business news in context, analysis with attitude

• Ahold Delhaize-owned Food Lion said this week that it has completed a $215 million revamp of 142 stores in the Charlotte, North Carolina, market, which it says "includes remodeling the stores, lowering prices, hiring hundreds of additional associates and giving back to local communities."

Meg Ham, president of Food Lion, said in a prepared statement that the changes mean that "customers can easily find fresh, quality products at affordable prices, delivered with caring, friendly service every time they shop."

Bloomberg reports that after several years of private equity ownership during which the emphasis has been on cutting costs and closing unproductive stores, Toys R Us now is "starting to put money back into operations, with an eye toward growing sales and traffic. For the first time in years, Toys R Us is building inventory." The company also is investing in e-commerce and partnerships that it hopes will enable it to grow the company and build on two recent quarters of strong sales.

According to the story, "There are still plenty of obvious challenges. Amazon and other online toy sellers keep grabbing market share. Ditto for big-box stores such as Walmart and Target. And Toys R Us is fighting an all-encompassing retail malaise. But if Toys R Us can succeed in the holiday season  -- when the company generates 40 percent of its annual revenue and all its operating income -- then it may lay the groundwork for a second run at an IPO."

• The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is out with its monthly assessment of consumer confidence, reporting that "consumer sentiment increased slightly to 46%, a one-point increase from September ... The last time at least half of the population was optimistic about the economy was March 2016, when gas prices averaged $1.80 per gallon and 50% expressed optimism."

The report goes on to say that "men continue to be more optimistic than women (49% vs. 43%). Younger consumers ages 18 to 34 are the most optimistic by age (54%) and consumers in the West (51%) are the more optimistic by region (51%)."
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