MD. COUNTY ADOPTS BIG-BOX ZONING RESTRICTIONS
County Council voted 7-0 to adopt zoning rules that would allow retail stores selling groceries and pharmacy and that are larger than 120,000 square feet to locate only in specific commercial zones and with a special permit. The amendment, supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers union and by Landover, Md.-based supermarket chain Giant Food, was opposed by Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., which felt the restrictions unfairly targeted its supercenters. Wal-Mart currently operates only discount stores in Montgomery County, a Washington, D.C., suburb, but the new amendment would complicate an attempt to expand those stores. "Our goal in Montgomery County simply was to create a level playing field," Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant, told SN. "We have to jump through hoops just to develop a store of 50,000 square feet. For mega-stores that are twice the size or more, we feel attention has to be paid to land use, smart growth, the environment and traffic."
CALIF. TO INVESTIGATE WAL-MART HEALTH COVERAGE
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- State legislators here said they plan an investigation next year to determine the extent to which California taxpayers pay the costs of health care for Wal-Mart Stores employees. State Sen. Wes Chesbro, who chairs the state senate's budget committee and budget subcommittee on health and human services, said, "We need to figure out if Wal-Mart is not paying its fair share into the health care system on which we all rely. We all pay more if we allow Wal-Mart to pay less." The issue of how much coverage Wal-Mart provides came up prior to last week's elections, when the Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter donated $500,000 to defeat an initiative that would have required all employers to provide health care, a measure that was ultimately rejected by voters.
HANNAFORD GETS FTC CLEARANCE FOR VICTORY BUY
SCARBOROUGH, Maine -- Hannaford Bros. here expects to close on its acquisition of the Victory Super Markets chain on Nov. 26 after receiving clearance from the Federal Trade Commission to proceed with the purchase, according to Ron Hodge, chief executive officer, Hannaford. "Things are going very smoothly," he told SN. "We're trying not to make a lot of changes." Hannaford in September agreed to acquire 19 of the 20 Victory stores in the southern New England market for $175 million.
KROGER OPENS LARGEST STORE YET IN CINCINNATI
CINCINNATI -- The largest supermarket under the Kroger banner, at 105,000 square feet, opened in Anderson Township, Ohio, last week. The new store eclipses Kroger's 103,000-square-foot Hyde Park store, also in Cincinnati, as the company's largest under the Kroger name, said Gary Rhodes, a spokesman for Kroger. The new store includes a pharmacy, a Starbucks Coffee, a Fred Meyer Jewelers outlet, an expanded wine section, and large selections of cookware and furniture. Kroger operates expanded food and general merchandise stores under the Fred Meyer, Fry's Marketplace and Smith's Marketplace stores in Western states. It has plans to open the first of its food and general merchandise Marketplace stores in Columbus, Ohio, later this year.
FMI LAUNCHES OBESITY RESOURCE ON WEB SITE
WASHINGTON -- Food Marketing Institute here last week said it's created an online resource on obesity for its members and consumers. Found on its Web site at fmi.org under "Obesity Resources" in the "For Consumers" section, it provides information about weight loss and healthful living, with tools to help consumers determine their ideal weight and recommended caloric intake. The Food Processors Association and National Confectioners Association in recent weeks have launched online tools designed to help consumers with weight management, too.