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Commander in Chia?

BY Rob Eder

SAN FRANCISCO When Chia Pet maker Joseph Enterprises first introduced its Chia Obama, honoring the country’s 44th president, some found it more controversial than flattering. That pressured some retailers who had been planning to stock the item to pass on it.

All that is likely to change since company founder Joseph Pedott personally put one into President Barack Obama’s hands at a special White House reception earlier this year. “My reason for creating the series was to make a positive statement,” Pedott said. “It’s  totally and completely unpolitical.”

According to reports, the terra-cotta likeness was well received by Obama, who posed for pictures with Pedott.

Joseph Enterprises is gearing up to reintroduce Chia Obama as part of its “I’m Proud to Be American” series, which also includes George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and the Statue of Liberty. In support of the launch, the company will roll out TV ads in the fourth quarter, and will tag participating retailers’ logos in the effort.

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‘Positive traffic and a strong finish’ aid May sales for Fred’s

BY Allison Cerra

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Discounter Fred’s noted a 5% rise in its fiscal sales for the month, which ended May 29.

The chain said sales totaled $141.5 million, up from $134.9 million in May 2009. Comparable-store sales for the month rose 3.5%, compared with an increase of 0.2% in the same period last year.

Fred’s total sales for the first four months of fiscal 2010 increased 3% to $613.1 million. On a comparable-store basis, year-to-date sales increased 3.5% on top of an increase of 2.1% in the same period last year.

CEO Bruce Efird said, “We are pleased that May comparable-store sales came in at the upper end of our expectations, highlighted by positive traffic and a strong finish before the Memorial Day holiday. This performance reflected a number of positive factors, including good results from our May advertising circulars, solid comparable-script growth in our pharmacy department and continued success with the new sales-driving initiatives we are implementing this year. Despite economic uncertainty and high unemployment, the sales momentum building thus far in 2010 positions Fred’s well to capitalize on our customers’ desire for savings, selection and convenience.”

Fred’s operates 670 discount general merchandise stores, including 24 franchised Fred’s stores in the southeastern United States.

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Sandoz closes Oriel Therapeutics deal

BY Alaric DeArment

PRINCETON, N.J. Sandoz has acquired privately owned U.S. drug maker Oriel Therapeutics, the generics arm of Novartis said Thursday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sandoz said its purchase of Oriel would give it access to such drug-delivery technologies as FreePath and the Solis disposable dry-powder inhaler, itself based on FreePath technology.

“The closing of the Oriel Therapeutics acquisition is an important milestone in our aspiration to a global leadership position in differentiated, high-value respiratory products,” said Don DeGolyer, president of Sandoz’s U.S. division. “We welcome the Oriel employees into our organization and look forward to our ongoing work together to strengthen Sandoz’s position in the respiratory market.”

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