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Survey: Aldi top low-price grocer

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Aldi was recognized as the nation’s low-price grocery leader for the fourth year in a row, according to a recent consumer survey conducted by Market Force Information. Aldi announced in December 2013 that it intends to open 650 new stores across the country during the next five years.

When asked to rank the top grocers offering low prices, the 6,200 consumers who participated in the study ranked Aldi first, followed by Costco and Walmart third.

In addition to remaining the low-price grocery leader, Aldi maintained a top five ranking in the categories of good private label brands, accurate pricing and tags and sustainable environment/green policies.

Aldi said it also earned top-five rankings in three new Market Force categories such as courteous staff, fast checkout and nutrition/health information.

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Aaron’s CEO to retire at end of August; company on hunt for new chief

BY Dan Berthiaume

Atlanta – Another retailer is looking for a chief executive: Aaron’s Inc. announced that Ronald W. Allen, 72, will retire as CEO and as a member of the board of directors of Aaron’s, effective Aug. 31. Allen has served on the board since 1997 and as CEO since February 2012.

The board has retained Spencer Stuart, an executive recruiting firm, to assist in the process of identifying Allen’s successor. The search process will include a full review of both internal and external candidates.

Aaron’s has struggled in recent quarters, with the rent-to-own-retailer describing a difficult economic environment for its low- to middle-income shoppers. For the second quarter, Aaron’s revenues rose 22.1% from a year earlier, mainly because of its acquisition of Progressive, a company that offers rent-to-own transactions outside of traditional rent-to-own stores. Earnings, however, fell 65%, however, and revenue from the company’s core sales and lease ownership division was down 2%.

"It has been a privilege to lead the finest associates in the industry, whose commitment, integrity and ingenuity never cease to impress me," said Allen. "With the plans we have in place to deliver improved results in our core business and the transformational acquisition of the fast-growing virtual RTO Progressive business, I believe that we have a strong platform for long-term growth, and I am confident in the company’s future.”

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Report: Russian criminals obtain over one billion passwords

BY Dan Berthiaume

Milwaukee – An organized crime syndicate based in Russia has reportedly obtained 1.2 billion passwords and 500 million email addresses from consumers across the globe. According to a report from security research firm Hold Security, the user information has been stolen from 420,000 Internet sites.

Sites range in all sizes and include sites for small businesses and individuals as well as major global companies. Hold Security would not identify any specific companies or industries that were targeted.

“Hackers did not just target U.S. companies, they targeted any website they could get, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to very small websites,” Alex Holden, the founder and chief information security officer of Hold Security, said in a New York Times report. “And most of these sites are still vulnerable.”

The hacker ring, based in south central Russia and consisting of roughly a dozen men in their 20s, used botnets to infect computers with a virus that allowed them to extract login information. In total, the thieves obtained about 4.5 billion individual records, although overlap of information meant they obtained 1.2 billion passwords and 542 million email addresses.

So far, the hackers mainly seem to be using the stolen information to send targeted spam on social media sites. However, the data could also be sold on the black market and/or used for identity theft.

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