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Duane Reade wins IBM Retail User Group’s Retail Innovation Award

BY Staff Writer

Strongsville, Ohio — The IBM Retail User Group announced Thursday that drugstore retailer Duane Reade is the winner of its 2011 Retail Innovation Award.

The award, which was accepted by Richard Gilbert, director of store systems for Duane Reade, was presented at the User Group’s 34th annual conference in Orlando, Fla., in May.

The innovative solution provider Retail Tech jointly with RTC Group and Agilysys were also honored with the 2011 Retail Solution Innovation Award.

The award was based on Duane Reade’s replacement of hardware and software to comply with the parent company directive to interface to a common pharmacy solution, in a limited span of time, with a limited budget.

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NRF: ‘Extremely disappointed’ in swipe-fee regulations set

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation said Thursday that it is disappointed in the final debit card swipe-fee regulations set by the Federal Reserve.

Under the new rule, the current debit card swipe-fee rate of 1%-2% of each transaction will be replaced with a flat fee of not more than 21 cents per transaction for the nation’s largest banks — substantially higher than the flat fee of up to 12 cents the Fed originally proposed in December 2010.

“American consumers suffered a major loss today,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “We are extremely disappointed that the Federal Reserve chose to be influenced by special interests and ignored the will of Congress and American consumers. While the rate will provide modest relief, it does not go far enough.”

Shay added that the Fed did not follow through to the full extent of swipe fee reform, but that “we take some comfort in knowing that we were able to shine a light on these deceptive practices and bring some relief to merchants and their customers.”

Even though the new regulations set Thursday are a step forward for the industry, NRF has argued that debit-card transactions should be honored at or close to face value since debit cards function as plastic checks that draw from the same bank accounts as paper checks.

Thursday’s action comes three weeks after the Senate rejected an amendment that would have delayed swipe fee reform by at least a year and required the Fed to write regulations more in favor of the banks. The amendment was defeated after NRF launched a nationwide lobbying, grassroots and media campaign.

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Anticompetitive doesn’t translate to Portuguese

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart could be put at a competitive disadvantage in Brazil if a bizarre merger between the company’s two larger rivals proceeds and secures regulatory approval.

The nation’s two largest retailers, Pao de Acucar and France-based Carrefour are attempting to merge their operations in a convoluted deal that has drawn the ire of fellow French retailer Casino, which owns a large stake in Pao de Acucar.

The folks at Casino didn’t take kindly to the head of Pao de Acucar engineering a deal to merge with Carrefour behind their back. If the merger can get past the challenge of a jilted major shareholder the deal would still need to pass regulatory muster and presumably Walmart would have a few thoughts to share on the topic of Brazil’s two largest retailers being allowed to join forces.

Things must work differently in Brazil because in the United States such a combination wouldn’t even be entertained. Here it seems regulators would rather allow a company to flounder, file for bankruptcy and eventually liquidate before approving a combination that might be viewed as diminishing competition. Just look at the situation now facing the three major players in the office superstore channel. Staples has recently fallen on difficult times, and its two smaller rivals are not weathering well the protracted downturn in business spending.

A combination of Office Depot and OfficeMax is viewed by many in the space as a rational move that could create a stable and viable company yet the deal doesn’t move forward due to lingering antitrust issues and a narrow view of the competitive landscape that dates back to 1997. That is when Staples tried to buy Office Depot and the deal encountered stiff opposition from regulators and wound up in court. Ironically, the market was more fragmented back then, but the government prevailed.

Brazilian regulators wouldn’t bat an eye at that deal considering Carrefour and Pao de Acucar decided to move forward with a tie up that is said to result in the combined company owning one third of the retail market.

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