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Retailers name store expansion as top priority for 2011

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — Retailers are ready to expand again, and likely will do so as the economy picks up, according to a new survey conducted by the charitable arm of the National Retail Federation and KPMG.

In their ninth annual "Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2010, Forecasts for 2011" report, the NRF Foundation and KPMG found that among 318 of executives surveyed, 41% said they are looking to expand their domestic reach this year, up from one-quarter of retail executives surveyed last year. International expansion plans also are on the rise, with 25% of executives saying that they will broaden their businesses overseas, up from 21% last year.

Mark Larson, partner in charge of KPMG’s retail group, said “these findings dramatically demonstrate that retail expansion is back on the agenda. After several years of belt tightening, retailers are also ready to begin experimenting again with new brick-and-mortar concepts, hoping to appeal to shoppers interested in buying discretionary items once again,” Larson added. “They will, however, move ahead with cost discipline in mind.”

But while retailers will widen their scope, many also will focus on customer-centric initiatives — that is, honing in on customer service and such strategic measures as implementing mobile e-commerce or m-commerce, as well as such insight initiatives as customer loyalty programs. For this year, 75% of retailers said customer service will be a top priority (up from 56% on 2010), while 69% of retailers said they will focus on mobile e-commerce, or m-commerce, and 74% of retailers this year will increase their consumer insight and data-gathering initiatives.

To purchase the full "Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2010, Forecasts for 2011" report, click here.

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Fresh & Easy unveils Design-A-Bag winner

BY Allison Cerra

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy debuted the winning design from its first-ever Design-A-Bag contest in its stores this week.

The new reusable bag retails for only 79 cents and already is a big hit with customers, with thousands already sold. The bag’s creative design was hand-drawn by Los Angeles resident Josephine Close, who received a year’s worth of free groceries for winning the contest.

According to the company, the Design-A-Bag contest generated more than 1,300 submissions from customers and 24,000 votes by "Friends of Fresh & Easy" — customers who have signed up to receive the latest news about the company along with exclusive offers at Freshandeasy.com/friends.

"We set out to design a desirable and affordable bag people actually want to use and reuse, and we turned to our customers for inspiration," said Roberto Munoz, Fresh & Easy director of neighborhood affairs. "Based on sales of the bag already, we know customers like the design and the price point. We hope this new bag will continue to encourage customers to use fewer single-use bags in exchange for reusable options."

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Indie Candy makes Valentine’s Day treats

BY Allison Cerra

MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala.— A gourmet candy maker has unveiled its 2011 lineup for Valentine’s Day.

Indie Candy said that all of its products are free of artificial flavors and preservatives, and many of them also are free of dyes, gluten, casein/dairy and nuts.

The lineup includes gourmet heart gummies, dairy-free chocolate heart lollipops and hard-candy heart lollipops.

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