Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Target lays down the law in Waukesha


thistargetTarget security laid down the law in Waukesha, Wisconsin, ahead of what promises to be one of the most closely watched corporate power struggles of the season.

In one corner is retailer Target, one of America’s largest retailers, and in the other is activist investor William Ackman.

ackman1Secret service look-alikes kept a close watch over reporters covering the shareholder vote, while chilly temps and overcast skies provided a dramatic backdrop for the corporate throwdown.

Ackman wants to place five people on the retailer’s board, while Target is running a slate of four incumbent directors.

School lunch vs. junk food


School lunch ladies around the United States are fighting to feed healthier food to the nation’s increasingly overweight student body,  but their biggest obstacle is competing with fast-food chains like McDonald’s and junk food like Doritos

lunchboysIn Los Angeles, the country’s second-biggest school district is serving up increasingly nutritious and lower-calorie food (the photo at right shows two Castelar Elementary students’ lunch choices).

McDonald’s CEO (aka “hamburger guy”) on economy


skinnerronaldReuters asked the chief executive of McDonald’s, one of the world’s biggest companies and a closely watched gauge of consumer spending,  what every investor wants to know: Has the economy hit bottom?

“In the United States, there is some argument to say that these green sprouts that are showing relative to economic growth are pointing to the fact that we might have (hit) bottom and now it’s starting to grow.

A look at Fresh & Easy


Reuters recently visited several Los Angeles-area Fresh & Easy stores for a story that ran this week.

Here are some shots from the city’s store in Redondo Beach.









Parking lot at 9:30 Sunday morning.








All registers are self service.









A typical aisle.









Bread aisle.









Meat selection.



















Trader Joe’s lot next door.

(Photos: Lisa Baertlein)

Starbucks’ cafe-to-market coupons


coupon-0211Starbucks cafes in the United States are handing out a limited number of coupon books designed to drive its cafe customers to grocery stores where the coffee chain’s ice cream, bottled drinks and coffee beans are sold.

“We started in the coffee aisle. But the other aisles got jealous. So now, we’re all over the grocery store,” reads the little brown book of coupons, available now in company-operated stores.

Starbucks strikes back


sbuxbewareStarbucks wants you to know that it is not the home of $4 coffee, and it’s launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to make sure you get the message that its brew is not an expensive luxury.

“Starbucks coffee does not cost $4,” Chief Executive Howard Schultz said this week when he announced the new ad blitz. The ad at left will run on Sunday in the New York Times.

Penney for your discretionary dollars


Deciding where to spend the remainder, if any, of this month’s paycheck?

JCPENNEY/J.C. Penney is making its case for why you should be heading to its stores.

At the department store chain’s annual analyst meeting in New York, Penney discussed the steps it is taking to win consumers’ hearts (and their money).

One of the steps highlighted: A chance for its rewards program customers to meet country music band Rascal Flatts, which recently topped U.S. pop album charts with its album called “Unstoppable.”

Beanie Baby maker tries again with presidential pooch


bo1If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

After pulling “Marvelous Malia” and “Sweet Sasha” Beanie Baby dolls inspired by President Barack Obama’s daughters due to a complaint from First Lady Michelle Obama, toymaker Ty is selling a new plush toy inspired by the nation’s First Puppy — Bo.

Ty said its $4.99 Bo toy debuted on April 16 and sold out within hours of hitting store shelves. A portion of the sale proeeds will go to support animal shelters, the company said.
Bo toys already are on auction on eBay, where one seller is seeking $2,050 for a set of “authenticated” Sasha and Malia Beanie Baby dolls. You can find other Beanie Baby retailers here.

Free grilled chicken from KFC


kfcgrilled001KFC introduced its long-awaited grilled chicken on Tuesday and will give away free tastes on April 27.

The fast-food chicken chain hopes the healthier poultry items will boost flagging sales at its U.S. restaurants.

What’s on your toilet paper roll?


tp1Consumer Reports is watching your behind.

The magazine, which rates everything from televisions to coffee, has taken on toilet paper and found that shoppers could save up to $130 a year by switching brands.

Consumer Reports rated Georgia-Pacific’s Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, which costs 29 cents per 100 sheets, best for strength and softness, but said that store brands Kirkland Signature (Costco) and White Cloud (Wal-Mart) offer the most performance for the price of 12 to 15 cents per 100 sheets.