business news in context, analysis with attitude

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• Sears Holdings Co. confirmed on Friday that it will spin off its Lands' End business as a separate company. The goal of the move, according to reports, is to assuage discontented investors; the Lands' End company stock will be distributed to existing Sears shareholders.

The Associated Press story notes that the holding company's Sears and Kmart chains have both struggled to find any sort of competitive advantage, though a cost-cutting process, the liquidation of inventory and the sale of assets has reduced debt and generated cash.

The problem is that fewer and fewer people can find any sort of reason to actually go into a Sears or a Kmart store. I wandered through a Sears recently, and thought for a few moments that I'd somehow ventured into a time warp and been transported back to the 1950s. Not a great way to come to market, methinks.

• The Chicago Tribune reports that Starbucks and Gilt are bringing back the metal, laser-etched $450 Starbucks card that comes complete with "$400 in credit, enough for about 160 regular coffees or 90 fancy ones. It also comes with automatic enrollment in My Starbucks Rewards Gold-level status, which includes a free birthday treat and 15 percent-off coupon at, free refills on iced or brewed coffee and tea, special offers and coupons, and a free drink or food item with every 12 stars."

It is the second time that the two companies have partnered on the premium card.

• The Los Angeles Times reports on a new study from the British Medical Journal saying that it actually does cost more to eat healthy - "around $550 a year more, or $1.48 more per day," when examined on a global basis.

According to the story, "Meats and proteins showed the biggest difference in price with healthier options costing $0.29 more than less healthy options. For grains, the difference was $0.03, for dairy $0.004, for snacks and sweets $0.12, fats and oils $0.02, and for soda or juice, $0.11 … The review incorporated findings from 27 studies in 10 countries during an 11 year period."

• The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office "has formed a task force to find buyers for any Dominick’s stores left vacant after the owner Safeway pulls out of Chicago market.

"Dominick’s plans to close all its stores that haven’t sold on Dec. 28. So far, 15 stores out of 72 Chicago locations have been purchased by other grocers. Jewel’s parent has agreed to buy four and Roundy’s, the owner of Mariano’s, has inked a deal for 11.

"The task force will be chaired by Deputy Mayor Steve Koch. Beyond marketing the stores that don’t sell, the Mayor’s office said in a statement it will also work to 'ensure smooth transitions of those stores that have been purchased'."
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