business news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, pointed and occasionally gratuitous commentary in italics...

• Walmart said this morning that its fourth quarter sales were $122.3 billion, up 5.8 percent from a year ago, with US same-store sales up 1.5 percent for the quarter. Consolidated net sales for the full fiscal year were $443.9 billion, an increase of 5.9 percent.

The company seems to have turned around its string of consecutive quarters with stagnant US same-store sales. But legitimate questions still remain about its long-term strategic direction, especially as, on one end, it tries to ramp up its online business to compete with, which it sees as the ultimate enemy, and on the other end, it fights off the dollar stores that have been eroding its low price image.

• The Dayton Daily News reports that Kroger “plans to build a 99,000-square-foot store with a fueling station at Austin Landing, the mixed-use development east of the new Interstate 75 interchange along the Warren-Montgomery county border ... The Austin Landing store would also be less than two miles north of the newest Dorothy Lane Market, on Main Street (Ohio 741) in Springboro.

I love this part of the story...

“‘A new store so near one of our stores will take some of our business, but that’s the nature of the grocery industry,’ said Norman Mayne, owner of the three-store DLM chain. ‘You just cut the pie into smaller pieces, and you have to deal with the new reality.’

“Dorothy Lane Market’s other stores in Oakwood and Washington Twp. have faced new competition from several fronts through the years, from Kroger, Meijer, Trader Joe’s and Earth Fare. ‘We’re still here,’ Mayne said.”

The thing about Dorothy Lane Markets is this ... the pie pieces may get smaller, but if you are really interested in the best tasting pie in the market, you almost certainly go to Dorothy Lane Markets. Which is why, as Norman Maybe says, they’re still there.

• The Business Journal reports that Ruddick Corp. shareholders “have overwhelmingly approved changing the company’s name to Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc.”

• The Boston Globe reports that discount chain Aldi plans to open its first New Hampshire store on March 1 - a 10,000 square foot unit. The story notes that as of now, “the chain has roughly 1,200 stores in 32 states, including six in Massachusetts.”

• The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Costco has committed the equivalent of $150 million (US) “ to step up its burgeoning operations in Australia, earmarking the fresh capital injection for the rollout of three more warehouse-style stores and placing further competitive pressure on Coles and Woolworths.” According to the story, Costco “is believed to have a second site in Sydney it is keen to acquire and build on, and is eyeing a maiden push into Queensland in the next 18 months.”

• In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that “cattle futures have reached record highs 10 times so far this year as rising demand for U.S. beef tightens supply and increases costs for restaurants, including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. Feeder cattle also reached a record.

“The U.S. cattle herd as of Jan. 1 was the smallest for that date since 1952, and beef exports surged 21 percent in 2011. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast a 4.1 percent drop in beef output this year, boosting the cost of the meat for consumers by as much as 5 percent this year, more than any other food group except seafood.”

Reuters reports that CVS Caremark “said it received requests for information about a prescription drug discount program it runs for uninsured or under-insured individuals from both the U.S. government and the Texas Attorney General.” The company said “the request was connected to an investigation of possible false or otherwise improper claims for payment involving Health & Human Services programs.”

CVS said it would comply with the requests.

Gannett News Service reports that Taco Bell’s newest innovation will come in the color orange - it plans “a line of Doritos Locos Tacos with shells made entirely from Doritos,” described as “Taco Bell on the inside and Doritos on the outside.”

That sounds really, really disgusting. Though somehow fitting as Taco Bell looks to celebrate its 50th birthday.
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