business news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• The Boston Globe reports that Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop is closing down the Allston location of its urban format Bfresh store at the end of the year, citing the fact that "the store was not meeting financial expectations."

The 10,000 square foot store was opened in 2015, and was designed to focus on fresh foods and take-out meals.

Only one Bfresh store remains open, in Somerville, Massachusetts.

When I visited the Allston store back in 2015, I wrote here:

"The great thing about bfresh, I think, is the fact that it seems so specific to the place in which it finds itself - a neighborhood that is occupied by millennials in their first post-college apartments, as well as aging baby boomers moving back to the city after raising their kids in the suburbs. From the first moment one walks into bfresh, the overwhelming sense is of a food-centric store that is going for something different - something with style, some imagination, and a sense that something 'epic' can be achieved even within as relatively small footprint."

I think I was right about the concept, even if it didn't play out the way I thought it would. Stop & Shop opened and closed stores in fits and starts, and the whole thing never really gelled the way I thought it would. But I continue to believe that a great small/urban format is an important tool for a retailer to have in its quiver, and we see that in the Heirloom format that Stop & Shop's sister company, Giant, is running in Pennsylvania.

• In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that "more than 700 workers at United Natural Foods Inc.’s distribution center in Hopkins walked off the job Tuesday, in sympathy with workers who are striking against the company at a similar facility in Indiana."

The move could disrupt shipments to UNFI-owned Cub Foods, as well as to companies including Lunds & Byerlys, Jerry’s, Kowalski’s and Coborn’s, in the busy week before Christmas.

The story notes that "about 160 workers at UNFI’s distribution center in Fort Wayne, Ind., went on strike Thursday, about three months after their contract expired. The Teamsters extended the strike on Tuesday to a location in Green Bay, Wis., and the one in Hopkins, which is one of the largest food distribution centers in Minnesota."

• The New York Post reports that CVS Health Corp and Omnicare have been charged in a lawsuit with fraudulently billing "Medicare and other federal programs for filling expired prescriptions for the nations’ elderly and disabled." The story says that the suit accuses "the healthcare giants of illegally dispensing tens of thousands of pills to people living in long-term care or other assisted living facilities.

"Instead of seeking new prescriptions between 2010 and 2018, Omnicare would assign new prescription numbers when the original prescription ran out of refills, the Manhattan US Attorney’s office claims in their complaint … The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and civil penalties — and joins another whistleblower action filed against Omnicare in June 2015 by a pharmacist who worked for the company."

NBC News reports that the Denver City Council Finance and Governance Committee has "unanimously voted to move forward with a proposed bag fee ordinance … the idea is to attach a 10 cent fee per single-use plastic bag to encourage people to change their habits and start relying on reusable bags."

The story says that the fee will apply to paper bags as well, with some exemptions for people using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

The story notes that "this isn't the first time the city council has looked at this issue, in a city where anywhere from 150 to 250 million plastic bags are used in a year. The debate dates back to 2013, but none of the proposals passed into law. Tuesday's decision marked the city's biggest step yet in adding such a fee."
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