business news in context, analysis with attitude

Believe it or not, the world went on without MorningNewsBeat last week…and while the site was on hiatus, that doesn’t mean the Content Guy wasn’t paying attention. Here are a few stories that caught his eye…with commentary, where appropriate, in italics…

• 7-Eleven reportedly plans to open as many as 1,000 new stores in the US next year, requiring an investment of $2.5 billion that also will be used to revamp existing stories. Analysts say this reflects a shift from recent investments, which were more focused on operations and systems.

You know where I stand on the whole efficiency vs. effectiveness debate. But what I’m really interested in seeing is how these new stores might reflect the new definition of convenience that Tesco may be bringing to US shores. Not that Tesco is the be all and end all, but its influence may go beyond its store count.

• The Wall Street Journal reported that in a development that reflects greater interest by the nation’s governors in the impact of big box retailers, “Maine Gov. John Baldacci … signed into law a measure requiring developers of retail stores exceeding 75,000 square feet to conduct studies gauging the project's impact on municipal services, the environment and local businesses. The proposed store can't be approved if the studies find it is likely to cause a quantifiable, ‘undue adverse impact’ on more than one of those fronts and is expected to have a harmful effect on the community overall.

“The Maine legislation is the first state law of its kind in the U.S., but similar measures have been proposed in six other states in the past two years. A bill made it through the California State Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Another measure is under review in New Jersey.”

While I’m not in favor of protectionism in general and think that (as I’ve written ad nauseum) “compete is a verb,” I’m not sure this is a bad idea. I think it is in every community’s best interests – whether that community is as small as a hamlet or as large as a country – to find out whether the dominant forces in the economy are having a positive or negative impact on overall community conditions.

In fact, I’ll go one step farther. I think that communities that do not sit in judgment on such things aren’t doing their jobs.

• The Los Angeles Times reports that US regulators “slapped a highly unusual hold on shrimp and certain fish from (China) after tests showed contamination from potentially harmful drugs.

“The Food and Drug Administration said it would block all shipments from China of farm-raised shrimp, catfish, eel and two other kinds of fish until importers can produce independent test results showing the items to be free of drugs banned in U.S. fish farming.”

At some point, “Made in China” turned into a warning label. Though I have no doubt that the Chinese government is trying to catch up with these stories and change both perception and reality, right now it is losing the battle.

• The Container Store sold the majority of its stock to private investment firm Leonard Green & Partners.

Memo to Leonard Green & Partners: I like The Container Store. A lot. Don’t screw it up.

MSNBC reported that a new study by the Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston says that on average, most people who go on diets tend to lose between 10 and 15 pounds no matter what technique or system they use…and then put it all back on within five years.

As the great Charles McCord once said, the reason there are so many diet books on the best seller lists is that the ones that used to be there didn’t work.

And by the way, have you seen all the stories suggesting that McCord’s old boss, Don Imus, may be coming back to radio by fall? I hope so … in part because I hope he is able to provide some dialog and context on the race issue that will address the reasons he lost his job to begin with (because nobody else in the major media is having the discussion), and in part because I just plain miss him in the morning.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reported that the mood at Marsh Supermarkets is upbeat – the best it has been since the company was acquired by Sun Capital Partners amid charges that the Marsh family was guilty of abusing its management role.

The reason: “A chain-wide effort to upgrade stores and win back loyalty from customers and employees. CEO Frank Lazaran said the chain has launched a campaign to remodel 70 percent of its grocery stores within a year and rebrand every one of them,” according to the Journal.

• Wesfarmers Ltd., Australia's largest hardware chain, has agreed to buy retailer Coles Group for the equivalent of $17.7 billion (US) in cash and stock.

Based on what I was seeing, wasn’t this a matter of Wesfarmers being the last man standing?

• The New York Times reported that US Congressional Democrats believe that they may finally have the votes to gain enforcement of the nation’s Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law, which so far has been avoided through artful maneuvering both by the nation’s food industry and its supporters on Capitol Hill.

Like it or not, COOL is going to happen. And the momentum to make it happen increases every time a new story runs about tainted ingredients from China or other foreign countries.

• The Dallas News reported that Germany-based Aldi plans to enter the Texas marketplace with 25 to 35 stores in Dallas-Ft. Worth by the end of 2009

• Jim Demme, former CEO at Bruno's Supermarkets, has been named chairman at New Jersey-based Kings Super Markets.
KC's View: