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American Greetings rolls out cards by Taylor Swift

BY Allison Cerra

CLEVELAND Just in time for Valentine’s Day, greeting cards written and inspired by Grammy winner Taylor Swift have hit greeting card aisles nationwide.

The first set of cards from the new Taylor Swift Collection by American Greetings Corp. are being introduced to fans and card enthusiasts of all ages with a display marked, “Hi, I’m Taylor and these are my cards.” As a special bonus, the official “Fearless” concert tour book will also be available to purchase.

The exclusive partnership between American Greetings and Taylor Swift was announced in November 2009, and provides an opportunity for people to connect with those closest to them through the words and artistically inspired cards of the talented songwriter. Gift packaging, stationery, online photo personalization products and online greetings are also part of the collection and will be introduced over the course of the partnership.

“Working beside Taylor in our own creative environment and watching her get excited about concepts, write verse and come up with new ideas on the spot energized the entire team, ” states Kelly Ricker, executive director of product development, American Greetings. “Taylor’s songs touch millions of people and we believe her cards will have the same emotional appeal to consumers of all ages. All of us are so proud of the first set of cards in the collection, and we are very excited for everyone to experience them.”

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Wegmans, Costco top grocers in new survey

BY Allison Cerra

BOULDER, Colo. A new consumer survey conducted by Market Force Information found that Wegmans and Costco hold the No. 1 spot as grocery retailers in the United States.

Market Force polled 6,000 consumers last month in a survey designed to shed light on which grocers are preferred in the leading grocery categories. The survey noted that quality, not quantity, could be a shaping factor. Market Force said this conclusion was based on the fact that consumers are likely to vote for retailers most familiar to them, and drilled down into its results to determine which chain would win out when the number of store locations was taken into account. For example, while Kroger has almost 2,500 stores in North America and was voted one of the top grocers in the nation, Wegmans — which scored 3% of the total votes for favorite supermarket — only boasts 75 stores, positioning Wegmans above Kroger in the results.

“From high-quality produce to courteous staff, cleanliness to inviting atmosphere, Wegmans is a standout favorite grocer with consumers,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. “The fact that it can deliver all of these key performance attributes, and also rank highest on providing low prices, is an enormous accomplishment, and clearly earns the chain renowned customer loyalty.”

Meanwhile, when looking at such mass grocers as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target and Costco, Market Force found similar results. While Walmart garnered the highest number of total votes, with fully 42% of the total, its store count also must be factored in. When re-indexed based on the number of stores, Costco took the lead. That lead is again substantiated based on the consumer ranking of mass grocers against the attributes they care about most. Costco scored highest on 12 of 16 attributes, and tied for first for the remaining four.

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Va.-based Ukrop’s stores change to Martin’s Food Markets banners

BY Alaric DeArment

RICHMOND, Va. This spring, a grocery chain familiar to residents of Virginia since 1937 will change faces.

Giant-Carlisle, part of Dutch supermarket operator Royal Ahold, announced Monday that it would make its planned changes this spring to the 25 Ukrop’s stores it purchased in the Richmond and Williamsburg, Va., areas, changing the stores to Martin’s Food Markets and rolling back business practices that analysts have blamed for costing Ukrop’s its top spot in the Richmond market. Ahold announced in December that it would acquire Ukrop’s for $140 million through its Giant-Carlisle division, which operates stores under the Giant and Martin’s banners in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Many analysts have said that Ukrop’s long-standing policy of closing on Sundays and not selling alcohol caused the family-owned chain to lose its top place in the Richmond market to Food Lion, owned by Belgium-based Delhaize Group. The rebranded Ukrop’s stores will sell beer and wine and remain open on Sundays.

Giant-Carlisle said the Ukrop family will continue to provide kitchen and bakery products to the stores. The stores include 19 pharmacies, which will continue to operate with their current pharmacists.

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