September 10 2012
A shopper in the Jewel-Osco in Skokie, Ill. (Brent Lewis/For the Chicago Tribune) (Brent Lewis/For the Chicago Tribune / August 24, 2012)
Supervalu Inc. said it would close about 60 stores as it works to turn around its grocery business, which lags that of rivals Kroger Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Supervalu on Wednesday said it would close the majority of the "underperforming or non-strategic stores" before the end of its fiscal third quarter ending Dec. 1.
Locally based Jewel-Osco said it is always evaluating underperforming stores, but would not say whether any other stores other than its Michigan City, Ind., outlet were slated to close. The move was announced last month.
Stores slated to be shuttered include 27 Albertsons supermarkets located in Southern California and the Intermountain West region as well as 22 Save-A-Lot locations.
Supervalu expects to record a pre-tax charge of $80 million to $90 million in fiscal 2013 related to the closures, with all but $3 million in estimated severance costs being non-cash.
Over the next three years, the company estimates that closing the stores will generate between $80 million and $90 million in cash through real estate transactions, eliminating cash operating losses and selling departmental assets.
September 8 2012
by: Josh Hunt
I recently wrote an article titled Technological Unemployment and after a mixed response I decided that I would do a series of articles based on how various different employment sectors are removing the human element from the work process. There are a number of issues affecting the global economy and one aspect that economists either disregard or ignore is technological unemployment. Technological unemployment is an inconvenience to modern society because by its very nature has the ability to crash our entire social system. This is the first part of an ongoing series of articles that will be published over time and today I shall concentrate on the retail sector.
In 2008 the retail sector employed over 3 million people in the UK (11% of the national workforce) and a high percentage of these jobs are based on the shop floor. As you can see, retail accounts for a sizeable chunk of employment in the UK, yet there are a number of technological developments that threaten the jobs of these 3 million workers. Whilst it will take time for new technologies to be introduced, as the costs of these technologies fall the benefits and cost reductions will be realised not only by large retailers but also small to medium sized firms also. You’ve probably already seen the introduction of self-service checkouts in a number of small to medium sized stores all over the place.
Smartphone Payments – Near Field Communications (NFC)
One development we’re beginning to see come to fruition is smartphone payment technology such as Near Field Communications (NFC). This technology will greatly make the customer service process far more efficient and helps take away the need for human service. By combining NFC with self-service checkout technology it is clear to see the benefits that can be gained by businesses of all sizes, especially considering the cost to incorporate this technology is falling all the time.
September 8 2012
by: Josh Hunt
Following on from an article I wrote back in May entitled Automation Part 1 – Retail I felt that the next logical step in the automation series would be food preparation and service. People always use restaurants as an example of an industry where technology simply can’t take over. I would of course argue differently. Although I don’t expect technology to take hold of the food industry within the next five years I do believe that within ten years time technology will be commonplace in restaurants and cafes globally. Much of the technology required to automate a food establishment has been developed and is available right now and with the potential to replace humans in the workplace the popularity of this technology will grow and grow. I’m sure many of you have started to see various new technologies appearing in eateries already.
By looking at the ordering process in a restaurant, the stage in the operation that can cause the most amount of confusion and problems, we can see that the technology to automate this process has been available for a number of years. Touchscreen technology opens up the possibility of the customer being able to choose whatever they want off of the menu without any interaction with humans at all. This helps eradicate many of the problems that arise through miscommunication and errors made by waiters and waitresses. Of course there will still be an element of operator error, but as technology continues to become more intuitive and user friendly the number of mistakes will reduce enormously. This technology is already being implemented across the globe and as it grows in sophistication the need for a human to take an order will be all but removed. The automated menu will be a much cheaper option for any restaurant and because of this I’m sure we’ll see this trend grow.
September 4 2012
by: CNN Money
Watchdog group's report says $1B in government subsidies have aided the retailer's expansion.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Over $1 billion in government subsidies have gone into transforming discounter Wal-Mart Stores from a regional discount store operator into the world's largest retailer, according to a report Monday from Good Jobs First, a Washington-based subsidy watchdog group.
"Wal-Mart presents itself as an entrepreneurial success story, yet over a few decades it has made extensive use of tax breaks, free land, cash grants and other forms of public assistance," Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First said in a statement.
The study, which is funded in part by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, found that 91 Wal-Mart stores have received individual subsidies ranging from $1 million to about $12 million, in the form of free or reduced-priced land, job training funds, sales tax rebates, tax credits and infrastructure assistance, including investment in roads.
In total, these subsidies amounted to $245 million, the report said.
September 4 2012
by: Jeanne Sahadi
Social Security and Medicare -- the country's two biggest entitlement programs -- will run dry earlier than expected, according a report Friday from the programs' trustees.
After the programs' trust funds are exhausted, Social Security and Medicare will be taking in only enough money to pay a portion of promised benefits to retirees.
Combined, the cost of the programs represented 8.4% of the size of the nation's economy last year -- a figure that would jump to 11.8% by 2035.
The reason: The number of beneficiaries will explode as more Baby Boomers retire and lower birth rates will slow growth in the number of workers paying into the system. (How entitlements will eat up tax dollars)
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner urged policymakers to take steps to shore up the two programs.
"We should not wait for the trust funds to be exhausted to make the reforms necessary to protect our current and future retirees," he said. "Larger, more difficult adjustments will be necessary if we delay reform."
Social Security: Exhausted in 2036
Social Security will have sufficient resources to pay 100% of promised benefits through 2036. That's one year earlier than last year's forecast because the economic recovery has been slower than expected and seniors are living longer.
August 28 2012
by: Sarah Hedgecock
When WikiLeaks began releasing internal e-mails from the powerful “global intelligence” firm Stratfor, it created a web-wide burst of conspiracies, warnings, and activism about TrapWire, a privately run surveillance system that at first glance seems pretty science fiction-y. So don your tinfoil hat and learn all about TrapWire, Stratfor, and what you should really be worrying about.
What is TrapWire?
While it’s been widely described as a Minority Report-like, global facial-recognition surveillance system to predict your every move, it’s actually much less exciting than that. TrapWire is kind of predictive, but it doesn’t apparently rely on facial recognition—probably because the company isn’t very good at that particular technology yet. It’s not necessarily worldwide, though its list of reported users is pretty extensive: Las Vegas casinos, #10 Downing Street, the New York City subway system (though the Department has flatly denied using the system), the LAPD, Washington, D.C., and all of Texas. Basically, TrapWire uses whatever closed-circuit cameras the user can access (like those domed security cameras on the ceilings of grocery stores, in the subway, and, well, everywhere else) to monitor activity. Nothing new so far; security cameras tend to do that kind of thing. But here’s where it gets interesting: “suspicious activities” – taking pictures, making measurements, and other things that could point to a nefarious terrorist plot – can be flagged. These are combined with civilian reports aggregated by the software (think “If you see something, say something”), and assessed by TrapWire analysts. The resulting “suspicious activity reports” are sent to the user and any relevant law enforcement, including the Department of Homeland Security. The idea is to catch potential terrorists before they actually do anything and to connect geographically dispersed plotters and plots. Or that, at least, was Stratfor’s sales pitch about the system, and what the Web was responding to.