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CONSUMER BRIEFING

P & G to sell products online and collect shopping data

The manufacturer says its new 'eStore' will also be a consumer research lab.

January 17, 2010

MANUFACTURING

P&G to start 'eStore' and collect data

The maker of Tide detergent, Pampers diapers and Gillette shavers is taking hundreds of its popular consumer products directly to shoppers through a new website.

The "eStore," which Procter & Gamble Co. will launch this spring, is an unusual venture for a consumer products manufacturer because the website could put it in competition with some of its biggest customers: traditional and online retailers. But the site's leaders say it is a consumer research lab, and retailers will benefit from findings on how shoppers respond online and in stores to digital ads, coupons, store promotions and other factors.

"We're creating this giant sandbox for the brands to play in," said Mark Layton, chief executive of PFSweb, which will run the site.

To get the consumers to play along, P&G will advertise the site and hope that the convenience of shopping online and special offers draw customers. P&G wouldn't say whether the eStore's prices would beat those in stores or on websites that also sell competitors' products, such as Amazon.com. But shipping initially will be at a flat rate of $5.

ENVIRONMENT

Winemakers will launch green plan

Consumers of California wine easily can tell a red cabernet from a white chardonnay. Soon they will have a tool to determine whether it's green.

Officials at the industry-backed Wine Institute are starting a program that outlines steps growers and winemakers must take to call themselves "sustainable." The regulations cover things such as energy and water consumption and healthcare for workers. Independent auditors will enforce compliance.

Chris Savage of Gallo Wines says retailers increasingly are demanding sustainable products, a trend he expects will continue to grow.

California is the world's fourth-largest producer of wine. Nearly two-thirds of the state's wine producers are participating in the program.

RETAIL

Walgreens to sell prepared meals

Walgreen Co. plans to offer fresh foods and prepared meals to draw "time-starved" shoppers to its more than 7,000 stores.

The drugstore chain has been talking with food makers including Unilever, Nestle and Sara Lee Corp. about creating private-label and branded products for "tonight's meal," said Bryan Pugh, vice president of merchandising.

Pugh declined to say when the project will be implemented, noting that Walgreen must sort out supply and distribution issues and test in some markets.

The goal of the program, along with the sale of beer and private-label wine at about 1,500 locations, is to boost revenue, Pugh said.

Walgreen same-store sales declined in November and December as unemployment and falling home values blunted consumer spending.

RECALLS

D.I.Y. wiring books are faulty

Oxmoor House is recalling nearly 1 million home-improvement books because of errors that could lead do-it-yourselfers to make risky mistakes while installing or repairing their electrical wiring.

The errors in diagrams and wiring instructions could cause people to be shocked or create a fire hazard, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The recalled books have nine different titles, including "Lowe's Complete Home Improvement and Repair" and "Sunset You Can Build -- Wiring." They have been sold at bookstores and home-improvement stores nationwide for years; some were sold more than three decades ago. Information: (866) 696-7602 or www.cpsc.gov.

* About 21,000 children's Timberland Classic Scuffproof boots, made in Thailand and imported by the Timberland Co. of Stratham, N.H., are being recalled because the logo stamped on the boots' insoles has high levels of lead, which is toxic if young children ingest it.

The boots were sold at shoe stores and specialty retailers nationwide from June through October. Information: (800) 445-5545, www.timberland .com or www.cpsc.gov.

* Nurture Inc. is recalling select HappyTot Stage 4 and HappyBaby Stage 1 and Stage 2 pouch meals with date codes expiring November 2010 to January 2011, because a packaging defect could cause bacterial contamination.

The company has received one report of swollen and leaking pouches, which could indicate contamination. The recalled pouches were sold nationwide. Information: (212) 374-2779.

-- times wire services

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