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Westlake Ace Hardware, Bolivar, Missouri

BY CSA STAFF

Westlake Ace Hardware is showing off a new, fresh design at its location in Bolivar, Missouri. The 17,845-sq.-ft. store has an organic and modern feel, with a wood and metal façade and polished concrete floors. Garage-style doors (kept open, weather permitting) and skylights allow natural light into the space. The format works to encourage browsing and helps make Westlake a preferred destination for project needs. (Westlake was designed by JGA, Southfield, Mich.)

In addition to a signing and décor package designed specifically for Westlake, the store boasts improved adjacencies and a new layout. Traditional hardware product categories, including tools, electrical, plumbing and paint, are strategically located around the perimeter of the store. Decorative and lifestyle categories are situated in the center. And in a first for Westlake, the Garden Center is attached, and is directly accessible from inside the store. Not only does this allow customers to more conveniently access products, especially during inclement weather, it also provides additional venues to merchandise seasonal items in new and interesting ways.

"We’ve spent the past year studying and analyzing everything we know about our customers: the products they need, their mindset when they shop, and the help they’re looking for," said George Smith, CEO of Westlake Ace Hardware, which operates 86 hardware stores in seven states. "The Bolivar store is the culmination of that effort and I’m convinced we have created a store specifically designed to meet their needs and preferences. From the building materials to the floor plan, it is uniquely designed to deliver a noticeably superior shopping experience to our customers.”


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Bluebird singing sweeter financial song for Walmart

BY CSA STAFF

Who needs a bank? Walmart and American Express have added a host of capabilities to the Bluebird financial service product they introduced last year as an alternative to debit and checking accounts.

The program initially featured no minimum balance requirements or monthly service or overdraft fees. Bluebird Accounts will now be eligible for FDIC insurance and be able to receive direct deposit of government disbursements, such as social security payments, military pay, and tax refunds. Customers can also now balance their checkbook in real-time with pre-authorized check writing, add checks to their Bluebird Account by mail and load funds up to $100,000 annually.

"Since launching Bluebird, we have been listening to our customers’ feedback and working hard to expand its features and services," said Daniel Eckert, vp of financial services for Walmart U.S. "Bluebird is helping customers streamline everyday money management without the frustration of navigating complicated dos and don’ts just to avoid fees."

Eckert said the enhancements make Bluebird a great option for active duty military personnel, government employees and other customers helping them take greater control of their everyday finances.

"When we launched Bluebird last October, we were focused on serving the tens of millions of Americans who are not well served by the traditional financial services industry. The unbanked, underbanked, and the unhappily banked are beset by onerous fees and numerous inconveniences," said Dan Schulman, group president, Enterprise Growth at American Express. "Bluebird is designed to help make their everyday financial lives easier, more convenient and less expensive."

Bluebird’s new capabilities, built on American Express’ Serve platform, are in addition to existing features such as the ability to add checks via smartphones, family sub-accounts and no fee access to cash at 22,000 ATMs for Bluebird members who have enrolled in direct deposit.

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Kroger’s VP and pension investment officer announces retirement

BY CSA STAFF

CINCINNATI — Kroger on Tuesday announced the planned retirement of VP and pension investment officer, Rich Manka. His retirement is effective July 15.

"Throughout his career, Rich has been a trusted member of Kroger’s leadership team," stated Mike Schlotman, Kroger’s CFO. "Pension plan trustees and participants alike have benefited from his vast knowledge and influence on investment strategies and plan designs. We thank Rich for his contributions to our company and industry and wish him the very best."

Manka began his career with Dillon Companies in 1982 as an investment manager for retirement plans. He was promoted to his current position in 2004. He has served on Kroger’s Retirement Management Committee and is chair of the company’s Pension Investment Committee. In addition to serving as an adviser and trustee on various Taft-Hartley Pension Funds, Manka was appointed by President George Bush to serve on the advisory committee of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Kroger has not yet named Manka’s successor.

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