business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen says that its first three robotics warehouses, built in partnership with British firm Ocado, will be set in three different locations. Only one - in Monroe, Kentucky - has been announced. “The other two are likely to be announced in the coming weeks,” the story says, adding that “Kroger and Ocado’s partnership calls for them to build 20 of these customer fulfillment centers in the next three years.”

McMullen says that the enormous warehouses - the 335,000 square foot Monroe version will cost $55 million to construct - are being developed in partnership with Ocado because “the company felt it would take five to 10 years to open warehouse-distribution facilities on its own.” They won’t go up fast, though - the Monroe facility isn’t expected to be opened until late 2020 or early 2021. 

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson’s operations-driven efforts to streamline the company seem to be paying off, as it said that US Q1 same-store sales were up four percent, even as traffic remained stagnant (which itself was an improvement over Q4, when traffic was down).

Starbucks also “increased the number of active loyalty program members in the U.S. to 16.3 million, a 14% increase over the year-ago quarter.”

Same-store sales in China were up one percent, and up four percent globally.

Total revenue rose to $6.6 billion, from $6.1 billion a year ago.

• The Charlotte Observer reports that North Carolina-based Earth Fare has opened its 50th store, in the Steele Creek area, which is its seventh in the region.

The story quotes CEO Frank Scorpiniti as saying that “the company plans to open another 50 stores across the U.S. in the next five years, effectively doubling its store footprint. Earth Fare will add another five or so stores to the seven it currently operates in the Charlotte region, Scorpiniti added.”

• “American adults say they will spend an average $81.30 for a total of $14.8 billion as they watch the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams meet up in the Super Bowl next month,” according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

“The average spending is virtually unchanged from last year’s $81.17 and is the second-highest in the history of the survey after a record of $82.19 set in 2016. The total amount is down from last year’s $15.3 billion, primarily because fewer people plan to watch the game – 182.5 million this year compared with 188.5 million last year. The overall spending is still the third-highest on record, after last year’s figure and $15.5 billion in 2016.”
KC's View: