business news in context, analysis with attitude

...with occasional, random, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

• In Toronto, the Globe and Mail reports that Loblaw Cos. “is racing to launch a new rewards card next year, in a bid to catch up to rivals’ loyalty program initiatives – and learn more about its customers.

“Vicente Trius, the retailer’s new president, said at an investor conference that the company is working on a new card that it will roll out in 2013, although he didn’t elaborate on the details.” However, reports are that the company’s intention is to create a revolution in card marketing rather than just further an evolution.

The story notes that the initiative comes “as competition is heating up with the arrival in early 2013 of U.S. discounter Target Corp. and its highly touted rewards program for U.S. customers. Domestic retailers, including Metro Inc. and Canadian Tire Corp., are also beefing up their loyalty offerings. They’re intent on tracking shoppers’ spending habits to help plan their own marketing and product rollouts, while also drawing customers who tend to shell out more when they use a rewards card.

Said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the great advantages that any retailer can have is specific knowledge about who the customers are, what they buying and when they are buying it. Lack of knowledge, conversely, is the worst kind of competitive disadvantage.

• The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has released a study that demonstrates the positive, economic impact of permitting wine sales in the 8,489 food stores doing business in states that currently restrict such sales, citing the creation of more than 168,000 potential jobs, paying $7.2 billion in wages and providing billions of dollars in additional revenue to federal, state and local governments.

Patrick Davis, vice president of state government relations at FMI, said, “As our members and their customers work to recover from this difficult recession, we feel the time has come for states to remove the barriers and enable food retailers to create more jobs in local communities, help consumers reduce their daily travel needs and provide new sources of revenues for overburdened state and local budgets.”

I’ll drink to that. And I’ll tell you something else. I buy all my wine from a local independent retailer - the same one, as it happens, that powers the MNB Wine Club. As he is in favor of Connecticut allowing supermarkets to sell wine - he doesn’t think it will hurt his business at all. His feeling is that it will expand the pie of adult wine drinkers, and stimulate their interest in trying different kinds of wine. “I’m never going to sell the same wine as supermarkets, so I’ll just sell more better wine after they’ve tried the wines sold in supermarkets,” he says. I think that’s exactly way to think about competition - by focusing more on being different, as opposed to how much competition there is.

• Wakefern Food Corp. has been named one of “NJBIZ magazine’s 2012 Best Places to Work in New Jersey” or the second year in a row.  This award, given annually, recognizes and honors top places of employment in New Jersey that benefit the state's economy, workforce and businesses.
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