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Supervalu announces slowdown of price position overhaul as buyout speculation populates newswires

BY Michael Johnsen

MINNEAPOLIS — While Supervalu has completed its overhaul of its value proposition across its Jewel-Osco banner, the grocer will be analyzing the impact before replicating the price repositioning across its entire chain, the Minnesota-based supermarket chain announced Thursday morning. "We continue to have a market-leading price position amongst conventional food retailers in three markets," Wayne Sales, Supervalu president, CEO and chairman told analysts during the second-quarter conference call. "We have improved or remained constant in seven others and have deteriorated in only one market."

Many news agencies were reporting as much as a 5% increase in the value of Supervalu stock fueled by buyout talk, especially relevant following the announcement earlier this week that Kroger expects to expand its footprint into one or two new markets in the coming year. 

Independent research firm Saibus Research earlier this month released its takeover analysis, noting that Supervalu represents accretive buying power for potential suitors. "If Safeway was to acquire Supervalu, it would increase its purchasing power by over 83% and if Kroger acquired Supervalu, it would increase its purchasing power by about 36%," the analysis read. "While Target may be more like Wal-Mart than a Kroger or Safeway, Target should consider acquiring Supervalu because both companies are large Minneapolis area retailing giants, and acquiring Supervalu would enable the company to increase its purchasing power by over 60% in order to better compete with Wal-Mart."

As of early afternoon trading, however, Supervalu stock was holding steady around $2.04, its closing price from Wednesday. 

Across the Jewel-Osco banners, Supervalu has realized an immediate increase in unit sales, Sales said. "Not only in terms of actual sales, but the halo effect in terms of perception," Sales added. "We’ve gone back into the marketplace. We have surveyed our customers; and on critical aspects of our business, there is a dramatic improvement in the halo in terms of how [our customers] think about the quality of the products we sell, how they think about the service they get in various departments. So we are pleased not only in the actual unit sales increase, but also in changing the perception of Jewel."

Consequently, the timing of repositioning half its store base will extend beyond fiscal 2013, announced Sales, who hosted his first conference call as Supervalu’s turnaround leader. "As you would suspect, with an investment of this nature, it does immediately decrease your selling values and total sales on an ID basis, and it is a hit on profitability," Sales said. "So we need to learn that. While I’m excited about what the team did in terms of marketing and integrated merchandising program, we need to learn things we can do better."

In the St. Louis market, Supervalu is exploring a new Save-a-Lot format across 11 locations that incorporates "a new merchandising and display approach, enhanced marketing messaging as well as new products in a more labor efficient manner," Sales told analysts. Initial sales trends are "very positive," Sales added. 

Regarding turnaround efforts, Sales indicated that the executive team was focused on fixing the retail segment, acknowledging that both the Save-a-Lot business and wholesale business were relatively "low-maintenance." "Most of our time is spent in Supervalu retail," Sales said. "I believe it can be fixed with the right amount of balance in terms of doing those things that make us competitive," he added, such as competitive pricing, extracting costs out of the business and articulating points of differentiation to the consumer.

“We have accomplished a number of important steps since I became president and CEP mid-way through the second quarter, including the successful refinancing of our credit facility, restructuring our executive leadership team and announcing the closure of 60 stores,” stated Wayne Sales, Supervalu president, CEO and chairman. “Our team is aggressively focused on four key strategic imperatives necessary to improve our business: driving profitable retail sales, growing Save-A-Lot, building our network of successful independent retailers, and reducing costs," he said. “I am pleased that the company continues to generate substantial cash flow. Year-to-date, we have generated more than $400 million in cash flow from operations, and including the proceeds from asset sales, will generate between $900 and $950 million in fiscal 2013. We will use this to reduce our outstanding debt and keep our stores fresh and appealing."

Supervalu reported second quarter fiscal 2013 net sales of $8 billion, down 4.8%. The net loss for the second quarter totaled $111 million, or $0.52 per diluted share. The decrease in net sales primarily reflects both a decline in identical store sales and the disposition of a majority of the company’s retail fuel centers that had contributed $158 million in sales in the second quarter of fiscal 2012. 

Supervalu’s supermarkets generated $5.2 billion in net sales with same-store sales declines of 4.3%. Second quarter Save-A-Lot net sales were up 0.1% to $973 million. Sales benefited from the lift of 47 net new stores. However, comparable store sales were down 3.7%. Sales of Supervalu’s wholesale business totaled $1.9 billion, up 1.1%. 

 

 

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Target firing on all cylinders for the holidays

BY Gail Hoffer

MINNEAPOLIS — Target is enticing shoppers this holiday season with new initiatives, including price match, exclusive gift offerings and shoppable advertisements.

“Target’s holiday plans are built around an outstanding shopping experience, exclusive merchandise and competitive prices,” said Gregg Steinhafel, Target Chairman, president and CEO. “Our guests will be able to shop with confidence this holiday season knowing that we are intensely focused on providing them the right merchandise at the right price.”

For the first time, Target will offer guests the ability to match select online competitors’ prices in its stores between Nov. 1 and Dec. 16. Qualifying online retailers include Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com and Toysrus.com.

Additionally, Target has extended the timeframe for its price match policy for the holiday season, and new this year, the policy includes Target.com. If a guest purchases a qualifying item at Target stores between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, and then finds it for less at Target.com or in a local competitor’s printed ad, Target will match that price.

Members of Target’s REDcard loyalty program who make a purchase using their debit or credit card to make a purchase as of Nov. 1 will now receive an additional 30 days on Target’s existing return policy on nearly all REDcard purchases made at Target and Target.com.

Customers looking for a gift options at various price points can take advantage of Target’s exclusive holiday gifting collection that appears in stores and online beginning Nov. 4. From sweaters and scarves to iPhone cases and journals, the collection features more than 850 gift options for the whole family, ranging in price from $2 to $50.

To make shopping even easier, Target has enabled guests to shop from television spots, bus shelter ads and catalog pages by using their mobile phones to send a text or scan a QR code. Target’s shoppable holiday advertising begins Nov. 7 and continues throughout the season.

Also, just in time for the holidays, Target is now offering free WiFi in all Target stores. The service will provide better access to Target’s award winning mobile app, and enable guests to redeem Target mobile coupons and scan QR codes throughout the store.

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Walgreens taps former Wellpoint strategist as chief strategy officer

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens recently announced the appointment of Brad Fluegel as SVP and chief strategy officer. Fluegel will be responsible for corporate strategy, business development, project management and the corporate consulting team while also working on venture capital efforts. 

Fluegel joined Walgreens after previously serving as executive in residence at Health Evolution Partners. Before that he was EVP and chief strategy and external affairs officer of Wellpoint, a large health benefits company. While at Wellpoint, Fluegel was responsible for long-term strategic planning; government affairs; corporate communications, including public relations; corporate marketing; corporate development; international expansion; innovation and new business ventures.

Prior to Wellpoint, Fluegel was SVP national accounts and VP enterprise strategy at Aetna. In this role, he led the national accounts business and was responsible for developing and executing on strategies that expanded Aetna’s position as a leader in the large employer market. As head of enterprise strategy, Fluegel worked closely with Aetna’s executive committee and board of directors to advance the company’s medium- and long-term business strategies, and ran an internal consulting group responsible for driving the management process and operating efficiency across the enterprise.

Earlier, Fluegel was CEO for Reden & Anders (Ingenix Consulting) and Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, a clinical, actuarial and management consulting practice that served all sectors of the healthcare industry. While there, he negotiated the sale of Tillinghast Health to Ingenix. Fluegel also held several roles in strategy, planning and product development, and management at Harvard Community Health Plan, and organized and led audits, feasibility studies and related projects for healthcare clients at Arthur Andersen & Co.

Fluegel earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor of arts in business administration from the University of Washington. He also serves as a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

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