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Pilot Pen debuts BeGreen line

BY Doug Desjardins

TRUMBULL, Conn. Pilot Pen Corporation of America has launched the first full line of eco-friendly pens and pencils made from recycled material.

The company’s line of BeGreen writing instruments include ballpoint pens, rolling ball pens and mechanical pencils and sell for the same price as standard pens and pencils. The BeGreen line is now available at Office Max, Staples and Target.

“Using BeGreen pens and pencils gives consumers an easy and inexpensive way to make a commitment to our environment every day,” said Pilot Pen vice president of marketing Robert Silberman.

The new line includes the VBall BeGreen rolling ball pen made from 81.6 percent recycled material and the BeGreen Precise V5 made of 89.2 percent recycled material.

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Tesco puts brakes on expansion

BY Doug Desjardins

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Saying it needs to give its rapidly growing business time to “settle down,” Tesco has put a 90-day hold on expansion of its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets.

“We’ve given ourselves a little time to kick the tires, smooth out any wrinkles and make some improvements that customers have asked for,” said Tesco U.S. marketing director Simon Uwins in an online posting. “Quite simply, to allow the business we’ve created to settle down.” He noted that Tesco opened 31 stores during a 66-day period this year in what he described as “an opening program on steroids.”       

Tesco has opened more than 50 stores since debuting in the Los Angeles area Dec. 7 and has expanded into Arizona and Nevada. It initially planned to open 200 stores by the end of 2009, though it’s not clear whether the break in expansion will change that projection.

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Fred’s releases Q4 figures, announces multi-year strategic plan

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s on Thursday cited the underperformance of 22 pharmacies and 75 stores as significant contributors to a net loss of $4.4 million, or $0.11 per diluted share.

Fred’s total sales for its fiscal year ending Feb. 2 were up 1 percent to $1.8 billion. Comparable store sales increased 0.3 percent.

“Although the fourth quarter, before considering restructuring charges, met our revised plan, it was nevertheless disappointing,” commented Michael Hayes, Fred’s chief executive officer. “The rapid changes in discretionary income for our customer base made us face some very tough decisions.”

Short-term, Fred’s to enhance Fred’s operating and financial performance through store and merchandise refresher programs, tightened inventory disciplines, and improvements to in-stock levels on the chain’s most popular items, Hayes said, a strategy that has already netted tangible results. “For long-term benefits, we are implementing a multi-year strategic plan that involves a stronger focus on operational execution at our best-performing stores and pharmacies,” Hayes said.

In the fourth quarter, Fred’s opened nine stores, closed one store, and opened two pharmacies, bringing the totals for the year to 35 store openings, 20 closed stores, 11 pharmacy openings and four pharmacy closings. 

Fred’s expects to open 18 stores and 15 pharmacies in 2008 and close the 75 underperforming stores and 22 pharmacies during the coming year.

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