business news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• The Boston Business Journal reports on how Roche Bros., which is in the stages of building a store in downtown Boston that will open next year, has set up "five fresh produce stands outside the historic Millennium Tower/Burnham Building where construction is currently underway on the company’s 25,000 square-foot flagship supermarket. The open-air offerings are scheduled to operate seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The produce stands will primarily feature fresh fruits, as well as some vegetables, flowers, and seasonal baked goods."

The farmers market-style setup with be open through the end of October.

Very smart, and exactly what companies like Roche should do…

• The Bellingham Herald has an interview with Haggen Inc.'s new CEO, John Clougher, who came to company after serving as CEO of Andronico's Community Markets in the San Francisco Bay area. "In his first 10 days on the job at Haggen," the story says, "he’s been busy visiting the company’s 18 stores, meeting with employees and customers to get feedback on what is working and what needs to be improved. The tour of stores and the feedback he’s been getting has him upbeat about starting Haggen’s next chapter."

The story goes on: "One reason Cougher became interested in Haggen was the Northwest Fresh theme. Calling it 'right in his wheelhouse,' Cougher wants Haggen to be known for its quality, including locally made products as well as items the store makes from scratch … Clougher said Haggen doesn’t have the purchasing power to be the low-price leader in the community, so the company has to make up for it in other ways, such as offering better products and service."

• The Hay Group is out with a survey saying that "nearly one quarter (24 percent) of retailers expect a significant increase (five percent or more) in year-over-year sales during the 2014 holiday season, while another 70 percent are predicting sales will be on par with the 2013 season … The cautious optimism around sales is reflected in companies’ seasonal hiring plans. While most retailers (70 percent) plan to hire staff at 2013 levels, the emphasis has shifted from seasonal to permanent workers, with 24 percent of companies planning to hire more permanent staff in 2014, compared to just 13 percent last season."

In addition, the survey says, "Nearly half (47 percent) of retailers surveyed in 2014 have a clearly articulated omnichannel strategy, compared to only 14 percent in 2013. Furthermore, only six percent of companies say they do not have a strategy, compared to 22 percent last year. The majority of retailers (71 percent) will be relying, at least in part, on their mobile platform to help drive holiday sales."

• The Associated Press reports that C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., owner of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, is selling the company to Oasis Beverages, a Russian company. TSG Consumer Partners, an investment firm, will take a minority stake in Pabst, the story says.

• The Boston Globe reports that Starbucks has developed a new latte that tastes like beer - Dark Barrel Latte, which is "made with a flavored syrup that reportedly tastes like dark stout beers like Guinness."

For the moment, the new latte only is available in limited test markets.

I'd try that in a second.
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