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Aldi eliminates impulse temptation from some checklanes

BY Mike Troy

Healthy checklanes free of bad-for-you impulse items are coming to nearly all Aldi stores by year end, and that’s just the beginning of the retailer’s stepped up commitment to offering healthier options at its expanding network of 1,500 stores.

Aldi isn’t shooting itself in the foot and getting rid of all impulse items from its checklanes, but rather re-merchandising select checkout lanes to feature healthier options such as single serving of nuts, trail mixes, dried fruits and granola bars.

"By introducing Healthier Checklanes and through a number of other initiatives, we are doing our part to remove temptation at checkout and stocking stores with even more nutritious options," said Aldi CEO Jason Hart. He contends Aldi truly cares about its customers and is responding with guilt-free checkout zones and increased food options customers can feel good about.

The new merchandising initiative follows a major product re-formulation effort last year and comes as Aldi prepares to enter the California market in March with the first of a planned 45 locations expected to be open by year end.

The company said it is making changes beyond the checkout too so as to give shoppers access to more better-for-you options. For example, Aldi said proprietary brand products which account for more than 90% of the products it sells are now free of certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils and added MSG. The company said it has taken the ingredient removal commitment a step further by eliminating artificial growth hormones from the milk used to make cultured products, such as yogurts, sour cream and cottage cheese. The milk Aldi sells has been free of hormones for years, according to the company.

In addition, Aldi said it broadening its product offerings within every aisle, further evidence of the mainstreaming of the fresh, natural and organic movement that drove Whole Foods growth and served as the source of recent strength at Kroger.

Aldi said it is expanding is its selection of fresh and organic meat and produce, including the “Never Any!” brand of meat products that contain no added antibiotics, hormones, animal by-products or other additives. The company also plans to expand its SimplyNature line of products, free of more than 125 artificial ingredients, as well as a gluten-free line of products sold under Aldi’s brand, liveGfree.

Also of note is a change the company is making to put nutritional facts on the front of its exclusive brand food packages, a move that has been resisted by some food manufacturers who want to preserve label fronts for branding messages.

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Boot Barn backtracks on Q3 expectations

BY Gina Acosta

Warm weather, as well as layoffs in the oil and gas industry hindered sales Boot Barn during the holiday quarter.

Boot Barn announced preliminary results for the third quarter ended Dec. 26 as follows:

• Preliminary net sales increased 49% to approximately $194 million;

• Opened 5 new stores and completed the rebranding of 19 Sheplers stores;

• Preliminary same-store sales (which include e-commerce and Sheplers sales) declined approximately 2%, with Boot Barn and Sheplers performing similarly. This compares with previous third quarter guidance of positive low single digits;

• Preliminary adjusted net income per diluted share between $0.43 to $0.44, compared to previous guidance of $0.47 to $0.49.

“During the third quarter we faced increasing headwinds due to the softening of local economies dependent on oil and other commodities, and a challenging retail environment due to unseasonably warm weather in many of our markets," said Jim Conroy, CEO. "We also continued to integrate the newly acquired Sheplers business, which is now largely complete, and we feel very good about the acquisition. The Sheplers e-commerce business achieved solid growth for the quarter. The 19 rebranded stores were negative for the quarter as a result of disruption from remodeling construction, and cycling outsized promotional activity in the prior year period. These stores have turned positive post-Christmas, albeit later than we had anticipated. On a consolidated basis, our same store sales declined in October and November before improving to nearly flat in December. Fortunately, we managed our merchandise levels prudently, resulting in a healthy and clean inventory position as we entered the fourth quarter, which is off to a strong start in the first two weeks.”

Conroy continued: “We are pleased with the double digit growth we were able to achieve in our combined e-commerce channel. We also feel good about the overall Boot Barn concept as we have continued to experience strong same-store sales growth in many of our core markets without significant exposure to commodity prices, including California, Arizona and Nevada. Finally, we have continued to execute on our growth strategies, further expanding our store footprint, improving the merchandise margin at both Boot Barn and Sheplers stores and increasing our private brand penetration, while further solidifying our position as the largest omnichannel western and work wear retailer in the U.S.”

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New York & Co. keeps momentum through holidays

BY Gina Acosta

New York & Co. was able to rise above headwinds from unseasonable weather during the holidays to an increase in same-store sales.

The company says same store sales increased 1.6% during the holiday period and that it expects same-store sales for the full quarter to increase in the low single-digit percentage, in line with the company’s previously disclosed guidance.

“We are pleased to continue our positive momentum anticipating the fourth consecutive quarter of positive comparable store sales growth with sales expected to be in line with our prior guidance," said Gregory Scott, New York & Company’s CEO. "However, we experienced softer demand for cold weather products due to unseasonably warm weather in the Northeast, Midwest and South. These pressures led to sales and margins that are expected to be at the lower end of our prior guidance. We were also pleased to see many positives in the quarter including the continued success of our celebrity collaborations, the expansion of our credit loyalty program to all-time highs, and the dramatic growth in e-commerce as we continue to benefit from our enhanced omnichannel capabilities.”

New York & Company, Inc. is a specialty retailer of women's fashion apparel and accessories. The Company operates 507 stores in 43 states.

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