business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Nick Hodge, Kroger's VP of corporate real estate, said last week that the company wants to be "an urban player," noting that it is this impulse that has driven its acquisition of Harris teeter and Roundy's, which gave it the Mariano's format to play with.

According to the story, "Hodge said there are a lot of costs that go into urban developments. Kroger is constantly monitoring the situation, looking to get in at the right time, before real estate values go up but after there are enough customers to warrant a location. 'We will do it when it’s economically viable,' Hodge said. 'It’s a balance'."

It isn't just Harris Teeter and Roundy's. It also is Kroger's development of the Main & Vine format south of Seattle, and its investment in Lucky's Market, and its interest in The Fresh Market (which didn't pan out). Kroger is focused on the re-urbanization of America, looking for the opportunities that inevitably will present themselves.

• In Canada, the CBC reports that "a computer glitch forced the temporary closure of some grocery stores in the Loblaw chain on Thursday." The company says that the issue was fixed, and all its stores are back up and running normally.

According to the story, "Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs for Atlantic Superstore, told CBC News that all computer systems with Superstores and Dominions are backed up overnight, but somehow during that backup a corrupt file was downloaded. Boudreau said the file shut down all cash registers, leaving them unable to complete sales, affecting all Atlantic Superstores in the Maritimes and the 11 Dominions in Newfoundland Labrador."

• JC Penney said Friday that it plans to reduce its dependence on clothing sales and instead will "follow where the shoppers are spending their money: services and other products like appliances," the Associated Press reports.

The AP story goes on: "While part of the move has to do with being less reliant on Mother Nature, Penney is waking up to the overall seismic shift in consumer spending that is started to wreak havoc on mall-based retailers. It comes as Penney reported an unexpected drop in sales for the first quarter, joining a chorus of major department stores including Macy's, Nordstrom and Kohl's that reported weak first-quarter sales results."

Among these moves has been a previously reported return to the appliance business.

I'm not sure what I'd be less likely to buy at a JC Penney - a shirt or a washing machine. And it is hard for me to imagine that retail trends doing damage to far better retailers won't be a huge problem for a mediocre retailer like JC Penney.

• The Northwest Herald reports that "the Algonquin location of family-owned grocer Joe Caputo & Sons will continue to operate after the Wisconsin company that operates Piggly Wiggly and Butera Market bid $32 million for it and two other northwest suburban locations, real estate officials said. Piggly Wiggly Midwest acquired the assets as well as the combined 267,000 square feet of retail space on 30 acres in Algonquin, Palatine and Des Plaines during an auction Thursday in Rosemont, according to Paine/Wetzel TCN Worldwide, one of the commercial real estate firms that handled the auction."
KC's View: