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• The Washington Business Journal reports that United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) CEO Steve Spinner told analysts this week that the company is getting closer to selling off its Cub Foods and Shoppers grocery chains, which it got when it acquired Supervalu last year, but which it wants to sell so it can focus on wholesaling.

The company, Spinner said, is "working on several deals, each of which involves multiple stores, which increases the level of complexity." The company seems to be aiming for a 2020 sale, according to the story.

• From Reuters: Costco Wholesale Corp. reported quarterly revenue below Wall Street estimates on Thursday, as the U.S. hypermarket chain struggled to attract shoppers in the competitive grocery space.

"Costco and other U.S. grocers are slashing prices while investing heavily in stores and online operations to defend their share of the market as Inc and Walmart expand aggressively."

However, Costco also is looking for growth opportunities abroad, having generated a record number of membership signups at its first Shanghai store; a second Shanghai store is on tap to open in 2021.

The story says that "in the United States, comparable store sales, excluding fuel, rose 5.2% … missing the estimate of 5.32%. The company's total revenue rose about 7% to $47.50 billion helped by sales of big-ticket items like diamond rings and Kitchen Aid mixers, but fell short of estimates of $47.57 billion."

CNBC reports that bed Bath & Beyond announced yesterday that it plans to close 60 stores by the end of its fiscal year - 40 Bed Bath & Beyond units and 20 stores from its other formats, which include World Market, Cost Plus, and Christmas Tree Shops.

The closings represent a 50 percent increase over what previously had been announced.

Interim CEO Mary Winston said that the goal is to optimize "the profitability of our remaining portfolio," which will still number more than 1,400 stores.

• From the New York Times: "Illnesses and deaths linked to vaping continue to increase around the country, now totaling 1,080 cases and 19 deaths, health officials said on Thursday.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that cases had occurred in 48 states and the United States Virgin Islands. This week, Nebraska, Alabama, Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia and New Jersey reported deaths, which brought the total to 19 in 16 states.

"The new case count reflects an increase of 275 in just the past week. About half of the 275 were hospitalized in the past two weeks, and the rest were older cases whose link to vaping was just recognized, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said during a news briefing."
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