business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  Yahoo Finance has a story about how "while food inflation is moderating and consumers are loosening their belts again, one persistent problem — labor costs — has followed the restaurant industry into 2024 … As a result, the cost to dine out is outpacing grocery inflation. Citi analyst Jon Tower said this could be a headwind for restaurants as the cost of groceries beat restaurant meals for the 10th month in a row."

If you are in the food retail business, this is what it called an "opportunity."  Make this point to your customers.  Explain why shopping in your stores is a better value, not to mention reflective of the positive values that are associated with eating at home as a family.  Then explain it again.  And again. And again.  Don't just presume that this is cyclical.  Rather, work hard to earn and then keep that share of stomach.

•  From the Associated Press:

"A year after the bird flu led to record egg prices and widespread shortages, the disease known as highly pathogenic avian influenza is wreaking havoc in California, which escaped the earlier wave of outbreaks that devastated poultry farms in the Midwest.

"The highly contagious virus has ravaged Sonoma County, where officials have declared a state of emergency. During the past two months, nearly a dozen commercial farms have had to destroy more than 1 million birds to control the outbreak, dealing an economic blow to farmers, workers and their customers."

The story notes that "while bird flu has been around for decades, the current outbreak of the virus that began in early 2022 has prompted officials to slaughter nearly 82 million birds, mostly egg-laying chickens, in 47 U.S. states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Whenever the disease is found the entire flock is slaughtered to help limit the spread of the virus.

"The price of a dozen eggs more than doubled to $4.82 at its peak in January 2023. Egg prices returned to their normal range as egg producers built up their flocks and outbreaks were controlled."

The continuing problem is that "climate change is increasing the risk of outbreaks as changing weather patterns disrupt the migratory patterns of wild birds … For example, exceptional rainfall last year created new waterfowl habitat throughout California, including areas close to poultry farms."

•  From the Jacksonville Daily Record:

"Southeastern Grocers Inc. announced Jan. 25 it completed the sale of its Fresco y Más grocery stores, as part of its plan to sell its Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket chains to Aldi.

"Aldi in August 2023 agreed to buy Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers and about 400 Winn-Dixie and Harveys supermarkets in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

"Southeastern Grocers also agreed to sell 28 Fresco y Más stores separately to an investment group called Fresco Retail Group LLC.

"While it completed the sale of the Hispanic grocery chain, Southeastern Grocers continues to operate the Winn-Dixie and Harveys stores until the sale to Aldi is completed."

•  From the Seattle Times:

"REI is laying off 357 employees as the company braces for a challenging year, CEO Eric Artz told employees … The cuts represent 2.2% of REI’s total workforce. According to the memo, layoffs will affect 200 headquarters employees, six from sales and customer support, 30 from teams that support classes and multiday trips, and 121 in distribution centers."