OPERATIONS

White House to meet with retail leaders on Affordable Care Act implementation issues

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — White House officials have agreed to meet with members of the retail industry to discuss issues associated with implementation of the health reform law, responding to the industry’s July 2 letter urging the administration to immediately release “long overdue” regulations that would allow employers to move forward on the law’s requirements.

The most important policy issue for retailers is clarification of how the administration intends to define a “full-time employee,” said officials with the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Employers have also pressed for a transition phase during which employers who offer coverage in good faith would be exempt from penalties.

The July 2 letter aimed to send a message that these regulations are past due, and RILA is pleased that top White House advisers took notice, said RILA VP government relations Christine Pollack. With less than a year and a half before the statute goes into effect, employers need regulations — not bulletins or guidance — in order to move ahead, according to Pollack.

A key issue, Pollack explained is how the administration intends to define a “full-time employee.” The administration currently is proposing that a full-time employee should work an average 30 hours per week, and would allow employers a three-month “look back” period when determining hours. The administration had originally suggested allowing employers a three-12 month lookback, which RILA says it would prefer.

Many employers also seek a more flexible approach for determining FTE status in order to prevent possible churn between employer coverage and exchange coverage for certain employees, which is another key concern amongst retail and other employers that have varying work hours, Pollack said.

RILA and other employer groups, including members of the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition, are also urging the administration to create a transition period until 2016 during which time employers working in good faith to comply with regulations would not be penalized.

“RILA is gravely concerned that overly burdensome, inflexible regulations will cause millions of Americans to churn in and out of the employer-sponsored system,” the letter says. “Employers of variable workforces face unique challenges. RILA strongly urges that regulations recognize these unique challenges by including flexible approaches that can avoid the revolving door, or churn, effect of employees bouncing between employer-sponsored plans, Exchange coverage, or federal health programs.”

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Myers Group installing QThru mobile platform for smartphone checkout

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Myers Group plans to install the QThru mobile platform, which enables shoppers to scan items with a smartphone as they shop, in its supermarkets. The company has been testing the system for six months at its IGA Ridge Supermarket in Snoqualmie, Wash.

"We wanted to see how our customers embraced this alternative technology and it was enormously popular,” said Tyler Myers, president of the Myers Group, Clinton, Wash., which owns and operates grocery stores, hardware stores, and gas stations, as well as oversees shopping center development.

With the technology, a retailer’s products and pricing are synchronized with the QThru cloud. Customers can then download the QThru smartphone app and start shopping.

To complete the checkout process shoppers enter a previously stored passcode and scan a QR code at a checkout kiosk, which completes the transaction from their phone. QThru uses a cloud-based, fully PCI-compliant, secure storage facility to protect payment and personal information. A receipt is generated from the kiosk, which is highlighted in a different color and is reviewed by a store employee at the door.

“QThru also allows us to offer added value to our customers through exclusive announcements, events and coupons, and we plan to install it now at all of our grocery and hardware,” Myers said.

QThru also allows us to offer added value to our customers through exclusive announcements, events and coupons and we plan to install it now at all of our grocery and hardware stores."

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Yakult Light to enter market

BY CSA STAFF

TORRANCE, Calif. — Yakult U.S.A. is introducing a probiotic drink to the U.S. market.

Yakult Light, which has nearly two-thirds less sugar and one-third fewer calories than regular Yakult, contains active probiotic bacteria called Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota. The product also is made with natural sweeteners and natural flavors, and is free of preservatives, gluten and high-fructose corn syrup. Unlike regular Yakult products, Yakult Light will tout blue and white packaging, with the red Yakult logo.

Yakult Light can be found on store shelves as early as mid-July, the company said.

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