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Investments in omnichannel, loyalty program highlighted at Sears Holdings shareholder meeting

BY Alaric DeArment

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Among the highlights of the first Sears Holdings shareholder meeting since Edward Lampert became chairman and CEO were details on the company’s progress in combining its brick-and-mortar and online businesses.

Sears, which operates the Kmart mass merchandise chain, uses the term "integrated retail" to refer to the integration of its businesses, noting that is where half of its online business comes from as customers buy online and pick up in-store and order in the store and ship home. Online sales increased by 25% in the fourth quarter and 17% in fiscal year 2012, the company said in February.

Ordering in the store and shipping home got a lot of attention recently with Kmart’s popular "Ship My Pants" ad, which despite some criticism for its use of toilet humor, has since gone viral with more than 20 million views on YouTube and a promotion for its creator. According to the company, "Ship My Pants" became the sixth most viral U.S. ad of all time and the 17th most viral worldwide, with coverage on CNN, ABC’s "Good Morning America" and other outlets.

Meanwhile, the company is launching new tablet and mobile apps, SHOPSears and SHOPSears Lite, which it said are now live in more than 350 Sears stores, with 40 planned for this year. More than 1.5 million transactions and $550 million in sales were processed through the apps in fiscal year 2012. Member Assist, a new app for the Shop Your Way rewards program, was rolled out last month.

The program has helped drive sales for the company as well, with 60% of sales at Kmart and Sears coming from members, and annual sales per member increasing by more than 8% as members spend 18% more than non-members.


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Rite Aid comps decrease amid earlier Easter, new generics

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid’s same-store sales decreased 4% in April compared with April 2012 due to an earlier Easter and introductions of new generic drugs, the retail pharmacy chain said Thursday.

The numbers released Thursday included a 3.5% decrease in sales on the front end and a 4.2% decrease in pharmacy sales, but the pharmacy figure included a 4.54% negative effect due to new generics. Same-store prescription count decreased by 0.2%.

Total sales for the month were $1.902 billion, a 4.6% decrease over April 2012’s $1.993 billion.

Same-store sales for the eight-week period that ended Saturday decreased by 3%, including a 0.1% increase in front-end same-store sales and a 4.4% decrease in pharmacy same-store sales. Same-store prescription count increased by 0.1%.

Total store sales for that period were $3.841 billion, a 3.5% decrease over the same period last year, when sales were $3.982 billion.

 

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Jones Soda launches natural line in California market

BY Jason Owen

SEATTLE — Jones Soda Co., a beverage company known for its colorful sodas and customer-designed packaging, announced the launch of Natural Jones Soda.

The Natural Jones Soda product line is sweetened with a proprietary blend of natural sweeteners including pure cane sugar, organic agave syrup and stevia. Each 12-ounce glass bottle contains 30 calories, five grams of fiber and five grams of sugar and comes in four fruit flavors: Green Apple, Orange Mango, Cherry and Lemon Lime.

“Given growing demand for more healthful beverage options, we wanted to challenge ourselves to deliver an all-natural soda with less sugar and fewer calories than any other product available,” said Jennifer Cue, CEO, Jones Soda. “We are innovators and we listen to our consumers with whom we have a close, almost personal relationship. When they raised concerns to us about the use of high fructose corn syrup in our industry, we answered that call by being the first nationally distributed brand to completely reformulate our products with pure cane sugar. And now, as tastes and trends evolve, we are continuing to listen to our consumers by creating Natural Jones Soda, a new class of great tasting, lightly sweetened soda with no preservatives and no artificial colors.”

Initially, Natural Jones Soda will only be available in California, a market chosen specifically due its progressive and health-conscious demographic, the company noted. Natural Jones Soda will be sold in select Whole Foods stores in Northern California as well as most Albertsons stores in Southern California. Natural Jones Soda will be sold as a four-pack or as individual bottles. The average retail price for a four-pack is $5.49.


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