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Safeway plans IPO for its Blackhawk Network gift card distribution division

BY Michael Johnsen

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway on Wednesday announced that it plans to file a registration statement in the United States for a potential initial public offering of a minority ownership stake in Blackhawk Network Holdings, a leading prepaid payments network.

Blackhawk Network has strong revenue growth — 33% in first quarter 2011, noted Safeway executive chairman and CEO Steven Burd during the grocer’s first-quarter conference call in April. "Blackhawk actually has a lower gross margin rate than Safeway," he told analysts. "Now obviously, Blackhawk is growing at a much faster pace than Safeway. And so, that lower gross margin rate, in combination with its fast growth rate, has an effect on gross margin, which in this quarter, lowered [Safeway’s gross margin by] 7 basis points."

Part of that low gross margin rate can be attributed to Blackhawk Network’s acquisition last fall of Cardpool, a fast-growing gift card exchange company where consumers can buy, sell and trade gift cards online.

Depending on market conditions, the company anticipates executing a transaction in the first half of 2013.

Blackhawk Network supplies the industry’s most popular prepaid gift cards and payment services from leading brands through a network of leading grocery stores, big box, convenience, pharmacy, specialty stores and Internet retailers including GiftCardMall.com. Blackhawk operates a proprietary network that connects to more than 500 content providers and over 70,000 active retail distribution locations globally.

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Essie announces nail lineup for New York Fashion Week

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — After two seasons at New York Fashion Week, nail brand Essie returns to the tents for the spring/summer 2013 shows and is partnering with the nail industry’s leading talent to develop trendsetting looks while using the brand’s color collection.

This season’s designer lineup combines top fashion names with some of the fashion industry’s emerging talent including: Diane Von Furstenberg; Carolina Herrera; 3.1 Phillip Lim; DKNY; Marchesa; Tory Burch; Zac Posen; Milly; Helmut Lang; Wes Gordon; SUNO; Herve Leger; Lela Rose; Jenny Packham; Creatures of the Wind; Douglas Hannant; Costello Tagliapetra; Tanya Taylor; Chado Ralph Rucci; Veronica Beard; Mathieu Mirano and Rachel Roy.

The nail brand also is partnering with Haven Spa and will be the featured nail brand at Rebecca Minkoff, Edun and PRISM by Anna Laub.

The team of celebrity and editorial lead manicurists for Essie include Michelle Saunders, Dawn Sterling, Gina Edwards, Michina Koide and Ana-Maria Gheorghiu.

"Nail color is the ultimate accessory for women looking to make a fashion statement, it completes the outfit. Women should be dressed from tips to toes and everything in-between," stated Essie Weingarten, founder and creative director of Essie. "It’s a true honor to collaborate with such talented and visionary designers during New York Fashion Week, and we are thrilled to be a part of the creative process of developing looks that will serve as an endless source of inspiration for next spring and beyond."

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Latest Skippy peanut butter trims sodium, sugar content

BY DSN STAFF

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — A peanut butter brand has introduced a new product than touts one-third less sodium and sugar than its staple creamy peanut butter product.

Skippy Natural Creamy with 1/3 less sodium and sugar is the first natural peanut butter variety available nationwide in the growing low-sodium and low-sugar segment of the peanut butter category, according to the company.

New Skippy Natural Creamy with 1/3 less sodium and sugar is available in 15-oz. jars at stores nationwide.

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