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Independent grocers have expressed disappointment at House passage of PRO Labor Legislation

Fourth Save A Lot store closing in Florida

US: Ingles Q1 total sales, comps inch up while net income lags
Ingles Markets Inc. reported first-quarter total sales of $1.08bln for the three months ended December 28, 2019, a 1.6% increase over the year-ago period. Comparable-store sales, excluding gasoline, climbed 2.4%. The grocer’s net income came to $17.7mln for the December 2019 quarter, compared with $22.2mln last year, which Ingles attributed to $3.7mln in refinancing costs during Q1 that it said will lead to lower interest expense for future periods.The company added that gas gross profits were unusually high across the industry during the December 2018 quarter, and were lower in the December 2019 quarter.

Free shipping is the key to Amazon's success
Amazon has spent billions of dollars to stay ahead of its competitors when it comes to shipping. At the core of that has been Amazon Prime, a service that costs $119 or $12.99 a month, which offers free two-day, and, in many cases, one-day shipping. That has been a smart investment as 80% of consumers named "fast and free shipping" as the reason they shop at Amazon, according to a new survey conducted by Delivery Experience Management platform provider Convey. Without free shipping, however, respondents were fairly overwhelmingly willing to consider shopping elsewhere.

Canada: Montreal to fully ban plastic bags by end of 2020
Given the urgent need to reduce the city’s environmental footprint, Montreal will move to fully ban the distribution of plastic bags by the end of 2020, Mayor Valerie Plante said. Plante told a council meeting that the current measures that limit retailers to selling thicker bags haven’t worked to reduce plastic waste. “We have to reduce at the source, and that happens with behaviour changes,” Plante said. She said the bag ban was an idea whose time had come, pointing out that major retail chains such as IGA are already phasing out plastic bags.

US: Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage announces first quarter fiscal 2020 results
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc. announced results for its first quarter of fiscal 2020 ended December 31, 2019 and confirmed its outlook for fiscal 2020. Highlights for first quarter fiscal 2020 compared to first quarter fiscal 2019: Net sales increased 3.8% to $230.0mln; Daily average comparable store sales increased 1.9%; Operating income was $2.8mln; Net income was $1.9mln with diluted earnings per share of $0.08; EBITDA was $10.6mln; and opened two new stores, resulting in a 2.6% new store growth rate for the twelve-month period ended December 31, 2019.

US: Save A-Lot stores closing in Florida
Discount grocery chain Save A Lot has closed three northeast Florida stores since December, according to a published report. Two of the stores were in Jacksonville, with another in Orange Park. According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, a fourth Save A Lot store, also in Jacksonville, is slated to close February 22. The banner has at least nine stores still operating in the region.

US: Independent Grocers decry House passage of PRO Labor Legislation
Independent grocers have expressed disappointment at the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474) by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 6. “America’s independent grocers are working hard every day to spur local economic growth and create jobs within their communities”, noted Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of the Arlington, Virginia-based National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the independent grocery sector. “The PRO Act drastically overturns decades of U.S. labor policy and tilts the scales heavily in favor of Big Labor against Main Street and entrepreneurial businesses”.

US: 2 Earth Fare employees file lawsuit as thousands lose jobs at closing grocery store
Two Earth Fare employees are taking legal action against the closing grocery store on behalf of their more than 3,000 coworkers. According to ABC-affiliate WLOS, the class-action lawsuit, filed by two women in Tennessee and Florida, claims the grocery store chain violated the Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification Act, a federal law intended to protect workers when large-scale employers close up shop.

Poland: Allegro enters global top 10 biggest ecommerce websites
Allegro has entered the top 10 list of biggest ecommerce websites in the world, in terms of monthly visits. The Polish ecommerce company welcomes almost 194mln visitors per month, which is slightly less than the number of people visiting Shopee and Tmall. Ecommerce in Poland is still growing. The online retail market has been developing at a double-digit rate for the last 2 years and is currently worth 11.75bln euros (50bln zloty). Allegro is not only the biggest online retailer of Poland, according to data collected by SimilarWeb, it’s also the tenth largest ecommerce platform in the world, in terms of monthly visits.

Latvia: Maxima to increase employee salaries
Maxima Latvija has announced it is to increase the salaries of its employees by an average of 7%, with the group investing €5.6mln in boosting employee pay packets this year. In a statement, the retailer said that the latest increase will mean that the average overall salary for a Maxima worker has increased by up to 29% since 2016. “Employees are a company’s greatest value", commented Maxima Latvija chairman Andris Vilcmeiers. "Maxima Latvija employs around 7,500 professionals, and we have established the promotion of their wellbeing and growth as one of our priorities".

FamilyMart Japan reveals results of shorter trading-hours test
A trial to reduce business hours has resulted in a 59% drop in operating profits for FamilyMart Japan. The trial by the traditionally 24-hour convenience-store chain operator was conducted from October to December at around 600 FamilyMart outlets to assess the effect of cutting late-night hours of business. While average labour costs fell 11% at participating stores, the average drop in sales of 6.7% led to the operating profit declines, according to a Jiji Press report. 41% of the outlets recorded a growth in profits. FamilyMart Japan has now announced that it will allow its franchises to apply to reduce their hours permanently beginning in June.

UK: Waitrose to launch charm offensive as Ocado switches to M&S
Waitrose is to launch thousands of new and revamped products in the coming months as the battle for the hearts and minds of Ocado shoppers moves up a gear. The supermarket’s deal with the online grocer will finish at the end of August, when it will be replaced by Marks & Spencer. The switchover is high risk for all the brands involved: Ocado risks losing loyal Waitrose shoppers while the supermarket, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership, will have to persuade shoppers to use its own website instead.

The Polish Group of Retailers - a chance for Polish retailers?
The Polish Group of Retailers (PGD-Polska Grupa Detalistów) will soon bring together four Polish retail chains. For now, the company does not conduct talks with other entities, but emphasizes being open to cooperation with all Polish companies which have their own warehouses. A lot of Polish producers report to the group's management willingness to have their products on store shelves.

Online grocery shopping in Sweden grows 21.9%
Sales in the grocery trade in Sweden increased by 3.1% during the full year 2019. The fastest growth was noticeable in the ecommerce, as store sales increased by 2.8%, while ecommerce grew 21.9%. This is shown by the Grocery Index of the Swedish Food Retailers Federation, an organization for grocery retailers in Sweden. During the month December, the online grocery industry in Sweden saw its sales increase by 23.8%. For comparison: the offline grocery industry grew with 2.7% during the same period.

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