciding whether to roll it out to other stores.
KC's View:
No name for the robot has been identified in the press. Though we vote for “Data.”