Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Mondavis, Morton’s come together for charity


It’s a rare thing when California’s influential Mondavi wine family gathers for public events. So, when several generations of Mondavis held a reunion dinner and auction this week, they had the attention of wine lovers. 

petermondavisrAbout 110 people paid $500 each to attend the gala, which was co-hosted by the Mondavis and Morton’s Steakhouse for the benefit of the Make-A-Wish Foundation , at Charles Krug Winery’s historic carriage house in Napa Valley on Thursday. The event also was broadcast to about 50 Morton’s private dining rooms around the United States.  

The parents of Robert and Peter Mondavi bought Charles Krug Winery, the original family estate, in 1943. Robert founded his own winery in 1966, while Peter acquired full ownership of Charles Krug in 1976. An epic rift split the family for decades, but recently has been smoothed over.

To mark this week’s festivities, the second and third generations of Mondavi wine makers produced a red wine blend with the Italian name Siamo Insieme, which translates in English to “We are Together”.  The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blend represents Continuum Estate, Charles Krug and the Michael Mondavi Family Winery.

Frugal the fashion for back-to-school



By Nivedita Bhattacharjee

Once upon a time, back-to-school shopping lists included splurges like cool new mobile phones, the latest laptop computers and even PlayStation video game consoles. Not anymore.

September’s sales results were somewhat better than expected but showed that frugal is still in fashion in U.S. school yards. Not only were back-to-school purchases made a bit later, many were necessities plucked from discount racks. 

Is a union on the menu at Jimmy John’s?


Workers at 10 Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurants in Minneapolis could make history this month — if they say “yes” to union representation.

jimmyjohnsThe National Labor Relations Board on Oct. 22 will oversee a secret ballot election for 200 Jimmy John’s workers in the city. If a majority of them approve, it would be a first for the U.S. fast-food industry and the company would be legally bound to negotiate with a bargaining team elected by employees.

Check Out Line: Is that enough buyback, Nelson?


USA/Check out Family Dollar’s plans for a surge in store openings and $750 million stock buyback plan.

The retailer, which prices most of its goods under $10, said on Wednesday that it plans to open 300 new stores in fiscal 2011, 50 percent more than it opened in fiscal 2010, which ended in August. It also authorized a new share repurchase plan that it said would lower its cost of capital.

Check Out Line: Showdown at the Barnes & Noble corral


barnes1Check out Barnes & Noble’s victory at its annual meeting.

Shareholders of the U.S. bookseller had to choose between dissident investor Ron Burkle and Chairman Len Riggio as a bitter proxy battle between the chain’s top two stakeholders came to a head.

And the winner of the “gunfight” was Barnes & Noble, whose slate of directors won election.

Check Out Line: Tussle over toys as holiday season nears


sears1Check out the latest news on the fight for a piece of toy market.

U.S. retailer Sears plans to launch 85 toy shops in select markets next month as it angles for a bigger bite of the holiday sales pie, a senior executive told Reuters. Specialty retailer Toys R Us previously announced plans to open about 600 temporary stores and 10 FAO Schwarz “pop-up” stores this year. 

The move from the operator of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain comes as competition heats up in the toy market ahead of the crucial selling season.

Check Out Line: NRF says Americans plan to get their pumpkin on


pumpkin1Check out the spending boost planned by Americans for Halloween.

The National Retail Federation said spending by the 148 million Americans who partake in the “spooky” October holiday is expected to surge almost 18 percent this year as revelers look for any reason not to think about high unemployment and a shaky housing market.

“In recent years, Halloween has provided a welcome break from reality, allowing many Americans a chance to escape from the stress the economy has put on their family and incomes,”  NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

Starbucks CEO says building ‘fourth place’ online



Starbucks built its business around comfortable cafes that became a ”third place” outside home and work. It now hopes to build a “fourth place” online.

The coffee chain plans to launch its Starbucks Digital Network this autumn. The free service, which is a partnership between Starbucks and Yahoo, will be available to users of complimentary Wi-Fi at company-run Starbucks cafes in the United States and Canada and will give customers a place to share information and find news, music and films.

Check Out Line: Never-ending bowl of sales?


Check out what Americans like to eat. Apparently, it may be an endless bowl of pasta. OLIVEGARDEN-ILLNESS/

Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants posted a weaker-than-expected increase in same-store sales in the most recent quarter.

Check Out Line: Landfill, homage to vending machines mark Toys R Us “hot toy list”


landfillCheck out the hot new toys list from Toys R Us for the holiday shopping season.
The “2010 holiday hot toy list” shows the industry’s creativity in finding new ways to capture children’s imaginations. That includes looking for inspiration to landfills or the annoying coin-operated vending machines in groceries that all parents detest.
Toys R Us comes out with the annual list, which this year features 36 new items — some exclusive — to give parents ideas for what to buy their little ones as they head into the holidays. 
“We don’t want to miss anything,” said Lisa Harnisch, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Toys R Us.
The list includes a Fisher-Price made landfill that allows fans of the Disney-Pixar movie “Toy Story 3” to relive the scary climax scene where the hero toys head toward incineration. It’s not every day that your kid will thank you for giving them a garbage dump. At least there’s no batteries required.
Then there’s “Squinkies,” squishy pencil-topping toys that allow kids to “take home the excitement of a coin-operated vending machine.” Evoking imagery of the gantlet every parent dreads because those machines are filled with useless, cheap, money-wasting junk may not be the way to go. Again, no batteries required.
Longtime favorite Playmobil offers a small schoolhouse “featuring everything needed for a full curriculum”, including a skeleton for the science class. This could do well as kids love to play with structures and also are fascinated by the human body. And, you guessed it, no batteries required!
Finally, there’s the Calico Critters Luxury Townhouse. These toys live better than I do. The house boasts a “balcony and an outdoor patio” and includes chandelier fixtures. Unfortunately, there is a price to be paid for such high living and that’s the electric bill as, yes, this toy requires two AA batteries.
The best gift for little ones may be IOUs for stock in Toys R Us, which is counting on the new products to boost sales as it looks to go public. A successful IPO would surely pay for plenty of batteries.

Also in the basket:

Clorox to sell auto-care brands for $780 mln

Asda relaunches own brand in bid to catch rivals

ConAgra profit misses; full-year outlook lowered

US clothing firm Urban Brands files for Chapter 11

(Photo courtesy of Toys R Us)