business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Associated Press reports that McDonald’s and Target have dropped Minnesota-based Sparboe Farms as an egg supplier after the advocacy group Mercy for Animals released an undercover video that showed cases of animal cruelty - “images ... showed a worker swinging a bird around by its feet, hens packed into cramped cages, male chicks being tossed into plastic bags to suffocate and workers cutting off the tips of chick’s beaks.”

According to the story, “Sparboe produces 300 million eggs a year, in regular, liquid, frozen and dried form, and ships them to restaurants and stores across the country. The company’s Vincent, Iowa, plant had billed itself as the sole fresh egg supplier to every McDonald’s west of the Mississippi River.”

Reuters makes an interesting though hardly surprising observation about the chains opening early on Black Friday - or even late in the day on Thanksgiving - as a way of giving themselves a leg up on the competition during the all-important beginning of the holiday shopping season. It is the stores catering to customers with the tightest budgets that are pushing the envelope in terms of early openings.

“They want to make sure they are getting consumer dollars before anyone else," says Megan Donadio of Kurt Salmon. "Retailers want to do whatever they can to make sure what consumers do spend is spent with them."

According to Reuters, “Executives and analysts alike have said the fight for shopper dollars is more intense this year in a tough job market and uncertain economy. The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to up 2.8 percent this season, below last year's 5.2 percent clip. Chains that cater to shoppers on the tightest budget stand to lose the most, analysts said.”

Bloomberg reports that Royal Ahold will look to reverse slowing sales growth by ramping up its online business, adding c-stores and expanding in Belgium.

According to the story, “To boost sales via the Internet, the company is testing pick-up points in Europe and the U.S., so customers can order online and collect groceries at designated locations. Personalized offers sent to shoppers via iPhones and the Internet should add 1 to 2 percent to so-called identical sales growth, according to Ahold, which currently has annual online revenue of 500 million euros.”
KC's View: