aid that same-store sales increased between 1% and 3% last week as customers rushed in to complete holiday shopping. Sales of gift cards, food and general merchandise all increased and volume was up on increased store traffic as compared to the same period a year ago. Wal-Mart reported a slower-than-expected start to the holiday shopping season.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market here said last week that it had agreed to a new three-year distribution agreement with United Natural Foods, effective Jan. 1. The agreement is consistent with the terms of Whole Foods' current supply agreement with Dayville, Conn.-based United Natural, a deal that expired last week. The new contract requires Whole Foods to purchase a majority of the products from the distributor in markets United Natural serves in the categories of natural and organic grocery items, frozen foods, branded bulk items, vitamins, supplements, and health and beauty. Produce, non-branded bulk items and alcoholic beverages are not covered. Whole Foods accounts for approximately 26% of net sales for United Natural, which has supplied the fast-growing, natural-products retailer for more than 10 years.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Spartan Stores here has amended its financing agreement with a series of banks, increasing its credit facility to a $215 million, five-year term from a $170 million, four-year term, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week. The company expects to use a portion of the amended facility to prepay $13.9 million of higher interest rate borrowings under a secured credit agreement with Kimco Realty. Following the payment to Kimco, Spartan's available credit will increase by approximately $25 million. Separately, Spartan said that it has agreed to sell its 65% interest in one of its stores to its joint-venture partner in that store. Terms were not disclosed. Spartan said its annual sales and after-tax earnings from the venture totaled $20 million and $300,000, respectively. The company entered into a 10-year distribution agreement with the acquirer.
BOISE, Idaho -- Albertsons here has begun to re-brand its in-store pharmacies in Colorado to the Savon Drug name, according to a published report. The changes are part of Albertsons' dual-branding strategy, which is being rolled out to all 44 of its food-drug combination stores in Colorado, a spokeswoman told the Denver Post. Albertsons has completed similar re-branding efforts in other markets including California.
WASHINGTON -- Employers must extend health care coverage for workers on military leave from 18 to 24 months, according to a new law effective this month. The Veterans Benefits Improvement Act, signed by President Bush Dec. 10, applies only if a person's health care coverage would terminate because of an absence due to military service. The new law also requires that companies post a notice informing workers of their rights to this coverage. The Department of Labor will furnish companies with the appropriate notice, which must be posted by March 10.
PARIS -- Carrefour here said last week that it would donate 300,000 Euros (around $408,000 U.S.) in aid to countries hit by the tsunami following Sunday's earthquake in Asia. The retailer, which operates 45 stores in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, said the funds will be used to provide drinking water, food, hygiene products and clothing to the affected countries. Carrefour said its stores in those nations escaped damage.