business news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Staples, facing declining customer traffic and square footage in its stores that is underperforming, in part because of the growth of e-commerce, is turning some of that space into offices. Staples "is expected to unveil a partnership with office-sharing startup Workbar LLC to open communal workspace at three Boston-area stores," the story says. "Workbar is one of several firms that have emerged in recent years that manage a network of locations with desks and conference rooms that subscribers can access for a monthly fee."

The dedicated office space is expected to take up between 10 and 20 percent of the square footage in the stores where the concept is tested.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Blue Bell Creameries, which had to recall all of its products about a year ago because of listeria contamination, has informed the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that "it hasn’t nailed down all the sources of contamination in its plants, though the company now has in place programs to effectively control for the bacteria ... Blue Bell’s declarations come after the company in January announced it had completed its market re-entry program, with its ice cream now back on store shelves in parts of 16 states, down from 23 prior to the recall."

It is interesting that in Blue Bell's statements, there is a lot of "likely" and "probably," but no "definitely." Which sort of reminds me of Chipotle, where they never really figured out what caused all their food safety issues. Maybe it all just means that this stuff is too complicated to know for sure, but for me, it means that I'll be avoiding Chipotle and Blue Bell, because it just feels like another problem is around the corner.

• The Charlotte Observer reports that The Fresh Market has officially asked its customers not to bring "firearms and other weapons" into its stores, “to ensure a welcoming environment where our customers and employees feel safe, and treat one another with kindness and respect while shopping and working."

According to the story, "The grocer said it had engaged in discussions with a group of activists called Moms Demand Action, who gathered nearly 4,000 signatures across North Carolina to support what they call a 'gun sense policy'."

The Observer writes that "Fresh Market joins a handful of other grocers including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in asking customers not to bring guns into its stores. Moms Demand Action has also persuaded Starbucks, Target, Chipotle, Sonic, Chili’s and Jack in the Box to change their gun policies."

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Rodale has decided to no longer solicit or accept advertising for Prevention, its onetime flagship publication that long has been a staple at supermarket checkout lanes. The decision will also result in increased newsstand and subscription costs, but the elimination of ads also will allow the publisher to cut costs, which it hopes will allow it to keep the title alive.
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