Posts tagged with "Target"

Trump’s Goodyear boycott shows how political and social tensions can flare over workplace attire

August 21, 2020

On August 19, President Donald Trump urged Americans nationwide to boycott Akron, Ohio-based Goodyeartweeting, “Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES – They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS.”

The tire company said there was no specific ban, but it had asked employees to refrain from some workplaces expressions that might inflame political and social discourse at work.  

And Goodyear is not the only American business that is trying to stop divisive debates in the workplace. Even as companies declare support for the Black Lives Matter movement, some are not allowing employees to wear masks or other attire that expresses solidarity with the cause, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Employees have pushed back against what they say is an attempt to silence them—staging protests at Whole Foods, denouncing Trader Joe’s on Twitter, calling for boycotts of Taco Bell and Starbucks—while their employers defend the restrictions as a matter of dress code.

Alrady, there have been attire-related incidents: On Long Island, New York, a Target customer was asked to leave after confronting an employee wearing a Black Lives Matter mask and asking if she didn’t think all lives matter, according to news reports describing the June 25 incident.

Employers, reluctant to alienate customers or employees, may hope banning personal statements across the board will keep conflict at bay. But they must consider the legal ramifications of restricting certain forms of expression, and the cost of bad publicity and poor employee morale, the Tribune notes.

“This is definitely a challenge employers are going to face, if not now it is likely they will face it in future,”  Lauren Novak, an attorney with Schiff Hardin in Chicago who represents employers in labor and employment cases, told the news outlet.

.In the Chicago suburbs, a Costco employee told the Tribune that she wore a Black Lives Matter mask to work after hearing about managers making racially insensitive comments to other employees at the warehouse. After working two shifts with the mask, the employee was called into a manager’s office in late June and told to stop wearing it because it was “political,” “controversial” and “disruptive,” the employee told the Tribune.

In a silent protest in the days that followed, the employee, who is Black, said she arrived at work wearing the mask, made sure people were watching, and flipped it inside out upon clocking in.

“For so long we have been taught that we cannot speak out against an unjust system that affects every aspect of our life,” said the employee, who has worked at Costco for more than a decade and asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. “We are supposed to shut up and take it.”

Cellphone photos of Costco’s employee handbook that the employee provided to the Tribune show its dress code says only that employees must be “neat, clean and professional.” People identifying themselves as Costco employees have posted pictures of themselves on Facebook wearing attire at work that celebrates LGBTQ pride.

Costco declined a request from The Chicago Tribune to comment or answer a list of written questions.

Last week, the Chicago-area employee said she was given permission to wear a mask depicting a raised fist as long as it doesn’t include words. The employee plans to make more such masks to distribute to co-workers who want them.

Private employers have the right to regulate what employees wear to work. But restricting some forms of expression could risk violating labor or employment law.

Employers should consider whether employees are wearing Black Lives Matter masks to protest racially discriminatory working conditions, which could be considered protected, concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act, Novak said.

Employers also could face allegations of discrimination or creating a hostile work environment if the dress code policy isn’t consistently enforced and disadvantages people based on race or another protected class, said Fern Trevino, an employment lawyer in Chicago who represents workers.

They could run into issues if attire celebrating LGBTQ pride is permitted but Black Lives Matter is not.

“Employers should inform employees of the dress code policy in writing and should assure the policy is consistently and equitably enforced,” Trevino said.

Some companies have responded to public pressure—and some have not.

Taco Bell apologized after an Ohio employee who declined to remove his Black Lives Matter mask was fired from a franchised restaurant, saying “we believe the Black Lives Matter movement is a human rights issue and not a political one.” The fast-food chain told USA Today that it doesn’t prohibit the wearing of such masks and is working to clarify its policies.

However, Whole Foods says that “in order to operate in a customer-focused environment,” employees must comply with its long-standing dress code prohibiting clothing with visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not company-related. It provides face masks to employees if theirs don’t comply.

Whole Foods, which sent home two New Hampshire employees for wearing Black Lives Matter and “I Can’t Breathe” masks, has seen protests in Massachusetts, Philadelphia and Seattle over the issue.

A central concern for employers is that allowing employees to wear Black Lives Matter apparel will provoke other employees to don All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter—or other potentially divisive slogans, Novak said.

It’s a “woke” world we’re living in now: Employers will have to decide whether they will take a stance against those viewpoints, she said.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Coming to America: Baylis & Harding launches Goodness vegan hand wash collection at Target

June 24, 2020

Mrs. Meyers, the wildly popular U.S. hand soap, has a new competitor from across the pond—a vegan hand soap collection from Britain’s Baylis & Harding that is being launched at Target on June 23.

Although the Worchestershire, England-based brand—made with essential oils, aloe vera, olive oil, and other “thoughtfully chosen ingredients”—is new in the U.S. market; in the U.K., it is the #1 Décor Display hand wash brand, the company claims.

Available in four key fragrances—Lemongrass & Ginger, Sea Kelp & Peppermint, Rose & Geranium, and Oud, Cedar & Amber—the Goodness collection is inspired by nature with blended plant-based formulas, according to Baylis & Harding.

All four soap options “use only the finest, natural and organic extracts and essential oils to deliver a 98% naturally derived formulation that is 95% biodegradable, packaged within a 100% PCR (post-consumer recycled) bottle,” the company promises.

The dermatologist-approved hand wash line also is dye free, paraben free, silicone free and uses a mild coconut-derived surfactant as an alternative to sulfates.

Target will sell each bottle for $5.99—slightly more pricey than the Mrs. Meyers brand.

Research contact: @Target

Target will extend ‘hazard pay’ to frontline workers through July 4

May 19, 2020

Target, the eighth-largest U.S. retailer, has announced plans to extend its temporary $2-an-hour pay hike for frontline workers through July 4 as the company continues to deal with higher demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reports.

The company also is extending policies that give employees who are 65 or older, pregnant. or with medical conditions paid leave for up to 30 days. In addition, workers will get access to backup care for children or family members.

Bloomberg notes that the way in which the store is stepping up for its employees “contrasts with recent moves by retailers such as Amazon and Kroger, which are winding down higher hourly pay initiatives as the coronavirus lockdown persists.”

This will be the second extension of higher pay for Target, which initially announced wage increases in March. The Minneapolis-based retailer has seen a big boost from selling essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic, but investors are bracing for lower margins due to the higher costs and the possibility it will write off slow-selling merchandise like clothing, according to the business news outlet.

Companies allowed to operate through the pandemic, such as supermarkets, warehouses, and transportation firms, have benefited from a boost in demand and a labor market swollen with newly unemployed workers. However, their treatment of workers has drawn regulatory scrutiny; as well as protests from employees worried about catching COVID-19 at work and bringing it home to their families.

Research contact: @business

Mochi ice cream goes mainstream

December 10, 2019

Walk into any supermarket today and you’ll find what used to be exotic edibles: They are called mochi—and they are small, frozen, bite-size balls of ice cream encased in rice dough.

In just the past three years, this finger food confection has evolved from an exotic niche dessert to a mainstream product, popping up nearly everywhere, including malls, street fairs, and major supermarket chains, CNN reports.

Mochi was invented in the United States nearly three decades ago, and was originally made using ice cream flavors with an Asian flair.

“It’s been around since the 1990s, but mochi ice cream was mostly available in specialty Asian food stores or on menus of Japanese restaurants in flavors like green tea, red bean and mango,” said Russell Barnett, a food industry veteran and chief marketing officer of Los Angeles-based My/Mo Mochi.

To help bring it to the masses, My/Mo created a flavor list most consumers felt instant familiarity with, such as chocolate sundae, S’mores, cookies & cream, strawberry, double chocolate and mint chocolate chip.

“I grew up eating vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. Green tea and red bean weren’t a common part of the flavor profile in most households,” he told CNN.

Barnett recognized the inherent appeal of mochi ice cream to Millennials, a group he calls “a snacking generation.” Mochi is a portion-control snack of about 110 calories per ball, easy to hold and eat on the go. “We just retooled and adjusted it for today’s consumers,” he said.

My/Mo Mochi ice cream (which is gluten-free with some dairy free varieties) is produced at a manufacturing facility in Los Angeles and sold in packages of six, CNN reports. They’re also sold individually in portable freezers that Barnett calls self-serve “ice cream bars.”

Currently, My/Mo Mochi is now available in 20,000 stores nationwide. “We are in Target, Kroger, Walmart and everything in-between,” said Barnett. “We are reaching the masses where they shop.”

Competing mochi ice cream brands include Bubbies, Maeda-En and Mr. Mochi, but the My/Mo Mochi brand has captured close to 90% of market share, according to data from Nielsen. The brand’s sales were $175 million in annual revenue in 2019, according to Barnett.

Research contact: @CNN

Cheap thrills: How discount grocery chain Aldi is giving fancy supermarkets a run for their money

December 9, 2019

For years, Amber Walker held a dim view of Aldi, the discount grocer whose U.S. headquarters sits just a mile from her Batavia home, outside Chicago.  She associated it with dented 10-cent cans and no-name brands. She did not understand why, of all things, it also sold hammocks.

But Walker’s negative perception swiftly changed after her first visit to Aldi in decades in 2016, when the chain started accepting credit cards, and she found not the dingy floors from her childhood memories but a budget Shangri-La, The Chicago Tribune reports.

She could buy a week’s worth of groceries for her family of four for less than $100, and discover treasures in an aisle dedicated to random rotating items that “I don’t need but can’t live without.” Aldi, at least in Walker’s eyes, got even better when it broadened its limited selection to include more fresh, organic and high-end products—still at steep discounts— while undergoing an aggressive national expansion and chainwide remodeling blitz. Walker’s store in Batavia, renovated in 2017, even got a bakery.

Indeed, today, Aldi—which operates more than 1,900 stores in 36 states—takes what it calls “a simple, cost-effective approach to grocery shopping that saves [customers] on their grocery bills.” The store claims to save  shoppers up to 50% on their weekly must-haves by offering Aldi-branded goods—many of them manufactured by the nation’s leading food producers—instead of  name brands.

As a spruced-up Aldi climbs toward its goal of having 2,500 stores by 2022—which would make it the third-largest grocer in the nation by store count—converts like Walker are putting aside old perceptions of the brand and embracing the no-frills ethos that allows Aldi to sell quality products for cheap.

Although, The Chicago Tribune reports, behemoths like Walmart and Kroger continue to dominate the market, they are watching their backs as the German-born chain reshapes expectations of the shopping experience.

“I’m always shocked at what I can get for the cost,” said Walker, 37, an animal trainer who previously did her regular shopping at Walmart, Meijer, Costco and Super Target. “Aldi gets my business first, and then I will fill in holes elsewhere.”

Known for cost-saving measures—such as requiring customers to bag their own groceries and pay a quarter deposit to access a grocery cart—Aldi says its customer base has swelled as it modernizes its digs and broadens its selection to include items like fresh salmon, organic strawberries and artisanal cheeses.

At remodeled stores, which have been expanded to fit a bigger produce and fresh foods section, customer traffic has increased by 30% to 40%, Scott Patton, vice president of Corporate Buying told the Chicago-based news outlet.

“The more variety of products we carry, the more customers view Aldi as a place they can do their first shop of the week,” he said. While shoppers still have to go elsewhere for fresh ginger or water chestnuts or organic tofu— though Aldi is testing the latter—and can’t get a single lime without buying a one-pound bag, Patton said Aldi should cover 90% to 95% of their grocery list.

Aldi is ending the year with 2,000 stores, including 160 in the Chicago area, its largest market by store count. It has completed 70% of its $180 million in planned local renovations and is gaining ground on Jewel-Osco, the biggest local player, which has 188 stores in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.

And the outlook is excellent: In a report last year, Morgan Stanley said one in five customers who recently switched grocery stores took their business to Aldi, a greater share than opted for Costco, Kroger, Target and Whole Foods. Walmart, the market leader, got 30% of switchers, but that was flat from the prior year while Aldi’s share was up significantly.

However, for all the Aldi nerds, there are plenty of people who prefer a more robust grocery experience, The Chicago Tribune says. Aldi does not have prepared hot foods or in-store dining options or butcher counters that shoppers value elsewhere.  At least, not yet.

“Would we ever have a piano player, a sushi bar or juice bar?” Patton said. “I would never say never. But I would say this: If we ever had any of those things, it would be the most efficient of our competitors, and we would do it better and faster than anyone else.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Cheap thrills: Dollar General’s new $5 beauty brand is going viral

September 10, 2019

Fashionistas, take note: There’s a new brand in the beauty business—and it’s not sold at swanky cosmetics counters for big bucks, or at drugstores, either.

Launched last spring, Dollar General’s humble, $5-and-under Believe Beauty cosmetics line is available at the chain’s 15,000 locations nationwide—and it has gone viral, thanks to the raves of social media beauty bloggers.

According to a report by CNN, Dollar General partnered with a beauty manufacturer on the private-label line of lipsticks, eye shadows, foundations, nail polishes, and skin care essentials; and is giving it prime real estate at stores: It’s displaying the 150-product collection in dedicated sections at the end of store aisles, making it easy for customers to find.

The aspirational brand is “an important part of our strategy,” CEO Todd Vasos told the network news outlet.

Dollar General executives say they developed the brand to bolster the company’s hold on existing customers and improve its thin profit margins. Dollar General also hopes to draw Millennials with the brand. Millennials probably won’t post online about snacks or a new mop they bought at Dollar General, but they love showing off their new makeup online, CNN notes.

Dozens of Believe reviews on by beauty vloggers on YouTube already have racked up hundreds of thousands of page views. One 16-minute YouTube review from a beauty vlogger has 125,000 views. Instagram is flooded with more than 3,000 posts using “#believebeauty.”

All that social media attention means free advertising for Dollar General. It boosts the company’s image with younger shoppers and is helping lift the dollar-store empire.

“People like those kind of videos because it’s something different,” Taylor Horn, a blogger who reviewed Believe on her YouTube channel, told CNN Business. Her channel has more than 750,000 followers.

“It’s cool when lines like Believe Beauty launch, where it’s accessible,” she said. “I think it’s more achievable and the things that your everyday consumer can afford.”

Dollar General is following a similar strategy to Walgreens, Target, Zara, Forever 21 and even 7-Eleven, CNN points out. These companies have all added their own in-house cosmetics lines in recent years.

Research contact: @CNN

Mrs. Meyer’s should watch her back now that Target is rolling out Everspring

April 23, 2019

Mrs. Meyers had better watch her back, along with the other “clean” household brands that are hitting the market. On April 22, discount retailer Target  launched Everspring, a private-label household essentials brand that comprises more than 70 products—from hand soap to laundry detergent to paper towels.

What’s more, the new, “clean” products range in price from $2.79 to $11.99, which is about 20% less than other comparable products on the market already.

Developed by Target’s internal design team as a down-to-earth solution that is up to Earth’s standards, Everspring products include ingredients and components that are derived from plants or use other renewable materials, as well as post-consumer recycled paper. The assortment was designed with  what Target describes as “simple yet beautiful packaging that guests will be proud to have in their homes.”

The launch is part of Target’s ongoing investment to roll out more in-house brands, according to a CNBC report—including recent lines for apparel, furniture and home decor. The company is on track to have over two-dozen of its own new private labels in stores by the end of the year. These brands offer the retailer higher profit margins since it can set its own prices and bypass any middlemen.

“It has taken over a year,” to bring Everspring to life, said Christina Hennington, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Target’s Essentials category. “From the sourcing to the packaging, … we had to do it right. … We hired the right expertise to make sure the chemical quality was up to expectations.”

The Everspring line is unique for Target in that all of the items — such as cleaning wipes, dish soap and all-purpose cleaner—are either biobased, meaning they’re derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine and forestry materials or are made from recycled materials and natural fibers, according to the company. They use 100% natural fragrances to make scent combinations like mandarin and ginger, and lavender and bergamot. And they’re not tested on animals.

“The consumers who seek this transparency of chemicals … becoming educated on what is right for them and their family … it’s a younger consumer,” Hennington said. “But you can’t say that across the board. There is someone of every age who cares about what goes on their bodies and in their bodies.”

Target said its sales of “naturals”—including “clean” brands like Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation and Method—have grown by double-digits year-over-year since 2016. Seeing this heightened demand on its website and in stores, Target wanted to take a bigger stake in the space.

Everspring-branded items will be marketed with a new “Target Clean” icon that was launched by the retailer earlier this year, indicating a product is made without a group of commonly unwanted chemicals such as sodium laureth sulfate or propylparaben. Target is starting to put the logo on certain household essentials, beauty products, personal care items and baby goods.

“We are listening to our guests … and doing our homework to know what their expectations are,” Hennington said.

Research contact: @Target

For ‘the morning after,’ Pedialyte offers Sparkling Rush powder packs

December 31, 2018

If the “merry” and the “happy” have skedaddled from your holiday season as a result of one too many glasses of eggnog or champagne—or a case of the flu—Pedialyte says it has just the solution (literally) in a new drink for the adult market.

The company, a subsidiary of Abbott Laboratories, has launched Sparkling Rush, which it describes as “advanced rehydration with a fizz, with an optimal balance of electrolytes and carbohydrate to prevent mild to moderate dehydration.” Free of artificial colors, the clear rehydration drink comes in grape and cherry effervescent flavors—stored for on-the-go use in convenient powder packs that can be poured into a glass of water and activated in ten seconds.

“The holiday season is unfortunately rife with dehydration pitfalls,” Pedialyte says in a December 19 release. “With flu season in full effect, air travel to visit loved ones, and even those late nights out with friends, you’ve got a recipe for your body to lose more water than it takes in—causing dehydration. Losing water also means losing electrolytes—essential minerals like sodium and potassium that are responsible for maintaining proper fluid levels in your body, balancing your blood’s pH levels, and firing signals to your nerves and muscles. Dehydration can bring on a headache, fatigue, even dizziness, which is no way to celebrate.”

And a glass of tap water won’t do the job nearly as fast, because it won’t provide enough of the electrolytes that your body is missing. What’s more, the company claims, while some people turn to sports drinks for those essential minerals, “the leading ones aren’t optimized for rehydration like Pedialyte. They are higher in sugar and lower in sodium, and may actually make dehydration worse.”

Specifically, the company asserts, “Each Pedialyte product has at least 1,030 milligrams of sodium and no more than 25 grams of sugar per liter; while leading sports drinks contain an average of 460 milligrams of sodium and 58 grams of sugar per liter.

The new product is available at Target and Meijer grocery stores nationwide, as well as online at Amazon

Research contact: @AbbottNews

UK ‘player’ Hamleys may expand into U.S. toy sector

December 11, 2018

Although Toys R Us has returned as a pop-up store at Kroger for the holidays (and maybe longer), the retailer that used to rule the toy realm is just a shadow of its former self. And, without the industry leading Toys R Us megastores, nationwide, an $11 billion toy industry has been left with no dominant retail player in the sector, reported CNBC on December 10.

Companies like TargetWalmartAmazon and Kohl’s are trying this holiday season to sell more toys to kids and their parents, but the verdict is still out on which company will best fill the void that Toys R Us left behind, the news outlet said.

But now—seeing a huge opportunity— one iconic, international toy retailer could soon make its first move into the States with a flagship location in New York, and plans for a wider rollout of stores to follow. British toy retailer Hamleys is close to finalizing a deal for roughly 30,000 square feet at 2 Herald Square in Manhattan, near Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret, a person familiar with those negotiations told CNBC, requesting anonymity because the talks are confidential. The store is expected to open in 2020, should the deal go through, said the source—cautioning talks are still ongoing between the tenant and landlord and nothing has been finalized.

According to CNBC, Hamleys has been around since 1760 when it opened its first location in England. Today, it has a flagship shop on tourist destination Regent Street in London, in addition to locations all across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. And in North America, Hamleys has three stores in Mexico.

In the United Kingdom, Hamleys’ stores are known to draw kids in for exciting experience, including the opportunity to play with life-size Lego figures. Often, employees dress up as fictional characters to entertain shoppers. This excitement in stores is what many people say the toy industry is now missing in the United States, CNBC reports. And shoppers prefer it to the online experience, where it is impossible to pick up a toy and look at it, or try it.

After an opening in New York, Hamleys would likely mote into other  major markets such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami to open store;  and would consider moving into some of the more profitable malls in the country, said the person familiar with its plans.

Hamleys didn’t immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Research contact: @laurenthomasx3

StarKist faces $100 million fine for fixing tuna prices

October 23, 2018

Charlie the Tuna is “on the hook” for a felony. StarKist—which has long been represented by the cartoon mascot (or spokes-tuna) in its brand advertising—has agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of packaged seafood sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced on October 18.

The DOJ said StarKist—which is owned by Dongwon Industries of South Korea— faces up to a $100 million fine when it is sentenced, the Chicago Tribune reported. In addition to pleading guilty, StarKist has agreed to cooperate in the investigation.

Prosecutors allege that the industry’s top three companies conspired between 2010 and 2013 to keep prices artificially high.

“The conspiracy to fix prices on these household staples had direct effects on the pocketbooks of American consumers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “All Americans have the right to the benefits of free and open competition—the best goods and services at a price free from collusion.  We will continue to hold companies and individuals who cheat consumers accountable.”

“Our citizens’ confidence in the ability to buy goods within an unbiased market is key to sustaining an efficient and fair economy,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, FBI-San Francisco. “This investigation stands as a symbol of our commitment to holding corporations and senior leadership accountable and ensuring that activities such as price-fixing will not be tolerated.”

“We have cooperated with the DOJ during the course of its investigation and accept responsibility,” said StarKist CEO Andrew Choe in a formal company statement, adding, “We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost transparency and integrity.  While this process is long-term in nature, we have addressed the necessary actions required in this plea agreement, including continuing to strengthen related compliance best practices.”

The scheme came to light when Thai Union Group‘s Chicken of the Sea tuna brand attempted to buy San Diego-based Bumble Bee failed in 2015, according to court records. Chicken of the Sea executives then alerted federal investigators, who agreed to shield the company from criminal prosecution in exchange for cooperation.

Bumble Bee Foods last year pleaded guilty to the same charge and paid a $25 million fine—$111 million lower than prosecutors said it should have been, the Tribune reported. Prosecutors said they feared putting the financially struggling Bumble Bee out of business with a high fine and agreed to let the company make interest-free payments for five years.

Two former executives of Bumble Bee and one from StarKist have also each pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges. None of them have been sentenced, the Tribune said..

In addition, the three companies face mounting lawsuits from wholesalers, food service companies, and retailers—among them, Walmart, Target, and Kroger.

Research contact: @TheJusticeDept