Giant Eagle completes acquisition of Ricker’s

Walmart and Brain: self-driving floor-cleaning robots in stores

US: Shortage of truck drivers lifts grocery prices
The lingering shortage of long-distance truck drivers is raising grocery prices as major food companies grapple with increased shipping costs. In an analysis John Kearney, CEO of St. Petersburg, Florida-based Advanced Training Systems (ATS), which makes virtual simulators for driver training, noted that higher freight and ingredient costs were behind recent announcements by Mondelez, Hershey, Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola that they will need to hike prices in 2019. “They don’t really have any choice. The cost of shipping just keeps going up”, Kearney said in his report. “A major factor in this is the driver shortage. There just aren’t enough people in the long-haul trucking workforce to get all these loads delivered.”

US: Walmart and Brain to expand self-driving floor-cleaning robots in stores
Brain Corp announced it has entered into a relationship with Walmart to provide AI services and additional floor-cleaning robots to the world’s largest retailer. The company’s BrainOS platform currently automates more than 100 of Walmart’s fleet of commercial floor scrubbers across the U.S. The companies said Walmart expects to have 360 BrainOS-powered floor-cleaning robots in its stores by the end of Jan. 31, 2019. The BrainOS provides the floor-cleaning robots with autonomous navigation and data collection capabilities, tied into a cloud-based reporting system. The scrubbers lets store associates quickly map a route during an initial training ride, and then activate autonomous floor cleaning at the press of a button. With multiple sensors to scan surroundings for people and obstacles, Brain said this system provides “the industry’s highest level of safety and performance.”

US: Great Lakes Fresh Market closing 2 Muskegon stores
Midwestern independent grocer Great Lakes Fresh Market is closing two of its three Muskegon, Michigan, locations. Formerly Plumb’s Market locations, Great Lakes Fresh Market purchased them in early 2017, rebranding them under the Great Lakes Fresh Market banner. Great Lakes Fresh Market is owned by Kuber in Menominee, Wisconsin, which also owns L.M. Foods, which took ownership of Plumb’s Markets assets in March 2017, according to local news reports. Great Lakes Fresh Market operates four independent grocery stores in Wisconsin and one in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

US: Dollar Tree to double down on Family Dollar renovations
Dollar Tree Inc. will double its attention on its ailing Family Dollar banner next year behind an ambitious plan to renovate 1,000 stores and convert another 200 to its Dollar Tree concept. The announcement came as the Chesapeake, Virginia-based discounter's same-store sales at Dollar Tree declined by 0.4% in the fiscal third quarter ending November 3, a sequential slide from flat comps in the second quarter. However, officials said they were pleased with results at Family Dollar stores that have been renovated as part of a program that is expected to be complete at 500 of the banner's stores this year, which includes repositioning items to spur larger baskets, increasing the amount of merchandise priced at $1, and adding more food and snacks, among other changes.

US: Giant Eagle Inc. completes acquisition of Ricker Oil Company Inc.
Giant Eagle Inc., one of the nation’s largest multi-format food, fuel and pharmacy retailers, announced its successful acquisition of Indiana-based Ricker Oil Company Inc. (“Ricker’s”). The finalized agreement brings Giant Eagle’s GetGo Cafe + Market (“GetGo”) and Ricker’s brands together in serving customers throughout Indiana. The Ricker’s acquisition provides Giant Eagle with additional scale in the Indiana market as well as opportunities to leverage the strength of both the GetGo and Ricker’s brands. Ricker’s has provided high-quality fuels, clean convenience stores and wholesale fuel services to companies and consumers throughout Indiana since 1979. In addition to acquiring the 56 Ricker’s convenience stores located in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne metro areas and throughout Central Indiana, the agreement also includes Ricker Oil’s wholesale fuels distribution business of approximately 80 branded supply accounts located in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

Walmart upbeat after China success
Robust third-quarter sales growth in China and some key markets is making US retail giant Walmart Inc upbeat about full-year earnings prospects. Investments in e-commerce and a home delivery system for groceries are further boosting its confidence. Third-quarter revenues in China rose 4.3% year-on-year, driven by strong sales of fresh food, it said, without disclosing absolute figures. Particularly, Sam’s Club, Walmart’s high-end membership stores in China, saw a good performance during Mid-Autumn Festival in September. Walmart’s global revenues in the third quarter reached $124.9bln, up 1.4% year-on-year.

Kaufland Romania’s first single-use-plastic-free store
The flagship store in Bucharest, Barbu Vacarescu, is the first to implement its strategy on reducing single-use plastics. It replaced more than 90% of disposable plastic materials with recyclable ones, introduced bags made of compostable materials at checkout points, and added bio-waste bins for shoppers to dispose of biodegradable waste. By the end of 2019 the retailer will install more recycling machines in-store.

Four Maxima stores to open in December in Latvia
Lithuanian retail chain Maxima has announced that it will open four stores in December as a part of its investment plan for this year. A new Maxima X store will open in 83 Tallinas street in Riga on 20 December, while the three other stores will open after renovation. These include the Maxima XX store in Valmiera, the Maxima X store at 78 Brīvības street in Riga, and the Maxima X at 14 Višķu street.

UK: Tesco says Sainsbury's-Asda deal needs 'extensive remedies'
British supermarket group Sainsbury’s proposed takeover of rival Asda would not be cleared by the competition regulator without the need for “extensive remedies” if precedent is followed, according to market leader Tesco. The combination of No. 2 player Sainsbury’s and No. 3 Asda, which is owned by Walmart, could overtake Tesco. In its submission to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is probing the deal, Tesco also questioned the economics of the 7.3bln pounds ($9.4bln) transaction, saying it provided few direct customer benefits.

Belgium: Colruyt tests in-store vertical farming cultivation
Belgium-based Colruyt is testing its self-developed system to enable in-store vertical farming. The retailer hopes to sell quality herbs that have a small ecological footprint from Q4 2019 onwards. Vertical farming cultivation helps to produce sustainable products with shortened chains and fewer resources. Colruyt requires 20 times less space in its in-store testing facility, 90% less water and 50% less nutrients than ‘traditional’ cultivation. Stefan Goethaert, responsible for product preservation at Colruyt, said: “We reuse all substances that the plant does not absorb. Moreover, we only work with purified rainwater. Our LED lighting is twice as efficient as the current standard on the market. And the installation runs on green electricity from its own wind turbines and solar panels”.

First in Bulgaria: Retail chain has launched self-checkout machines
The supermarket chain T MARKET has launched its first self-service cash desks in its own store. They are located at the site of the company in the district. Musagenica in Sofia, reports For the time being, they have a total of four, and customers can mark the goods themselves, as well as weigh fruit, vegetables and other bulk goods. Payments will be made both in cash and with a bank card. "In addition, customers have the opportunity to return a product if they so decide," the chain said.

Ireland: Strike action planned for two Tesco stores in run-up to Christmas
Tesco workers in two stores have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action ahead of Christmas. There are also fears that strikes could spread in the coming months as union Mandate said it could "easily spread to the other 150 stores". Workers in Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon are now set to strike as they claim the company "continues to breach agreements and deny workers their right to collective representation". Sligo workers will strike on Thursday, December 6 and again on Friday, December 14. The Sligo store voted in favour of industrial action by a margin of 97%, with an 85% turnout in the ballot.

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