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Publix to launch new website for shoppers to register for special offers

For fans of customer loyalty programs who don't want to carry another card, Publix is launching a website that allows shoppers to register for special offers.

Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw, speaking at the University of Florida's Retail Smarter Conference last week in Orlando, said the new site will help the company gather information and communicate with its customers without swiping a card at the register.

Publix officials aren't saying much about the site except that it will be tested at some stores in the next few months and be similar to the online baby, pet and wine clubs. Based on customers' profiles, shoppers will be able to get customized notifications about deals and coupons on their smartphones when they enter a store.

That focus on customer service is central to everything Publix does, Crenshaw said. Founder George Jenkins set the example in 1930, and every employee is trained to follow suit.

Crenshaw told the audience of retailers and UF students that Publix's customer focus happens through the hiring of friendly, community-oriented people. But it also happens because of the corporate structure. Unlike Walmart, Whole Foods and other retailers owned by Wall Street investors, Publix is owned by its employees, making it the largest employee-owned grocer in the United States.

"You're not just working for your company, you're working for yourself,'' he said, calling the arrangement the "bedrock of the company's success.''

Employees are eligible to buy stock after six months on the job and, after a year, the company gives workers stock. Overall, about 103,000 stockholders own the Lakeland-based chain of 1,077 stores.

"Associates see their connection between their success and the company's,'' Crenshaw said. "I have no doubt our customer service couldn't be achieved without it.''

HSN's Mindy Grossman is one of several names being floated for Target's top job.

It seems doubtful Grossman would want to leave Florida for Minnesota, but she must be flattered. Target did $72.6 billion in sales last year. HSN did $3.4 billion.

Target is said to be looking for a fresh face to run the company after booting CEO Gregg Steinhagel in May as fallout for the holiday data breach.

Other names cycling through the rumor mill: Bon-Ton Stores' Brendan Hoffman; Gap's Glenn Murphy; Victoria's Secret's Sharencq Turney; Sam's Club's Rosalind Brewer; Foot Locker's Ken Hicks; Roger Farah, former president of Ralph Lauren; Matt Rubel, a senior adviser at TPG Capital; Sharon McCollam, chief financial officer of Best Buy; and Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail at Apple.

National media outlets, while mentioning Grossman as a contender, have reported that she's not interested in the job. St. Petersburg-based HSN declined to comment, saying it doesn't talk about speculation.

Regardless of who gets the job, it's obvious Grossman has earned thick stripes in the retail world. She knows how to juggle online, mobile, and brick and mortar. She's also well-connected in the fashion world and among celebrities. She could do very well in a red shirt.

For all the talk about downtown Tampa's growing nightlife, it still has a ways to go. Two chain restaurants opening downtown — TooJay's Deli and Nature's Table — are closing at 3 p.m. weekdays and won't be open on weekends.

That's a first for TooJay's, a West Palm Beach-based Florida chain whose restaurants are typically open daily until 9 or 10 p.m. A TooJay's spokeswoman said the company chose the hours based on downtown's demographics — mostly office workers who leave at night — but could add dinner if demand warrants it.

TooJay's opened Monday on the ground floor of the SunTrust Financial Centre at 401 E Jackson. St. Nature's Table, which has more than 75 locations in 10 states, is opening in late July in the BB&T Bank building at Ashley Drive and Madison Street. Both will be open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

Publix to launch new website for shoppers to register for special offers 06/23/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2014 7:15pm]
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