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Battery makers upgrade power sources, get more shelf space

BY Mike Duff

LOS ANGELES and ST. LOUIS, Mo. As new products keep rolling in from major battery brand manufacturers, retailers are updating their marketing to maximize the potential of increasingly specific product functions.

On Aug. 18, Energizer announced the launch of its new Advanced Lithium battery, one designed to reliably power wireless gaming accessories, digital cameras, hand-held games or MP3 players.

Five weeks earlier, Panasonic introduced the EVOLTA battery, which it characterized as the world’s longest lasting AA alkaline battery cell in more devices. EVOLTA represents a certain resistance to battery specialization. “We see the trend in batteries going toward more ‘middle-drain’ applications as the reduction in power consumption needs of appliances has resulted in less high-drain devices needing primary battery power. EVOLTA eliminates the confusion for consumers and gives them confidence that our battery will perform well across many applications,” said Matt Sora, vice president of sales and marketing.

While others keyed on batteries, Duracell focused on the kind of line extensions. Among the new products debuted was Duracell Daylite, the cornerstone of new flashlight line designed to take LED lighting to the next level, the company stated, by capturing and using 100 of the light generated versus 70 percent in more typical instances. The flashlight introduction came hard on the heels of the debut of Duracell’s My Pocket Charger and the PowerSource Mini, which were developed to complement cell phones, BlackBerrys and MP3 players.

Ultimately, said Duracell spokesman Kurt Iverson, battery producers are bringing technology to bear in developing more effective, longer lasting products that use innovation to provide power more efficiently. “In the case of the Daylite flashlight, it’s getting a product to work using less battery power and still produce a brighter beam of light,” he said.

The involvement of major battery brands in a range of portable energy dependent items certainly is stretching traditional brand boundaries and merchandising concepts as well.

Jacqueline Burwitz, spokeswoman for Energizer said that, while the brand remains the one that keeps on going and going, the company’s merchandising support has evolved with its product line. “It has changed. Now it’s a matter of pairing the right battery with the right device,” she said.

Battery makers have encouraged many retailers to create ancillary product display spaces that complement the products they power, but drug chains haven’t necessarily bitten, as many prefer to depend on a battery center merchandising program. “We have those sections,” said Stacy Rinehart, a USA Drug spokeswoman. “We have our batteries in those displays.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that drug chains aren’t changing to the existing market.

Rather than develop secondary displays, Walgreens focuses on appropriately expanding its battery centers to make it easier to shop for specific applications, said Robert Elfinger, a company spokesman. 

“The battery section has grown significantly,” he said. “Customers are starting to understand that high-draining devices such as digital cameras are getting specific batteries, and they are looking for some of the new high-tech batteries. We’re expanding the battery sections to accommodate them.”

Thus, drug chains, for the most part, feel as if a battery center, usually conspicuously positioned, makes sense in terms of both attracting customers and return from floor space, as it can keep pace with developments in the category if properly configured to changes in the market.

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Kroger reports Q3 numbers, reffirms guidance prior to investor conference

BY Jenna Duncan

CINCINNATI Kroger has updated its same-store sales guidance for the third quarter of 2008 and reaffirmed its annual same-store sales and earnings per share guidance from last month the company said.

The reaffirmations came just before a conference call today with investors to discuss the company’s standing.

For the eight weeks ended Aug.17, Kroger’s same-store sales grew by more than 5 percent, not including fuel. The second four weeks were stronger than the first, the company said, attributing weaker results to temporary store closures that happened during Hurricane Ike.

David Dillon, Kroger’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement, “Kroger continues to see solid identical sales growth through the first eight weeks of the third quarter because of the commitment of associates in all aspects of our business to our customer-driven strategy. In this uncertain economy, we are delivering value to shoppers on any budget through our Customer 1st approach. Our financial strategy provides us with sufficient liquidity to finance our short-term borrowing needs through our $2.5 billion five-year credit facility that matures in November 2011. On peak borrowing days, we expect that more than $1.2 billion of this facility would remain available.  In addition, Kroger maintains uncommitted money market lines totaling $75 million.”

After review of its year-to-date results, and a restatement its goals moving forward, Kroger reaffirmed its expectation of same-store sales growth by 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent, not including fuel, for fiscal 2008. Kroger also reaffirmed its earnings guidance of $1.85 to $1.90 per diluted share for the period (without effects of Hurricane Ike factored in). This projection reflects growth by 9 percent to 12 percent above the earnings of $1.69 per diluted share in 2007, the company said. 

More details on the company’s guidance were included in the Form 8-K the Company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today. Kroger will file its full report for the third quarter Dec. 9. 

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Redbox files lawsuit against Universal; new rules impede redbox’s DVD rental business

BY Jenna Duncan

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. Redbox automated DVD rental has filed a lawsuit against against Universal Studios Home Entertainment plus three Universal affiliates in a in Delaware Federal Court Oct. 10, alleging that Universal’s new distribution terms would block redbox from being able to rent out Universal Studios DVD titles for 45 days following public release.

Universal’s new terms also limit how many of its DVD titles each redbox kiosk may stock, and has a condition that redbox can’t sell used Universal DVDs, but must destroy them, redbox complained.

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