Publix Super Markets Inc. is rated the most highly valued brand among the 250 largest retail companies in the world.
Based on Q ratios, an economist's tool aimed at separating a company's tangible value from what shareholders figure the intangibles of the brand are worth, Publix topped a list led by such lofty retail names as Amazon.com, the Swedish H&M and the Japanese Uniqlo apparel chains, Apple Stores and the Spanish owners of Zara, one of the world's trendiest and biggest apparel sellers.
Furnituremaker Ikea failed to make the top 50.
A company's Q ratio is figured by dividing its total market value by the value of the hard assets, like real estate, on its books. An employee-owned company with privately traded stock, Publix is "slightly distorted" in its Q ratio comparisons with other chains that are publicly traded.
"But Publix's Q ratio is so much higher than anybody, they are clearly the top," said Ira Kalish, chief economist at Deloitte Research, which compiles the annual report.
Not all Publix workers are so enthused about their employer. On Jan. 1, thousands of the chain's part-time workers lost their health insurance.
That came after Publix upped a requirement that part-timers work 1,500 hours a year (32 hours a week) to qualify, up from 1,000 hours (19 hours a week).
Publix is one of the few grocers to offer part-timers, a majority of its work force, the same comprehensive, family health coverage that full-timers get. But Publix raised the minimum after its health insurance bill rose 51 percent in two years and it refused to reduce what's covered.
Employees had nine months' notice. Publix officials doubt the change will bump Publix off lists such as Fortune's 100 best employers.
"Surveys found our benefits still very comprehensive and competitive for both part- and full-timers," spokeswoman Shannon Patten said.
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The latest tech gadget to hit grocery stores is a souped-up weight scale rigged up with a notebook computer and camera.
Toss a perishable product on it and this precision scale created by German Bizerba Gmbh can identify it by shape, weigh it and print a price tag.
Now used as a self-service feature in produce, meat and seafood departments in many European supermarkets, the scale automatically adjusts prices to maximize profit while unloading remaining inventory of perishables that have a short shelf life.
In Europe, the scales have been programmed to print a calorie count, the item's carbon footprint and suggestions for other products to buy to offset the item's load on planet Earth.
Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. is the first buyer in the Southeast, but plans to keep them behind the counters before opting for the flashy bells and whistles.
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In New York last week to explain how HSN fixed its customer service to land in the top 10 among all retailers this year, the St. Petersburg e-commerce company's top executive revealed how she found one place in need of work fast.
Upon arrival, chief executive officer Mindy Grossman e-mailed HSN's best customers for likes and dislikes.
"Right off, I heard loud and clear," recalled Grossman. " 'Get rid of those plastic packing peanuts. They fly all over the place when you open the box.' "
And they are an environmental no-no.
HSN dropped foam peanuts. It replaced them with air bags made of recyclable plastic.
HSN was ranked seventh in the National Retail Foundation/American Express customer service ranking, two slots behind rival QVC. All on the list are direct-mail retailers. In order, they are:
L.L. Bean, Overstock.com, Zappos.com, Amazon.com, QVC, Coldwater Creek, HSN, Lands' End, JCPenney and (tie) Nordstrom and Kohl's.
Mark Albright can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8252.