News Watch

FRESHDIRECT COOPERATES WITH IMMIGRATION PROBE FreshDirect last week reportedly suspended some employees while cooperating with federal officials investigating worker documentation at its warehouse. The online grocer said it was selected for an I-9 audit of its payroll records by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative branch of the Department of Homeland Security. It insisted

FRESHDIRECT COOPERATES WITH IMMIGRATION PROBE

NEW YORK — FreshDirect last week reportedly suspended some employees while cooperating with federal officials investigating worker documentation at its warehouse here. The online grocer said it was selected for an I-9 audit of its payroll records by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative branch of the Department of Homeland Security. It insisted the investigation and related actions were not connected to an upcoming union vote. “Preparation for this administrative review is extremely time consuming, and to the degree that employee records must be updated, disruptive to FreshDirect's ongoing operations,” Jim Moore, senior vice president for business affairs at FreshDirect, said in a statement. “In light of an upcoming [union] election among certain of FreshDirect's employees and the busy holiday meal season, the company asked for the review to be postponed until the new year, but that request was ultimately denied.” Published reports last week said that as many as 85 workers could be dismissed as a result of the investigation. FreshDirect employs 900 workers.

STOP & SHOP ROLLS OUT HANDHELD SCANNERS

QUINCY, Mass. — Stop & Shop here has completed a 90-store rollout of a new portable shopping device for consumers called EasyShop, Stop & Shop spokesman Robert Keane said last week. The device replaces the Shopping Buddy shopping cart screen and scanner that had been deployed in 16 Stop & Shop stores. EasyShop, a handheld terminal with a small screen, allows loyalty card shoppers to scan items as they shop and receive targeted offers. However, it lacks touchscreen capability, so shoppers will not be able to transmit deli orders, though they can do so at a deli kiosk and be alerted on the device when their order is ready, said Keane. EasyShop is not able to locate products in the store, which was a capability of Shopping Buddy, but is smaller and less intrusive than Shopping Buddy, Keane noted. Shoppers are being given $12 off their first three orders placed through EasyShop.

ALDI RETAINS NEW PR AGENCY, SETS EXPANSION

BATAVIA, Ill. — Aldi here has retained MWW Group to lead a public relations effort as it steps up its expansion of discount stores into new markets, MWW said last week. Aldi intends to accelerate its store expansion to about 100 new stores per year, up from current levels of 20-30 stores a year, with plans to enter Rhode Island and Florida for the first time in 2008 and to expand into Texas in 2009, Tina-Marie Adams, general manager and senior vice president of MWW, Chicago, told SN. Aldi currently operates 900 stores in 27 states from Kansas to the East Coast.

A&P TO RAISE $380 MILLION IN DEBT OFFERING

MONTVALE, N.J. — A&P here said it will raise $380 million through the sale of convertible notes to help pay for its recently completed acquisition of Pathmark Stores. The notes, consisting of $150 million in notes due in 2011 and $230 million in notes due in 2012, will repay a bridge loan used in the purchase of Pathmark. The notes are convertible to A&P stock or a combination of stock and cash, at the company's discretion. A&P said it also plans to give the underwriters options to buy up to an additional $15 million of notes due 2011 and $25 million of notes due 2012 to cover over-allotments.