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Retail sales rise in December

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — Retail sales rose for a sixth consecutive month in December, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sales rose 0.6% from the prior month, the Census Bureau reported Friday. However, the increase pushed sales for all of 2010 up 6.7%, the largest annual increase since 1999. Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.5% last month.

Grocery stores experienced a 2.3% upswing from 2009, bringing its 2010 sales to $525.5 million, while health and personal care stores saw a rise of 3.8% from 2009, totaling $264.1 million for the year. And while advance estimates are not available for pharmacies and drug stores, the Census Bureau last reported that November sales rose to about $18.75 million, a slight jump from about $18.7 million in October.

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McNeil provides update on comprehensive action plan

BY Allison Cerra

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — After announcing its voluntary recall of certain products at a wholesaler level on Friday, Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare division provided an update on its internal assessment phase of its comprehensive action plan.

McNeil said that it submitted details of its thorough investigation of quality and compliance issues to the Food and Drug Administration. The company said that the assessment, which involved products produced in McNeil’s internal manufacturing network as early as 2007, identified a number of areas for improvement that are being addressed. The issues surrounding McNeil’s manufacturing plant in Fort Washington, Pa., prompted the company to refit the plant, as well as put forth plans to invest in the upgrade of other McNeil facilities. The product recalls and subsequent Fort Washington closure influenced sales of OTC medicines produced by McNeil, J&J said back in July.

"Steps we have taken under the comprehensive action plan constitute an uncompromising and systematic effort to review quality and manufacturing practices at McNeil," said J&J chairman and CEO Bill Weldon. "They help us assure that moving forward, any of our products in the marketplace live up to the trusted standards and expectations that consumers have for all products coming from a Johnson & Johnson company, anywhere in the world."

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Albert Heijn, innovative Ahold leader, dies at 83

BY Jim Frederick

AMSTERDAM — Former Ahold senior executive Albert Heijn, who helped lead the overhaul of the Dutch-based supermarket giant in the 1960s and 1970s, died peacefully Thursday at his home in the United Kingdom, the company announced. He was 83.

Heijn was the grandson of Albert Heijn, who founded Ahold’s predecessor company, the Albert Heijn supermarket business, in 1887. Heijn joined the company in 1949 and rose quickly through the ranks to become president of the executive board in 1962. Together with his brother Gerrit-Jan, Heijn “led the transformation of the company from a Dutch supermarket chain into a major international food retailing group,” Ahold announced.

“He created a grocery empire on the deceptively simple premise that doing what is right for the business starts with doing what is right for the customer,” the company noted. “Following his retirement in 1989, he remained involved in Ahold, the holding company created in 1973, as a member of the supervisory board until 1997.”

Among his notable achievements, Heijn introduced the first full-service grocery stores in the Netherlands and “brought a much wider selection of products to the Dutch public than had been seen before,” Ahold noted. “Perhaps one of the most significant contributions he made to the global food retail industry was his role in the establishment of a uniform bar code that remains the global standard today,” the company said.

Ahold CEO John Rishton called Heijn “a remarkable man,” as well as “a spirited entrepreneur whose vision has helped shape the global food industry. He was a warm and charismatic leader who was passionate about people — both those who worked for the company and all who shopped at our stores. My thoughts, and those of my colleagues on the corporate executive board, are with his wife Monique and their family.”

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