business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The Associated Press reports this morning that "the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since April despite widespread evidence that the economy and the job market are rebounding steadily from the pandemic recession.

"The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims rose 37,000 from the week before. As the job market has strengthened, the number of weekly applications for unemployment aid has fallen for most of the year. The number of jobless claims generally reflects the pace of layoffs."

•  In Southern California, Gelson's announced that it "has introduced the Rewards Program Sampler Box as an innovative way to not only reward and thank their most loyal customers, but also to showcase some new and exciting products. VIP customers receive a box each quarter highlighting new items with live samples and high-value coupons. The box enables customers to try new products risk-free that they may then be encouraged to buy … The innovative program was co-created with Bunny James Boxes, a leading provider of food boxes tailored to various dietary preferences or restrictions. Bunny James specializes in e-commerce, corporate, and retail gift box experiences in the food and beverage arena."

“Every quarter, our highest tier, most loyal customers will automatically receive a box at checkout containing a curated assortment of 10 to 15 sample size items. The response from our customers has been extremely positive,” said Rich Gillmore, Senior Director of Center Store Category Management for Gelson’s, in a prepared statement. “We are excited to do this for our loyal customers and introduce them to something new while providing our vendors the opportunities to get their products to a very targeted audience of our best customers.”

A good example, I think, of something we talk a lot about here on MNB - the importance of loyalty programs that demonstrate a retailer's loyalty to the shopper, as opposed to just offering coupons that try to induce customer loyalty.

•  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"As the Covid-19 pandemic bore down last spring, America’s drugstore giants warned investors that the health crisis threatened their already tenuous turnarounds.

"CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. lost revenue as shoppers stayed home and skipped routine medical care. The companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars to roll out testing and vaccination programs.

"This spring, something changed: Covid-19 turned into a moneymaker.

"The nation’s largest retail pharmacy chains say consumers coming for vaccines are spending money in stores. Some vaccine recipients are switching their prescriptions to the chain where they got their shots. CVS, for instance, said it expects a 2% bump this year in so-called front-store sales, which don’t include prescriptions, at locations offering vaccines. The chains have launched a string of products, including at-home test kits, at-home antibody tests, and Covid-19 tests for people with no symptoms or exposure - for which companies generally collect out-of-pocket fees."

The Journal notes that "other factors have bolstered the two companies. CVS says benefits from its 2018 acquisition of health insurer Aetna are beginning to show, while Walgreens has slashed costs and launched an array of strategic partnerships. Within the past year, both companies have ushered in new chief executives."

•  USA Today reports that "the selection of coconut milk for sale at the nation’s largest grocer is shrinking.

"Kroger … is the latest pledging not to stock coconut products from Thai suppliers who have been accused of using monkeys as forced labor, officials from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals exclusively told USA Today.

"Kroger confirmed it will drop Chaokoh branded products after it sells through its existing inventory."