NEWS WATCH: WASHINGTON UFCW MEMBERS SPLIT ON NEW CONTRACTS...WAL-MART LOWERS ITS AUGUST SALES FORECAST...DELL FOUNDER INVESTS $20M IN WILD OATS MARKETS

WASHINGTON UFCW MEMBERS SPLIT ON NEW CONTRACTSd Commercial Workers Local 367 here last week voted to accept some of the new contracts offered by supermarket employers in the region, although workers also rejected certain other contracts, according to a statement from the union. A new contract for clerks at Safeway, Albertsons, QFC and Fred Meyer was accepted by a vote of 60%, and a new contract for

WASHINGTON UFCW MEMBERS SPLIT ON NEW CONTRACTS

d Commercial Workers Local 367 here last week voted to accept some of the new contracts offered by supermarket employers in the region, although workers also rejected certain other contracts, according to a statement from the union. A new contract for clerks at Safeway, Albertsons, QFC and Fred Meyer was accepted by a vote of 60%, and a new contract for meatcutters at those chains was accepted by 57%. Members also voted to accept a meatcutters contract at Haggen/Top Food. Contracts were rejected for Fred Meyer central checkstand workers, Haggen/Top Food clerks, Mega Foods meatcutters and Sahara-represented meatcutters, which includes all Saars Marketplace stores, Stadium Thriftway, Metropolitan Market, Summit Trading and Bonney Lake Supermarket. The votes followed by two weeks the acceptance of new contracts by several UFCW locals in the Seattle area.

WAL-MART LOWERS ITS AUGUST SALES FORECAST

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores here last week revised its sales forecast for the month of August, citing slow back-to-school sales and the effects of Hurricane Charley. The company now expects same-store sales for the month to be flat to 2% as compared with last August. Previously, Wal-Mart expected increases between 2% and 4%. Wal-Mart said sales of back-to-school apparel have been below plan, but added that consumables, pet food and paper products were the best-performing categories during the month. Hurricane Charley, which hit Florida on Aug. 13, forced 75 Wal-Mart outlets to close temporarily and affected 200 stores overall, the company said. Wal-Mart is scheduled to report its monthly sales results on Thursday.

DELL FOUNDER INVESTS $20M IN WILD OATS MARKETS

BOULDER, Colo. -- Computer and e-commerce magnate Michael Dell invested $20.5 million in Wild Oats Markets here, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission document filed by the natural foods retailer. MSD Capital, the New York-based manager for Dell's personal investments, purchased 18% of the 30-year bonds offered by Wild Oats in June, with a stock conversion price of $17.70 per share. Wild Oats raised $115 million in the offering, but its stock soon plummeted on poor earnings news it attributed to snags in its turnaround plan. Dell is the founder and chairman of Dell, Round Rock, Texas.

ALBERTSONS EXPANDS ONLINE OFFERING TO SALT LAKE CITY

BOISE, Idaho -- Albertsons here last week said it has expanded its online grocery service, Albertsons.com, to the Salt Lake City area. The site delivers to 60 ZIP codes there. "With a 90-minute delivery window or the alternative of picking up pre-ordered groceries at the store of their choice, our dot-com service is a continuation of our promise to make our customers' life easier," said Frank Taksitch, Utah-area vice president. With this expansion, Albertsons.com now serves 11 major metropolitan areas across the United States, the largest geographic reach of any online grocery provider, Albertsons said.

STEW LEONARD BATTLES OBSTACLES IN STORE OPENING

NORWALK, Conn. -- Stew Leonard's here has halted construction on a 125,000-square-foot store in East Farmingdale, N.Y., and said it plans to file suit against the New York Department of Transportation alleging the agency is preventing it from having access to a major thoroughfare. In a related development, Stew Leonard's said Fairchild Corp., the Virginia-based commercial real-estate company that owns the property on which the company wants to build the store, plans to sue the New York Office of General Services over a portion of the site that was previously sold to the N.Y. DOT for drainage in an effort to allow the sale of the property to Stew Leonard's to proceed. Stew Leonard's has also filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit by the Long Island Business Aviation Association claiming the store would endanger consumers because it would be in the runway protection zone of an adjacent airport.