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Improving weather, tax returns benefit Fred’s

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS — Fred’s on Thursday posted a 2% increase in sales totaling $153.6 million for the four weeks ended Feb. 26. Comparable-store sales for the month rose 0.9% versus an increase of 2% in the same period last year.

"February sales were on plan in spite of harsh weather early in the month,” stated Fred’s CEO Bruce Efird. “As February progressed, with the weather rebounding and customers beginning to receive tax refunds, both customer traffic and sales improved. Overall, we were pleased to see strengthening sales in the last half of February, reflecting a balanced mix of increased customer traffic and an uptick in the average purchase amount."

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Rising gas prices not only factor driving supply chain costs

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation warned federal transportation officials that transportation costs would increase by up to 20% in some cases if a proposal to limit the number of hours truck drivers spend behind the wheel each day goes into effect.

In addition to dramatically increasing costs, the safety proposal also would make highways a little less safe for the general public by putting more trucks on the road during the most congested hours, the NRF argued.

“As a result of the current 11-hour daily driving limit, U.S. retailers have been able to achieve significant efficiencies within their supply chains and distribution networks,” stated NRF SVP government relations David French. “Any change to this daily driving limit will upset the careful balance and efficiencies that have been achieved and require changes to those new systems and processes. In addition, such changes could result in significantly higher transportation costs and could lead to less safety as additional drivers and trucks will be required to make up for the shortfall.”

Proposed changes would increase transportation costs by anywhere from 3% to 20% depending on a specific retailer’s supply chain network and operations, French said. Retailers already are talking about passing along projected 1% inflationary cost increases to the consumer, and the thinking goes that this cost increase would be passed along as well.

French’s remarks came in comments filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in response to a proposal that potentially would decrease the current 11-hour on-duty “hours of service” limit for drivers, in effect since the beginning of 2004, to a 10-hour limit. In addition, the 34 hours of time off currently required between each week of driving now would have to include at least two midnight-to-6 a.m. periods of nighttime rest.

Supporters of the proposal said it would result in fewer fatigued drivers on the road and help reduce accidents. But NRF is concerned that shortening the daily driving limit would require more drivers and more trucks to move the same volume of goods during the same time period.

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Bi-Lo adds nutrition tags to shelves

BY Allison Cerra

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Bi-Lo has developed and launched its own nutritional tagging system that identifies healthful attributes in particular foods.

The retailer said the system features a wide range of categories established by Bi-Lo’s registered dietitian, Monica Amburn. Amburn said the system allows customers to create positive attitudes about healthy eating.

The tags highlight such benefits as "low sodium" or "an excellent source of vitamin C," as well as gluten-free and organic products.

To complement the nutrition tags, Bi-Lo pharmacists also now offer shoppers complimentary “nutrition tip lists” to help customers better understand how to choose appropriate foods throughout the store to better manage their own health conditions.

“These tiny additions to our store will help shoppers find foods that are just right for them, whether they are trying to eat healthier or need assistance managing specific health conditions, such as diabetes or celiac disease,” Amburn said of the nutritional tagging system.

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