OPERATIONS

Obama support could propel Walmart growth forward

BY CSA STAFF

Washington, D.C. — An endorsement by First Lady Michelle Obama of its new food nutrition and health initiative has helped to propel Wal-Mart Stores forward in its plans to remove political obstacles to further U.S. growth.

The new healthy food drive, in which Walmart is reformulating its Great Value private-label foods to reduce sodium and sugar contents, was announced on Thursday at a community center in a low-income area of Washington, D.C. It was attended by the First Lady, who also leads an administration initiative to fight childhood obesity.

The White House support could represent a significant boost for the retailer as it seeks to win local political support for new stores in Democrat-run cities including New York, Washington, Baltimore and Los Angeles, following a deal last summer to start opening stores in Chicago.

The retailer announced plans for the first four Walmart stores in Washington, D.C., in December, but is facing protests from union-backed groups who argue that Walmart’s non-union, low-cost model undercuts the benefits offered by unionized competitors.

In New York City, the retailer is reported to have lined up a site for its first store, rejoining a battle after at least two previous efforts to enter New York were blocked by city politicians.

Opponents of Walmart are expected to use a planned city council committee meeting next week to outline their case against the retailer.

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OPERATIONS

Lowe’s names successor to departing CIO

BY CSA STAFF

Mooresville, N.C. — Lowe’s Cos. said Thursday that executive VP and chief information officer Steven Stone is leaving the company in order to pursue other interests.

Lowe’s said it has named current executive VP store operations and Lowes.com Michael Brown as Stone’s successor.

Brown will report to chairman and CEO Robert Niblock.

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OPERATIONS

Jobless claims fall more than expected

BY CSA STAFF

Washington, D.C. — A report released Thursday by the Labor Department said that U.S. claims for initial jobless benefits last week posted their biggest decline in nearly a year.

The drop erased the holiday-related spike, and illustrated that a healthier labor market remains intact.

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits dropped sharply to 404,000 from a downwardly revised reading of 441,000 in the prior week, according to the report. The 37,000 drop in claims was the biggest since the week that ended Feb. 6, when claims fell by 51,000.

Analysts had expected weekly jobless claims to fall to 420,000.

A big spike in the week ended Jan. 8 may have reflected a backlog of claims built up over the holiday season.

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