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Clayton, Dubilier and Rice acquire majority interest in American Greetings

BY DSN STAFF

Clayton, Dubilier and Rice alongside American Greetings have announced an agreement where CD&R-managed funds will acquire a 60% ownership stake in the designer, manufacturer and distributor of greeting cards. The Weiss family, who are descendants of the company’s founder, Jacob Sapirstein will retain a 40% stake in the business. Other terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“American Greetings is a clear market leader with a strong portfolio of valuable brands,” CD&R partner Ken Giuriceo said. “We are very pleased to partner with the Weiss Family and American Greetings’ talented management team and to be aligned around a set of identified actions to strengthen the company’s competitive positioning and prospects for sustainable, long-term growth and profitability.”

As part of the transaction, John Beeder, the current president and chief operating officer, will become the chief executive officer. Co-CEO’s, Zev Weiss and Jeffrey Weiss and chairman Morry Weiss, will participate on the board. David Scheible, an operating advisor to CD&R funds, and former chairman and chief executive officer of graphic packaging will assume the role of American Greetings’ chairman.

“We believe the deep operating expertise that Clayton, Dubilier & Rice brings to us makes them an ideal strategic partner,” said Zev Weiss. “They have an outstanding track record of success and a strong reputation for trustworthiness and operational leadership and we look forward to working closely together and continuing to serve the interests of American Greetings’ customers, employees, and suppliers,” added Jeffrey Weiss.

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GMDC: Retailers need to re-think front-end to survive digital

BY Michael Johnsen

The Global Market Development Center on Thursday published its latest next practice report, “Rethink Front-end: Innovation, Flexibility and Relevancy Elevate Performance,” to help retailers regain relevancy in destination-driven shopping trips lost to digital shopper diversion.

“Digital-savvy shoppers expect prime experiences – in quickness, convenience, solutions and communal feel,” Mark Mechelse, GMDC director of research, industry insights and communications, said. “Mobile is gaining traction year over year, faster than any industry, and will soon top $150 billion in transactions, representing one-third of e-com sales. And while disruption has been occurring at the retail level for many years, the intensity we’ve seen recently is unprecedented and shows no signs of slowing. Front-ends in brick and mortar are at a crucial point of reinvention since they punctuate the store’s devotion to serving customer journeys from start to finish.”

To combat that digital appeal, it’s about creating a front-end experience that serves as an engagement center with pop-up shops, food service, spa-like wellness centers, farmers’ markets, and a town square vibe, otherwise retailers may be missing an opportunity to meet the increasingly high expectations of those shoppers. They may also miss the opportunity to capitalize on new revenue streams.

While shoppers’ expectations throughout all retail channels have soared to new heights, the checkout remains relatively stagnant and is often cited as the most grueling part of the customer journey. Digital shoppers have evolved in how they want to shop and pay, buy on impulse, and connect to brands and stores of their choice. However, too many retailers have failed to contemporize their merchandising, payment processes and overall environment at the front-end.

These shortcomings have resulted in a nearly 10% decrease in front-end dollar sales from a decade ago, GMDC reported. According to Impulse Marketing Company’s Checkout Update, 2007 front-end sales were $6.1 billion, while sales shrank to $5.5 billion by 2016. Based on projected growth rates of typical categories represented in the front-end, a more than $2 billion gap is estimated if this area of the store had kept pace with total store sales trends.

In addition to a call-to-action to evolve with shoppers and end under-performance, the report challenges retailers to think broad, think local, think sightlines, think modular non-foods, think healthful and balanced, and think technology to future-proof their business.

In the report, Greg Parsons, senior director home and product development, Kroger, shared his vision and initiatives for front-end. “The innovation to figure out is for tech-savvy customers to pay differently from seniors who like seeing their favorite cashier every week,” he said. “It could mean a non-stop walkthrough with a smartphone, an associate with a tablet on the sales floor, or an exceptional experience for people who go online. People want choices to check out the way they want.”

Also in the report, Larry Wilson, vice president industry affairs, National Confectioners Association, describes the importance of understanding that customers’ need states may vary from moment to moment. “Retailers can be responsive to consumers and demonstrate responsibility by promoting ‘balance and choice’ with a wide range of traditional treats like chocolate, candy and snacks as well as other alternative instant consumable options to meet shopper’s changing need states,” he said. “It’s about putting yourself in position to win with your proven stars and then contemporizing assortments with the right blend of foods and non-foods.”

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Cheez-It mashes together popcorn, pretzels in Duoz snacks

BY Gisselle Gaitan

Cheez-It is taking its offering of products to the next level. The brand, which is part of the Kellogg’s portfolio, has created two brand new snacks that pair together some very unexpected flavors.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based company has unveiled the new Duoz line, which delivers a mash-up of 100% real cheese flavors and textures that change with every bite the consumer takes.

“As food mash-ups become more popular, we’re excited to launch two Cheez-It Duoz varieties that pair our favorite cheesy, crunchy crackers with two salty snacks to create new satisfying snacking experiences for everyone,” Jeff Delonis, marketing director of Cheez-It, said. “Pairing our 100% real cheese Cheez-It crackers with caramel popcorn or cheddar pretzels creates two delicious snacks with flavors and textures that change with every bite.”

The Duoz caramel popcorn and Cheddar Cracker balances sweet and salty flavors, as caramel is paired with Cheez-It cheddar crackers. The second addition to the lineup, Cheez-It Duoz Cheddar Jack Cracker and sharp cheddar pretzel delivers double the cheese flavor with the crackers and sharp cheddar pretzels.

Both snacks are now available for purchase in retail locations nationwide. Further product information can be found on the brand’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

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