Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Thinking about Black Friday deals


Check Out this prediction about Black Friday deals.

Black Friday, the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday that typically kicks off the holiday shopping season, is known for some of the best discounts of the year, both in stores and on the Web.

And its never too early to think about deals, as illustrated by, which has compiled a list of what it predicts will be the best holiday deals to emerge between mid-November and “Cyber Monday” — the Monday after Thanksgiving when office workers go online en masse to shop for specials.

This year’s list kicks of with expected deals on netbooks, which are inexpensive and compact laptops suited for basic computing and surfing the Internet.

Dealsnews predicted that a Linux-based netbook with 9-inch screen will be as cheap as $129, while pricier models would be ”well-equipped” $399 netbooks with 15.4-inch screens.

Shift FROM thrift? Are diners trading up?


olivegardenAfter a much heralded “shift to thrift” during what has become the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression, diners are now saying they plan to spend less money at cheap fast-food chains and more at some pricier eateries like Darden‘s Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains, Chipotle and Maggiano’s Little Italy from Brinker

“Trading up is supported by fewer customers saying they’re ordering less expensive items, skipping beverages and choosing less expensive restaurants,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Larry Miller wrote in a client note. Miller regularly polls diners about their spending plans. 

Attack of the snack tax


obesityA worsening obesity epidemic and lingering recession have state and local governments scrambling for new streams of revenue — including taxes on soda and other sugary beverages.

That’s potentially bad news for the nation’s food and beverage industries, which are on the defensive as the battle rages behind the scenes.

The flu frenzy has begun


flu-shotPeople have been worried about the H1N1 flu, aka swine flu, for months but the vaccine for that flu is not expected until at least mid-October.

So, for the time being, we’re taking a look at how the three major U.S. drugstore chains are preparing for the seasonal flu, which is responsible for about 36,000 deaths in the United States each year.

Whole Foods CEO healthcare Op-Ed spurs boycott


wholefoodsMaybe Whole Foods Chief Executive John Mackey should stay away from the keyboard and stick to selling gourmet groceries.******The CEO’s recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal suggested alternatives to healthcare proposals being batted around in the nation’s capital.******Among other things, he asserted that healthcare is not a right and called for ”less government control and more individual empowerment.”******His view got some of the chain’s historically liberal customers so hot under the collar that they have threatened to go elsewhere for their organic apples.******The company’s own healthcare reform forum has more than 14,000 posts. Twitter users are opining on the subject.******And the Boycott Whole Foods group on Facebook, which has attracted more than 20,000 members, is planning to picket stores in Washington, D.C. and the company’s hometown of Austin, Texas, on Friday.******According to the Facebook group, which also dings the company for not having unions, Mackey is ”suggesting that healthcare is a commodity that only the rich, like him, deserve.”******In his own blog, published shortly after the editorial ran, Mackey pinned some of the blame on changes made by those darn headline editors.******”I wrote this Op/Ed piece called simply ‘Health Care Reform.’ An editor at the Journal rewrote the headline to call it ‘Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare,’ which led to antagonistic feelings by many.”******He continued: “While I am in favor of health care reform, Whole Foods Market as a company has no official position on the issue.”******This isn’t the first time Mackey, the scribe, has caused a flap.******For several years ending in 2006, Mackey used the pseudonym “rahobed” on Yahoo Finance stock forums to talk up Whole Foods shares and his performance as CEO. He also trash talked competitors like Wild Oats. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated for nearly a year but eventually ruled out any action.******Whole Foods acquired Wild Oats in 2007 and just recently settled an antitrust case with the same federal government that Mackey says should keep its hands off healthcare.******(Photo/Reuters)

Molson Coors-sponsored survey finds water pollution key concern


molsoncoorsWhat is the latest and most important environmental concern these days? Global warming? Disappearing ice caps and rain forests? Reliance on non-renewable energy?

Wrong. According to a new survey sponsored by Molson Coors Brewing Co, water pollution ranked No. 1, followed by fresh water shortages, depletion of natural resources, air pollution and loss of animal and plant species.

On the front lines of the coffee war


mcdonaldsstarbucks2By Laura Isensee

On her way to work in downtown Los Angeles, banker Teresa Roman recently picked up a large iced vanilla coffee. Her cup had no green mermaid, the iconic Starbucks symbol. Instead, it displayed McDonald’s famed golden arches.

Roman switched from Starbucks iced coffee to McDonald’s when the fast-food giant started selling lattes, mochas and cappuccinos as part of its McCafe beverage expansion that launched officially earlier this year.

New doc checks into MinuteClinic


minuteclinic_0031The doctor is in.

Dr. Andrew Sussman was named president and chief operating officer of CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic unit on Tuesday.

Sussman, who was most recently COO at UMass Memorial Medical Center and an associate professor at UMass’s medical school, also became CVS Caremark‘s associate chief medical officer.

Starbucks workers will pay more for health insurance


schultzinsuranceStarbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz says the coffee chain now pays almost as much for employee health care as it does for coffee beans, so the company long-known for its generous health benefits will begin passing more of those costs to employees.

The news from Starbucks comes amid skyrocketing U.S. health-care costs that are forcing American companies large and small to hike employee health-care contributions,  cut back on coverage, or eliminate it altogether.

Disappearing restaurant deals?


olivegardenWhether it is “value menus,”  Applebee’s two dinners for $20 deal or Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s “Summer Classic” three-course meal for $39.95, restaurant operators long have been depending on specials to woo customers during a long recession that has driven unemployment to a 26-year high.

Now, one high-profile restaurant executive says he has seen some rivals’ deep discounts disappear over the last few weeks.