business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• Kroger last week announced that Dallas, Texas, will be the site of its fifth planned robotic warehouse - or Customer Fulfillment Center - being built in conjunction with Ocado.

The announcement says that “Kroger has committed to building up to 20 CFCs, powered by Ocado, to accelerate its ability to provide customers with anything, anytime, anywhere. The CFC model – an automated warehouse facility with digital and robotic capabilities, also known as a "shed" – will be replicated to serve customers across America. In June, Kroger broke ground on its first CFC in Monroe, OH and in July, broke ground on its second CFC in Groveland, FL. Kroger has also announced plans to build CFCs in Forest Park, GA and in the Mid-Atlantic region.”

At the same time, the Cincinnati Business Courier quotes Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen as saying that he expects it to take 2-3 years for each of the robotic warehouses to become profitable.

• Target this week is rolling out “eggs, milk and even beet hummus and avocado toast salad under a new label that will become its flagship food brand,” as it introduced more than 600 SKUs that are part of its new Good & Gather food and beverage brand in all of its 1,800-plus US locations, USA Today writes.

According to the story, “By the end of 2020, the brand will include more than 2,000 products and will be Target’s largest store brand launch, said Stephanie Lundquist, a Target executive vice president and president of food and beverage. The move is part of the company's business strategy to increase sales and distinguish the retailer from its rivals.”

The increased emphasis on private brands by retailers, which is in synch with a greater reliance on them by consumers, is seen in this story. Proprietary brands can be a strong differentiator, and there’s no question in my mind that these days, retailers are most likely to find success in the products and services where they are different from, instead of similar to, the competition.

Variety reports on the shutting down of theatre subscription service MoviePass.

The story says that the service had become financially unsustainable, though management continues to seek “financing to fund its operations.” For the time being, however, they are refunding members for service they’ve paid for that will not be available.

MoviePass allowed members to pay a set fee to get into a number of theaters - at first, to see one movie a day for an entire month, and then, when that became unviable, three movies a month.

The shutdown may be the least of the owners’ problems, since they also are being investigated “by the New York Attorney General, which is looking into whether the company misled investors. The company also is the target of a class-action lawsuit by MoviePass subscribers claiming the change in the ‘unlimited’ plan was a deceptive ‘bait-and-switch’ tactic.”

• The Associated Press reports on a convenience store in Greenwood, Mississippi, where ownership has gotten some notoriety after banning some customers from entering the store.

The reason: they apparently smell bad. Really, really bad.

The story says that “Anurag Randive, who manages the Greenwood store, says the sign was posted about three months ago after customers complained about the odor of employees from the Express Grain oil mill across the street … Randive says he hasn’t received any complaints.”

Man, that’s gotta be a tough day when the owner of a c-store says that you stink too bad to enter.
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