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U.S. Census Bureau: Retail sales rebound in January

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — January retail sales are on solid ground, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

U.S. retail and food services sales for the month, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, totaled $401.4 billion, an increase of 0.4% and 5.8% above the year ago-period. Retail trade sales increased 0.4% for the month and 5.5% above the year-ago period, the government agency said.

Looking across retail categories, adjusted sales at grocery stores increased 1.3% in January $46.8 billion, compared with December 2011. Health and personal care stores were virtually flat at roughly $23.1 billion. Retail sales for drug stores and pharmacies were not recorded; however, sales were virtually flat from November to December ($19.25 billion).

The National Retail Federation said sales built on the momentum of the holiday shopping season and were "propelled by gift card redemptions and warm weather."

“Thanks to a combination of unseasonably warm weather across much of the country and millions of shoppers with gift cards burning holes in their pockets, retailers are still riding the tailwinds of consumers’ spending power,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “As a traditionally slower sales month for the industry, it’s encouraging to see such sustained growth in consumer spending and sentiment.”

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Publix names new executive director of its charity foundation

BY Michael Johnsen

LAKELAND, Fla. — Publix announced on Tuesday that it promoted Kelly Williams-Puccio to executive director of the Publix Super Markets Charities. In her new position, Williams-Puccio will be responsible for the strategic direction of the charity foundation.

“Giving back to our communities is an important part of our culture,” Publix vice chairman Barney Barnett said. “It’s a core value Mr. George [Jenkins, Publix founder], instilled in us 82 years ago. I am pleased we have leaders like Kelly who are prepared to take on new roles and continue the legacy of giving.”

Williams-Puccio began her Publix career in 1979 as a cashier in Boca Raton, Fla. In 1989, she became manager of personnel records for Publix’s Miami Division, and in 1995 she was promoted to human resources investigations manager. She has been the director of associate relations since 2000.

Kelly and her husband, John, also a Publix associate and manager of welfare benefit plans, live in Lakeland, Fla., and have four daughters. Kelly is board chair for Polk County Junior Achievement and very active with the Girl Scouts, leading four troops and acting as community liaison for South Lakeland.

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Rite Aid issues $481 million in senior notes to refinance debt

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid is offering $481 million in eight-year senior notes to refinance debt that is scheduled to be due in three years, the retail pharmacy chain said Tuesday.

Rite Aid said it would use money from the offering to pay interest and other expenses related to a tender offer announced Tuesday for all outstanding 8.625% senior notes due 2015. The price includes the $459 million principal plus a 2.625% premium. The new notes are being offered at a 9.25% interest rate.

Guggenheim Partners analyst John Heinbockel noted that this was the first time Rite Aid had been able to tap the unsecured debt market in five years, calling it a "positive" that would reduce refinancing risk.

Shares of Rite Aid were up 9 cents and trading at $1.55 on the New York Stock Exchange following the news Tuesday morning.

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