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Cole acquires three retail centers for $130.9 million

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Phoenix — Cole Real Estate Investments said it has purchased three retail power centers totaling about 875,000 sq. ft. for $130.9 million.

The acquired properties are Hillside Town Center, a 165,000-sq.-ft. center in Hillside, Ill., for $27 million; White Oak Village, a 433,500-sq.-ft. property in Richmond, Va., for $68 million; and Barrow Crossing, a 276,000-sq.-ft. center in Winder, Ga., for $35.9 million. Barrow Crossing is a joint venture with Faison, the original developer of the property.

Hillside Town Center is anchored by HomeGoods, Michael’s, Staples and Petco; White Oak Village is anchored by J.C. Penney, Martin’s grocery, PetSmart, Michael’s and OfficeMax; and Barrow Crossing is anchored by Belk, Publix, TJ Maxx, PetSmart and Staples.

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NRF not pleased with swipe fee settlement

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON — A revised antitrust settlement on the issue of credit card swipe fees doesn’t go far enough, The National Retail Federation said Friday.

“The proposal put on the table this summer was beyond tweaking, and the update presented today proves that fact. It remains manifestly unfair,” NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. “The settlement still does virtually nothing to protect retailers or their customers from the abuses of the card industry, and it attempts to silence any objections for years to come. Retailers would rather take their chances in court than accept this one-sided swindle written by the card industry for the card industry.”

“It should prove very significant to the court that the majority of the plaintiffs in this case have repudiated the settlement, and that includes half a dozen national trade associations representing thousands of merchants,” Duncan said. “The lawyers and handful of retailers who support the settlement do not represent the retail industry.”

Lawyers representing 13 individual retailers and six trade associations ranging from convenience stores to restaurants this summer announced a $7.25 billion proposed settlement of a lawsuit filed against Visa and MasterCard in 2005. But four of the individual companies and all six of the trade associations have rejected the proposal since then.

A revised version of the settlement was filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn Friday, and opponents are expected to have 30 days to voice their objections to the deal.

NRF said it opposes the settlement because it does little to address high fees charged in the past and nothing to prevent them from rising higher in the future. The $7.25 billion figure represents less than three months’ worth of swipe fee collections despite the eight-year period of the lawsuit, and the settlement fails to reform the cartel-like system where Visa and MasterCard set a rigid schedule of swipe fees all banks agree to follow while refusing to negotiate with merchants. The proposal does nothing to disclose the hidden fees or otherwise create transparency that would encourage competition. And retailers would face a long-term ban on future lawsuits over swipe fees, effectively allowing card industry practices to continue unchallenged.

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Walmart likes Facebook — and vice versa

BY Staff Writer

New York — Some Facebook investors may be feeling a bit disgruntled, but Walmart couldn’t be happier with its experience with the social network.

Walmart executives have had nothing but positive things to say about how they are leveraging the platform to engage with shoppers and drive business results. That was the case this week at the Emerging Trends in Retail Conference, organized by The Center for Retailing Excellence at the University of Arkansas. Facebook’s Mike Fox, director of global vertical marketing, and Wanda Young, Walmart’s director of social media strategy, delivered a joint presentation at the conference.

Currently, Walmart has 23 million Facebook fans, which Fox called an "amazing asset," because it is the largest and highest quality Facebook fan base in the United States.

"They have seen significant lift in individual items when they put them through the system they have built," Fox said.

Getting all those fans doesn’t happen by accident. It requires the company to engage with shoppers by providing content, which Fox described as an important foundational step to getting it right on Facebook.

"Connecting to the customer is way more important than simply having a high fan count," Fox said.

He recommended that content be engaging, useful and frequent for maximum effect.

"Walmart is one of the best posters we have on Facebook today,” the Facebook director said. “There are a whole range of things they do that are best in class.”

Walmart detailed some of its Facebook initaitives at its recently-held annual investor conference. The company, which has individual Facebook pages for each of its stores, is now looking to leverage the platform, as well as other social media, to drive sales this holiday season.

"We’re going provide value to our Facebook members with more than two billion impressions during the season," Walmart chief merchandising and marketing officer Duncan Mac Naughton said at the meeting. "That’s three times greater than last year. We’re going to align all of our social media against our marketing platforms so we have a consistent message no matter where you are, whether you’re on your digital phone, whether you’re in the store, or your home computer."

One example Mac Naughton shared is a program called Toy Land Tuesday that features roll back prices based on Facebook fan votes. On Saturday and Sunday, Facebook fans vote what toys they want a rollback on and then new prices are implemented on Tuesday.

A program called Get Connected involves specific deals served up to Facebook fans. And at the end of October, a program called Walmart Gifts is set to launch that looks at top trending toys and offers gift suggestions based on Facebook friends’ wish lists.

Walmart must be doing something right on Facebook. Just a few months ago, when promotional materials were put together for the Emerging Trends conference, Walmart was said to have 17 million fans. At the investor conference, the number cited was 22 million. This week the figure had grown to 23 million and is surely headed higher as holiday activity intensifies.

“There isn’t a single person in the U.S. who doesn’t have at least one friend who is connected to Walmart,” said Facebook’s Fox.

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