OPERATIONS

Ellen DeGeneres addresses J.C. Penney controversy

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — The popular television talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres said she was “proud and happy” that J.C. Penney remained committed to her after One Million Moms asked the retailer to dump her as a spokesperson because she is gay.

The group, a division of the conservative American Family Association, warned they would boycott J.C. Penney stores if the chain did not go along with their request.

DeGeneres addressed the issue on Tuesday at the taping of her television show. The show will air on Wednesday.

“They wanted to get me fired and I am proud and happy to say that J.C. Penney stuck by their decision to make me their spokesperson,” DeGeneres said.

The comedian said that “normally I try not to pay attention to my haters, but this time I’d like to talk about it because my haters are my motivators.”

The conservative group accused J.C. Penney of trying to appeal to a new target market by getting on board the “pro-gay bandwagon” with the hiring of DeGeneres.

"Being gay or pro-gay isn’t a bandwagon,” DeGeneres said at the taping of her show. “You don’t get a free ride anywhere. There’s no music. And occasionally we’ll sing ‘We Are Family’ but that’s about it.”

She also poked fun at the group, saying that the One Million Moms group “only has 40,000 members on their [Facebook] page. So they’re rounding up to the nearest million and I get that.”

DeGeneres has an estimated 9 million followers on Twitter.

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Supervalu to eliminate 800 positions

BY Gail Hoffer

Minneapolis — Supervalu said Tuesday that will reduce its national work force by approximately 800 positions as part of its long-term turn-around strategy and ongoing efforts to reduce costs. The reductions include both current positions and open jobs that will not be filled.

The affected positions include those at all company offices and crosses most departments, excluding, for the most part, store-level associates. Associates whose positions are eliminated will be eligible for severance and outplacement services based on the company’s eligibility guidelines, said the grocer.

Supervalu said the reductions will take place by the end of the company’s fiscal year on Feb. 25 and will include both current positions and open jobs that will not be filled.

“These reductions are necessary to help further strengthen and accelerate Supervalu’s business turnaround in a very competitive marketplace,” said Craig Herkert, Supervalu’s CEO and president. Supervalu’s strategic plan, which it introduced last year, focuses heavily on improving its retail business through planned price reductions and an emphasis on hyperlocal retailing at its more than 1,100 traditional retail stores across the country.

In addition, the company said it remains focused on investing capital into the growth of Save-A-Lot, its national, hard discount grocery store chain, as well as continuing to expand its wholesale distribution business to more than 2,000 independent retailers nationwide.

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Survey: U.S. consumers more upbeat about finances, job prospects

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Schaumburg, Ill. — Survey results released Tuesday by Nielsen found that nearly half (49%) of U.S. online consumers believe their personal finance prospects will be good or excellent over the next 12 months.

According to Nielsen’s Q4 global consumer confidence findings, the quarter’s results were the highest for 2011 and a six percentage point increase from Q3 2011. The number of U.S. respondents who described their job prospects as “bad” dropped from 28% to 19% between the third quarter and fourth quarter of last year as well.

Overall, the U.S. consumer confidence index rose six points from 77 to 83 for the fourth quarter, in a quarter that saw 60% of participating markets register index declines. The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions tracks consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 28,000 Internet consumers in 56 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism. The latest round of the survey was conducted between Nov. 23 and Dec. 9, 2011.

Almost one third (32%) of U.S. respondents reported having no spare cash in the fourth quarter. For those with plans for spare cash, savings (34%) and paying off debts (31%) scored highest with respondents. Investments ranked last as an option for spare cash. Retirement and stocks/mutual funds each earned only 8% of respondents’ votes.

“As it relates to the economy, the number one concern for consumers is jobs. Recent gains in the U.S. labor market are positively impacting sentiment, but the number of Americans still unemployed or struggling to make ends meet will be continue to be a drag on spending in 2012,” said James Russo, VP global consumer insights, Nielsen. “Other macro trends aren’t helping either, including a weak housing sector, elevated commodity prices and slow wage growth. However, if the economy can sustain growth of 250,000 jobs per month, it will lower the unemployment rate and not only impact sentiment but spending.”

The survey found cutting back on gas and electricity (64%), new clothes (58%) and out-of-home entertainment (56%) were U.S. consumers’ top three strategies for saving money. When asked what they will continue to do when economic conditions improve, consumers’ top three answers were: cut back on gas/electricity (54%); cut back on take-home meals (34%) and switch to cheaper grocery brands (29%).

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