by Katie B. Davis/staff writer
The Florida House Judiciary Committee on March 11 voted to approve a bill, originally tailored after Arizona’s immigration law, that attempts to crack down on illegal immigration in Florida.
The bill backs down from the original Arizona-style model, only allowing for law enforcement officers to check up on a person’s immigration status if he or she is the subject of a criminal investigation. An officer cannot ask for immigration documentation if a person is stopped for a traffic violation or other minor infraction.
Despite the change in the proposal, immigration groups have still called it racist, and business groups have feared that it will damage the state’s image and scare off potential businesses ready to invest in Florida.
The bill passed by a vote of 12-6 along party lines, reported the Orlando Sentinel.
On St. Patrick’s Day 2011—six days after the bill was approved—more than 300 people identifying themselves as immigrants descended on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee, reported sunshinestatenews.com.
The protest, organized by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, with heavy support from the AFL-CIO, was primarily designed to target Rep. William Snyder’s bill on enforcement of immigration laws. What is largely being called an Arizona-style immigration policy, HB 7089 has pitted immigrants and those sympathetic to their situation against Snyder (R-Stuart).
“We’re here to fight!” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) to sunshinestatenews.com. “If I can pick your oranges and strawberries, why is it I cannot be included in the population of this great state?” she questioned.
Snyder told the website he’s spoken with several interest groups, including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as they drafted the legislation.
Other provisions in HB 7089 include:
- Prohibiting the use of race, color or national origin in enforcement.
- Requiring every employer to use the federal E-Verify system.
- Prohibiting companies from knowingly employing an unauthorized alien, authorizing complaints to a licensing agency that an employer has violated the law.
Also on March 17, HB 7005—designed to reduce unemployment compensation taxes that businesses pay and reduce the limit on state benefits from 26 to 20 weeks—passed.
The bill also would tie the number of weeks benefits are available to the unemployment rate and would require recipients to take a skills review test to determine if they need additional job training, reports the Naple News Daily.
The bill passed 81 to 38, again largely along party lines. Republicans, who have vowed to make Florida friendlier to business, hold large majorities in both the Florida House and Senate. The Senate is working on similar legislation, which is favored by Gov. Rick Scott.
“These are people who have to feed their families, clothe themselves and they are trying to not lose their homes to foreclosures,” said Rep. Geraldine Thompson, an Orlando Democrat, to the Naple News Daily.
Thompson offered an amendment aimed at getting more federal grant money.
Among other changes the business lobby wants:
- A tighter definition of “through no fault of one’s own”—the standard used to determine whether someone who has lost their job is entitled to unemployment payments.
- An immediate skills assessment when someone registers for benefits.
- More detailed reporting, increased auditing and fraud investigations to ensure people that are receiving unemployment compensation are actively seeking a new job.
- Denial of benefits to anyone who has already received some other form of compensation, such as a severance package.
Hometown grocer going strong
For the 14th consecutive year, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix—which has 384 stores in Central Florida and holds 40.2 percent of the market, according to The Shelby Report’s market shares—has been listed in Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. Publix was ranked No. 67 on the 2011 list and was one of only 13 companies to have made the list every year since its inception in 1998.
Currently, the supermarket chain has 141,217 employees nationwide.
One of the only blemishes for the Southeast grocer, as reported by The Associated Press, is its seemingly stalwart refusal to pay farm workers a penny more per pound for tomatoes.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), along with supporters from church groups, rallied in Tampa for the increased price from Publix stores.
Around 30,000 workers harvest Florida’s $619 million tomato crop, according to the AP. The coalition held three separate marches in downtown Tampa before ending at a Publix store.
Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten, in an e-mail to the News-Press of Fort Myers, said the coalition should instead build the increase into the price it charges with industry.
In other good news for Publix, however, it ranked No. 20 on Fortune’s Best Large-Sized Company list, one of only four companies on the list with more than 100,000 employees. Publix also made the magazine’s list of 15 companies to never have had a layoff.
And despite an unfavorable economic climate in 2010, the Central Florida-based grocer experienced increased sales and earnings.
Based on audited reports filed Feb. 28 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Publix’s sales for the fourth quarter of 2010 were $6.4 billion, a 4.4 percent increase from last year’s $6.1 billion. Comparable store sales for the quarter increased 3.2 percent.
Net earnings for the fourth quarter were $342.1 million, compared to $284.2 million in 2009, an increase of 20.4 percent.
Publix’s sales for the fiscal year ended Dec. 25 were $25.1 billion, a 3.3 percent increase from last year’s $24.3 billion. Comparable-store sales for 2010 increased 2.3 percent.
Publix has thus far opened one new store in the Central Florida market in 2011 at Hays Road Town Center in Hudson. The 45,600-s.f. store located at 14851 State Rd. 52 opened Feb. 3 and has a pharmacy.
“While the market may be competitive, we continue to stay very focused on our customers, customer service and value,” Maria Brous, Publix director of media and community relations, told The Shelby Report. “We strive to deliver on products and services our customers are looking for and meeting and exceeding their expectations. We continue to grow our market share.”
In September 2010, Publix began a yearlong experiment in curbside service at two locations, one being store No. 0754 at the Shoppes of Citrus Park in Tampa.
“As we continue to provide our customers with the service they have grown to expect, we need to provide new and more advanced ways to meet the needs of their growing and changing families,” said Brous. “Publix Curbside is a natural extension of our service commitment, especially for time-starved families.”
According to a March 14 report in the Tampa Tribune, thus far, the experiment has been a success.
“The grocer is finding shoppers are regularly driving up for curbside pickup on their biggest shopping days at the two locations where they have the pilot service,” the paper said.
As part of the service, customers go to the Publix website, select from any item in the store and choose a pickup time. There’s a $7.99 fee for each transaction and payment is tendered when the customer picks up the groceries.
As stated in the Tribune, a few things Publix has picked up on:
- the service is attracting people on a health plan or financial budget who like the discipline of ordering off a list in advance and not exposing themselves to temptation in the store;
- more people are using the service who either have disabilities or simply have a hard time maneuvering through a large store; and
- the average time to load up a car and process the payment has shrunk to just five minutes.
“While there’s a tough economic climate, we see this time as an opportunity to continue to grow our associate base and continue to train and develop our associates. All grocers are fighting for the same share of stomach; this makes strategy execution imperative,” Brous told The Shelby Report.
“We continue to find ways and programs and services that bring value to our customers. Our buy-one-get-one-free deals continue to resonate well with our customers.”
Competitors fine-tune, add stores
Walmart, which has 114 stores in Central Florida and comes in a distant second to Publix with 29.9 percent of the market, renovated three stores, expanded one and opened one over the past year.
The three renovations were in Deland at 1699 N. Woodland Blvd., Spring Hill at 1485 Commercial Way and Kissimmee at 3250 Vineland Rd.
Walmart expanded its store in Clearwater at 23106 U.S. Hwy. 19 N by 30,000 s.f. The store, which originally opened in 1994 at the corner of N.E. Coachman Rd. and Highway 19 N, brought 150 new jobs to the area.
The Bentonville-Ark.-based mass merchandise retailer opened its lone new addition to Central Florida on Oct. 27 in Tampa at 4302 W. Gandy Blvd. The new location brought 300 jobs to the Tampa area.
Save-A-Lot, which ranks sixth in market share in Central Florida with 2.4 percent and has a distribution center in Plant City, opened 20 stores in Florida in its fiscal year 2011 ended Feb. 26. Three of the new stores are located in Central Florida in Crystal River, Deland and Temple Terrace, giving the extreme value, selected assortment grocery chain 129 stores in Florida; 76 of which are in Central Florida.
“Growth is our greatest opportunity in this area,” said Tom Altadonna, Save-A-Lot’s director of licensed market development for the South, to The Shelby Report. “We believe we can open 100 or more locations over the next five years in (Florida).
“The state, and especially the central part of the state, is highly competitive and direct competitors, such as Aldi, are aggressively pursuing development. In addition, you see dollar stores such as Dollar General and Family Dollar expanding as well. It will be critical that we distinguish ourselves from our competitors,” Altadonna added.
Aldi, a no-frills, limited-assortment chain hailing from Germany, established a state headquarters in Haines City in 2008 and launched 24 stores across Central Florida.
In 2010, as Altadonna alluded to, Aldi rapidly expanded, opening stores in Tampa, Orlando, Winter Garden, Leesburg, Brandenton, Port Richey, Seminole, Naperville, Clermont and Kissimmee between May and November.
Sweetbay targets ‘rivals’ with new brand
In early March, Sweetbay supermarkets launched a new, storewide brand of products called “My Essentials,” with prices and nutrition levels directly targeted to beat comparable items at rivals such as Walmart, Target and Aldi, reported the Tampa Tribune.
Delhaize Group-owned Sweetbay has 104 locations in West Central Florida—north to Gainesville, south to Naples, east to Lakeland. The Sweetbay banner came to life in Largo in November 2004 and eventually totally replaced the Kash n’ Karry banner in markets around Tampa/St. Pete.
Sweetbay sister stores also will start launching the project, including Hannaford, Food Lion, Harvey’s and Bloom.
Customers started seeing the My Essentials items on Sweetbay shelves in early March, with hundreds more coming through April in fresh foods and dry goods.
The new food items will be trans-fat free, with lower sodium and sugars but tested in third-party kitchens to match or beat rivals on taste and performance, the company said in a press release. Nutrition information (normally printed on the back or side) will appear on the front of the package. And Sweetbay officials told the Tampa Tribune they’ll offer a double-money-back guarantee if customers don’t like the products.
According to the Tribune article, “Sweetbay officials hope the My Essentials brand helps them stand out in a market where direct rivals have their own signature value offers. Publix heavily advertises its Buy One, Get One free items each week. Walmart promotes its Everyday Low Prices. Target promotes its groceries as conveniently attached to their general merchandise stores. And fast-growing discount chain Aldi offers its own store brands, and a no-frills retail experience.”
Among all those, Sweetbay officials hope customers come to perceive My Essentials as automatically a healthier and lower-priced item because Sweetbay plans to track prices every week, and beat prices at Walmart, Target and Aldi.
Sedano’s Latin flavors reach Orlando
A relatively new player in the Central Florida grocery market is Sedano’s, the Hialeah-based grocer that targets the Hispanic grocery shopper.
In late January 2010 Sedano’s opened three stores in the Orlando marketplace, its first stores outside its core South Florida market.
Sedano’s had bought stores from Albertsons in Central Florida in 2009.
The company had explored its options in Tampa and Naples and had wanted to expand into Orlando for some time, Director of Marketing Javier Herran told The Shelby Report when Sedano’s made the Albertsons purchase.
“We’re always open to all the opportunities. We’ve been very conservative in our growth, so this opportunity came along, (and we) decided it would be good for us and made the decision to go for it,” Herrán said. “We’ve always wanted to do a big impact open—three or four stores at the same time rather than just one location—and this gave us that opportunity.”
The stores are located on Orange Blossom Trail and Curry Ford Road in Orlando and John Young Parkway in Kissimmee.
The Albertsons stores were 58,000-65,000-s.f. facilities, larger than Sedano’s typical prototype of 37,000-40,000 s.f.
The extra space gives the market a chance to carry other “Anglo-type products to help us cater to that market up there as well,” said Herrán.
“The main difference is that we are Hispanic; we know who we can cater to, what product mix is out there,” he added. “Other people are kind of attempting, and it’s very difficult if you don’t understand the market fully. That’s where our core strength is.”
Sedano’s will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012.
“To reach that milestone of the 50th anniversary, it will be a very big year for us, and we’ll do something very special,” Herrán said.