business news in context, analysis with attitude

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

CNN reports that “after a year of testing, Costco is rolling out a full-service mortgage lending program on its website in partnership with First Choice Bank, a New Jersey-based community bank, and 10 other lenders.

“Costco's partners have issued more than 10,000 mortgages to members under the program. But Lauren Kutschka, Costco's manager of financial services, expects that number to swell as the warehouse retailer markets the service more aggressively to millions of members in its stores and in its weekly publication ‘Connection’.”

Costco has the whole circle-of-life going for it these days. Insurance, coffins, wedding thing you know, they’ll be selling at-home midwifery kits... reports on a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying that almost one-third of US workers get less than six hours sleep per night - much less than the seven to nine hours recommended by most doctors.

“Middle-aged workers—that is those between the ages of 30 and 64 years—were more likely to report a lack of sleep than their younger and older counterparts,” according to the story, and not surprisingly night shift workers - including health care employees and people in the transportation business, like truck drivers - also make up a major percentage of those getting too little sleep.

This lack of sleep may be implicated in another set of statistics - “in 2010,” the story says, “a total of 4,547 workers died from occupational injuries, and another 39,000 died from work-related illnesses.”

No question that I fall into this demographic...thank goodness that, unlike health care workers and truck drivers, the only thing I’m likely to kill because of lack of sleep is a good idea or the English language. Or maybe, if I screw up really badly, my career...

• Giant Eagle is reported to have opened a new environmentally friendly, LEED-certified, 83,000 square foot store in Cleveland, Ohio, that includes a solar roof.

• To help customers more easily identify gluten free products as they shop the aisles of the grocery store, Giant Food Stores and Martin’s Food Markets have introduced a new gluten free shelf-labeling system. To date, approximately 3,000 Own Brand and national brand products have been identified throughout the perishable and nonperishable departments with more to be added every month.”

“Demand for gluten free products continues to rise,” said Jeff Beaulieu, vice president, sales and merchandising. “We want to make it easier for our customers to identify these quality products while bringing awareness to our increased assortment, so we are enthusiastic about this gluten free shelf-labeling launch.

• The Wall Street Journal this morning reports on how Dollar General is trying to “grab a share of the grocery business” with Dollar General Market stores that offer more fresh food in addition to the merchandise mix the stores traditionally have carried. This “new general store” concept - which carries brand names to appeal to more affluent shoppers as well as private brands for financially strapped customers, is said not to be as profitable as the company’s traditional stores, but the “profit gap is narrowing.”

The strategy, according to the story, is to get people to shop more frequently for fresh foods at Dollar General Markets, and then get them to spend more on the items that carry higher margins. Which is pretty much what Walmart was thinking when it got into the grocery business. It may not be an original thought, but it can be an effective one if the mix is right.
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