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Consumers’ need for power recharges innovation

BY Barbara White-Sax

Gadgets are getting more sophisticated. While these products can do more, they also eat up more power, and battery manufacturers are finding new ways to provide consumers with the power sources they need to recharge their indispensable electronics.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Energizer announced its own response to the growing power needs of consumers’ high-drain devices with the expansion of its Energi To Go line of portable power packs. The new products included an AP charger that is specifically designed to meet the needs of high-drain Apple iPhones. The EnergiStick, a charger that instantly adds talk time to any cell phone or smartphone, is another new product. The EnergiStick takes a mini- or micro-USB tip. The line also includes SP Solar Power Packs that can charge a range of devices via sunlight, indoor light or AC power, and the XP18000, a device that can power up to three devices at once. The XP 18000, like Duracell’s myGrid wireless charging pad, isn’t being distributed at drug stores yet.

Duracell’s Smart Power line, developed to meet consumers’ changing power needs, has been successful since its introduction last summer. “While phones and other devices have grown smarter and more power-demanding, batteries haven’t always kept up,” said Kurt Iverson, a spokesman for the brand.

The Smart Power line addresses that need with an array of portable power options. Smart Power products include a pocket charger—a mini-USB plug that fits in a pocket and is perfect for backup cell phone power—and an instant charger that can charge many USB-powered devices and boasts a USB and mini-USB port. The line also includes the Powerhouse, a portable product that can charge two devices at once. “The products provide an extra boost by acting as a portable gas tank to keep consumers from being stranded by a tapped-out internal battery,” Iverson said.

Duracell is supporting its Smart Power line with TV ads featuring Duracell pre-charged rechargeable batteries being used in diagnostic equipment at wind farms at Iowa Lakes College. “It’s a great example of a professional expert trusting Duracell to deliver,” Iverson said. “So much of the work there is done high in the air where the turbines harness the wind; it’s a long way down to another battery.”

Batteries that tell consumers how much power is left are another growth area. Duracell recently introduced Ultra Advanced with Powercheck, top-of-the-line alkaline batteries with a gauge that indicates how much power is left in the cell. Energizer’s Energi To Go Web site offers consumers an online guide that indicates the remaining charge in an Energi To Go battery.

The new bells and whistles are good for the category, but a significant group of consumers still are influenced by price—especially in this economy. Private-label batteries accounted for roughly 25% of alkaline battery sales. CVS, for example, recently promoted its private-label alkaline AA 16-pack for $7.99.

Branded products are fighting back with more value products. “Duracell is offering more value for consumers by adding cells to multipacks without changing our suggested retail price,” Iverson said. Eight-packs now will become 10-packs; 16-packs will bump to 20-packs; and 20-packs now will contain 24 batteries. “The added bonus will give more than 20% more power,” he said.

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Bashas’ rejects Albertsons’ buyout bid

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Bashas’ has turned down a nearly $300 million buyout offer from Albertsons, according to published reports.

According to an American City Business Journals article, the Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’ was uninterested in a buyout offer of $290 million for the chain.

Bashas’ filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July, announcing the following month that it would close 14 stores. Still, the published reports quoted an attorney representing the company as saying that the reorganization plan would ensure Bashas’ remained in the hands of the Bashas family, which has owned it since 1932.

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Shoppers’ new initiatives sets chain up to become retail giant

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT While the decision to move in this direction may have been made before Chong Bang crossed the border, there is no questioning that industry watchers will be focused on what SDM’s new top merchant will do to further improve the stores.

(THE NEWS: Shoppers Drug Mart takes a page out of CCR playbook. For the full story, click here)

That has a lot to do with Bang’s pedigree — he’s directed a significant merchandising program at Walgreens, one of the leading pureplay pharmacies in the United States. And now he’s at Shoppers, the leading drug store retailer north of the border.

Bang will be armed at Shoppers with the sales data generated by 9.7 million members of the pharmacy’s Optimum loyalty program, 80% of whom are women. When you consider that there are only 34 million Canadians, that means that almost 1-in-3 Canadians are members of Shoppers’ loyalty program, and almost 1-in-2 Canadian women.

Presently, Shoppers plans to grow its square footage at a clip of 8% to 9% with a new distribution center slated to open in 2010 to help support that growth. And that’s really going to be Bang’s merchandising challenge — finding a way to slip one more item into that Shoppers marketbasket in a saturated marketplace. Bang certainly can’t build front-end sales by attracting new customers. There just aren’t that many Canadians who don’t already shop at Shoppers.

For Bang, it’ll be a question of optimizing categorical synergies and in doing so help drive impulse purchases. Similar to Walgreens, Shoppers is on a mission to make a good shopping experience better, and Bang’s expected to help realize that goal.

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