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Stop & Shop brings fuel savings to N.J. customers

BY Allison Cerra

PURCHASE, N.Y. — Stop & Shop has expanded its gas rewards programs to customers in New Jersey.

Beginning Sept. 10, shoppers will be able to redeem their Stop & Shop Gas Rewards points at more than 135 participating Shell stations in New Jersey. For every dollar spent at Stop & Shop on purchases (some restrictions apply), customers will earn one point, and for every 100 points, they will receive 10 cents off per gallon of their next fuel purchase at participating New Jersey Shell stations. Customers will be able to save up to $2.20 per gallon by shopping at Stop & Shop and presenting their Stop & Shop loyalty card. Unlike other states, the discount will not appear at the pump but will be reflected on the customer’s receipt. Once points are earned, they can be redeemed at any participating Shell station within 30 days from the date of purchase.

The program, which launched two years ago, initially wasn’t permitted in New Jersey; however, legislation passed by the state and signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie allows New Jersey motorists to enjoy the same savings already available to drivers in other states, including New York, Massachusetts Rhode Island and Connecticut.

"We are pleased that we can help our customers reduce the cost of filling their gas tank," said Don Sussman, president of Stop & Shop’s New York metro division. Stop & Shop applauds our elected officials for enacting legislation that allows us to partner with Shell and allow our New Jersey customers to enjoy the same benefits that Stop & Shop customers in neighboring states have long enjoyed."

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Kmart does away with layaway fee

BY Allison Cerra

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Kmart has removed its layaway service fee both in stores and online through Nov. 17.

The mass retailer, which offers the program year round, said the decision to make the program free "emphasizes the company’s commitment to delivering value and convenience to customers, acknowledging family budgets are strained during the holiday."

"At Kmart, we understand the excitement holidays bring, and the budget concerns that come with them," Sears Holdings VP financial services Jai Holtz said. "By providing free layaway we want to help make holiday shopping less stressful."

Several other retailers have reported the reduction of their layaway program fees, including Walmart.

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Kroger gearing up to keep Express Scripts patients; reports 35th consecutive quarter of positive ID sales

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — Kroger president, COO and director Rodney McMullen told analysts Friday morning that the grocer is gearing up for Walgreens’ reunion with Express Scripts’ pharmacy network as of Sept. 15. "We’ve done a lot of research to make sure we understand those customers — what they like about Kroger, what they like about Walgreens — and we’ve aggressively worked on trying to make sure that the things those customers liked better about Walgreens, [that] we’ve changed that," he said. "Overwhelmingly, the things they liked [about Kroger] was the one-stop, the value, the pricing that we offer. … Customers are really satisfied with where we are there, which we think will really help with the stickiness of those customers."

Kroger on Friday reported a 3.9% increase in total sales, including fuel, to $21.7 billion for the second quarter ended Aug. 11. Fuel contributed 100 basis points to the percent increase. Sales per diluted share totaled 51 cents, up 10.9%, beating analyst consensus by 2 cents. 

Kroger’s stock was trading 2.5% down at around $22.50 in afternoon trading. 

Kroger shares were down 10.2% for the year through Tuesday, noted Charles Grom, research analyst for Deutsche Bank, in a note released earlier this week. Even though Kroger has been delivering on sales growth rates, many investors have shied away from supermarket stocks given competitive challenges across the industry. "Investors have grown more concerned about the impact nontraditional food retailers are having on sales/profitability in the conventional grocery space," Grom noted. "As such, multiples have come down across the board."

Kroger reported identical supermarket sales growth, without fuel, of 3.6% in the second quarter. With that, Kroger recorded its 35th consecutive quarter of positive identical supermarket sales, which the grocer credited to increased transactions and total household growth. 

“Kroger shareholders once again benefited from our Customer First strategy," stated David Dillon, Kroger chairman and CEO. "Increased customer loyalty and solid cost controls allowed us to grow sales, profitability and shareholder value.” The Kroger Customer First strategy focuses on realizing cost savings and efficiency gains across Kroger’s "four keys," which comprise of prices, people, products and shopping experience.

Kroger is bullish on the recovering economy, and accordingly increased its raised earnings per diluted share guidance for the fiscal year to a range of $2.35 to $2.42. Identical store sales growth rates are still expected to fall between 3% and 3.5%, Mike Schlotman, Kroger CFO and SVP, told analysts Friday morning. 

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