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Squishy surprise

BY DSN STAFF

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Brand Vending has added multipacks to its lineup of Sqwishland collectible animals. The new six- and 12-pack Sqwishlander Surprise Mix collections contain an assortment of regular, rare and ultra-rare squishies. The six-packs sell for $4.99, and 12-packs retail for $9.99.


Collectibles — especially those priced from $5 to $10 — have proved an enduring trend in the toy category. More than 55 million Sqwishlander characters have been sold since they were introduced to vending machines four years ago. The rubbery characters carry a code for online games at Sqwishland.com.


CVS, Walgreens and Toys “R” Us are a few of the retailers carrying multi­pack squishies.

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NewsBytes on CVS’ Merlo, Walmart health efforts, Michel now at Sears and more

BY DSN STAFF

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — The next chapter for CVS Caremark officially is under way. The company last month officially named Larry Merlo CEO, effective March 1. Tom Ryan will remain nonexecutive chairman until his retirement in May. Prior to the news, Merlo had been president and COO.


In related news, the company also pulled the plug on its plan to hire former Walmart exec Hank Mullany and has handed the keys to its retail business on an interim basis to Mike Bloom, EVP merchandising and supply chain, and Scott Baker, EVP internal operations and real estate. Bloom and Baker will report to Merlo while the company continues its search for a new president of its retail division.



WASHINGTON — Walmart executives joined First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington last month to unveil a comprehensive effort to provide Walmart customers with healthier and more affordable food choices. The program will involve five key elements:


  • Reformulating thousands of everyday packaged food items by 2015 by reducing sodium by 25% and added sugars by 10%, and by removing all remaining industrially produced trans fats;


  • Dramatically reducing or eliminating the price premium on key “better-for-you” items;


  • Developing strong criteria for simple front-of-package information;


  • Building more stores in underserved communities; and

  • 
Increasing charitable support for nutrition programs. 


WASHINGTON — Retailers are ready to expand again, and likely will do so as the economy picks up, according to a new survey conducted by the charitable arm of the National Retail Federation and KPMG. According to the report, 41% of executives are looking to expand their domestic reach in 2011, up from 25% last year. In addition, 75% of retailers said customer service will be a top priority (up from 56%), 69% will focus on mobile e-commerce and 74% will increase their consumer insight and data-gathering initiatives.



HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Robin Michel has been tapped for an increasingly critical role at retail giant Sears Holdings. Michel, who left as president of Ahold USA’s Giant-Landover in December 2010, will serve as SVP and president of food and consumables, health and beauty, and pharmacy at Sears and its Kmart subsidiary.



CHICAGO — Walgreens’ massive Customer Centric Retailing initiative is only beginning, president and CEO Greg Wasson told shareholders last month.


“To date, we’ve converted or opened [more than] 2,100 stores to the CCR format, and a little [more than] 28% of the chain,” Wasson said. “This time next year, we will have converted or opened approximately 5,500 [CCR] stores, which is about 73% of the chain.” 


In addition, the chain will look to offer “a Duane Reade-like beauty department” and expand its fresh food offering.


(Editor’s Note: The Feb. 28 edition of DSN will include a special, in-depth report on Walgreens.)

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Changing Channels: Dry-All smart-phone drying kit, ThinkEco modlet, BodyFit Yoga mat and more

BY DSN STAFF

Dry-All smart phone drying kit

LAS VEGAS — In general, electronic devices and water don’t mix, and smart phones are no exception. One bit of water is enough to lose important contacts, files and apps. Dry-All recently unveiled a kit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that allows users to dry a wet phone in as little as six hours using a special “blue bead” technology originally developed to protect sensitive military equipment from moisture. The suggested retail price is $59.99.

Contact: (888) 379-2551, Dry-All.com



ThinkEco modlet

NEW YORK — ­Much of the focus on alternative energy and clean technology in recent years has focused on such big-ticket items as windmills, solar panels and high-speed trains. But now consumers can save energy in their own homes with the ThinkEco “modlet,” short for “modern outlet.” The outlet saves energy by cutting power to plugged-in devices when they’re not needed and turning them back on based on historical usage patterns. A wireless connection and Web-based interface allow users to monitor and regulate their power usage. The suggested retail price is $50.

Contact: ThinkEcoInc.com



BodyFit Yoga mats
FAIRFIELD, N.J. — Venture Products supplies a line of yoga mats designed to provide stable and nonslip support for yoga, while also protecting against the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew. The mats, which are available in a number of colors with silk-screened designs, use a technology called Microban to prevent growth of microbes, which can cause odors and stains to develop. The suggested retail price is $14.99 for the 3-mm. mats, and $19.99 for the 6-mm. mats.

Contact: [email protected], Venture-Products.com



Bruttles soft peanut butter brittle

SPOKANE, Wash. — Bruttles Gourmet Candy Co. is taking its 60-year-old recipe for soft peanut butter brittle nationwide. Owner Carol Measel inherited the recipe from her aunt, and each batch is still hand-pulled on the marble slab she purchased from the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Wash. Other candies include peanut brittle, cashew brittle, caramels, caramallows, bark and butter toffee. The peanut butter brittle comes in packages of 8 oz. to 2 lbs., ranging in price from $6.50 to $22.95.

Contact: Carol Measel, (888) 4-Bruttles, Bruttles.com



SilverSport fitness products

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers player and Hall of Famer Franco Harris and business partner Thomas Davis have launched a line of fitness products designed to fight odor-causing bacteria. The SilverSport line of products includes a sports towel, workout mat, roller-shaper and prenatal workout kit. The line is made with Terra Silver technology, which uses tiny silver particles to eliminate more than 650 types of surface-borne, odor-causing bacteria. The products range in price from $19.99 to $34.99 for the towel, $39.99 for the roller-shaper and $49.99 for the mat and prenatal workout kit. 

Contact: [email protected], SilverSport.com

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