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Winn-Dixie prunes its store brand names

Winn-Dixie shoppers: Say goodbye to some familiar names.

The Jacksonville supermarket chain is retiring dozens of store brand names including old-timers such as Superbrand dairy products, Crackin' Good crackers, Astor spices and Deep South pickles.

It's the culmination of an effort to update and narrow the focus of Winn-Dixie's stable of private label store brands to three. Going forward, Thrifty Maid becomes the budget brand, a new brand called Winn-Dixie is a mid price alternative and Prestige is the top quality level.

Grocers love private label products because they're more profitable and offer shoppers a 10 to 35 percent savings over national brands. About a fifth of Winn-Dixie's sales are its own store brands, many of which are made in plants Winn-Dixie owns.

The trouble was Winn-Dixie let the stable get out of hand. At last count there were 64 of them including such forgettables as Medic, Madison, Sunbelt, Arrow and Hickory Glen.

"Research revealed that many shoppers didn't know many of them were actually store brands," spokeswoman Joanne Gage said.

One old standby, however, survived the ax. Chek soda, which dates back to the 1950s when Winn-Dixie acquired the Quik Chek supermarket chain, will live on.


Sun Dome puts out Your-Name-Here sign

With the University of South Florida cutting its Sun Dome subsidy, the folks who run the arena have looked to other ways of raising cash. They've hosted home shows and courted cheerleading competitions. Recently, they've decided to enter the naming rights game.

If you're willing to shell out somewhere around $100,000 annually for five years, your company's name could be attached to the Sun Dome. The deal has been on the market for about six months, with moderate interest.

"We're not standing out on a street corner with a "for sale' sign," said Mike LaPan, director of the Sun Dome.

The multipurpose 11,400-seat arena, which is on the university's Tampa campus, hosts USF's men's and women's basketball games, as well as other university events. The successful naming rights buyer also will get marketing opportunities with the university's alumni and athletic department, LaPan said.

"Certainly, the right partnership is going to come," LaPan said.


Barry Diller's the name game

Except for grammarians wondering what happened to the period and spaces between the words, the new name for Barry Diller's e-commerce empire, InterActiveCorp, has gotten little attention except as another bland brand name.

Diller may have been looking for a catch-all name (IAC for short) that ends confusion about the identity of his interactive commerce company, which includes Ticketmaster, Expedia and Home Shopping Network of St. Petersburg.

But the name _ the fifth since 1995 for Diller's constantly changing business _ recently was named one of the Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week by columnist George Mannes. The writer staged a contest to find a better one.

Some of the entries: DynaUltraMegaBiz (ticker symbol DUMB), sendbarrydilleryourdisposable and BubbleSurvivor Corp. (B.S. Corp. for short). An IAC employee suggested Uncle Barry's House of Pain.

The winner, however, is Phyllis. That's with neither an Inc. or Corp. after it.

"It's simple. It's friendly. It hints at humanity behind the technology," Mannes wrote. "For years we could be reading sentences like this one in ostensibly serious business news stories: "We have high hopes for online dating in European markets,' said Phyllis' Diller."


HCA puts government case behind them

It started with two disgruntled hospital accountants, one in Fort Myers, the other in Montana, accusing the nation's biggest hospital chain of rampant Medicare fraud. It became public when the FBI raided 39 hospitals and offices of what was then known as Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., seizing truckloads of documents in the summer of 1997. And it ended last week with the payment of nearly $1.8-billion in fines by the company now known as HCA.

With a brief news release last week, the Nashville company, which has nine hospitals in the Tampa Bay area, announced the completion of the largest, most far-reaching and most expensive health care settlement in history.

Jeff Prescott, the HCA spokesman who has fielded reporters' calls since new management was installed shortly after the FBI searches, said the case against HCA is now closed. "For years, there was always "one more thing,' outstanding," he said of the multilayered settlement process. "Now there's no "one more thing.' "

Prescott said he regrets he didn't keep a journal of events during HCA's six years of negotiations with the government. "I didn't have time to take notes," he said. "I'd be on the phone from the time I hit my chair in the morning until I finally decided it was time to leave at night. The calls would start in the morning from the East Coast and just come in waves from across the country."


American Airlines clears pit bulls for takeoff

After a 10-month ban, pit bulls are welcome again on American Airlines.

The world's largest carrier outlawed adult pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, and related mixed breeds from its planes a year ago after a 68-pound pit bull broke out of its kennel in the cargo hold of a Boeing 757 flying from San Diego to New York.

The dog chewed and clawed an 18- by 8-inch hole through a fiberglass bulkhead and bit through wires in an electronics compartment. The plane's crew lost the use of backup radio and data communications gear in flight but not any equipment vital to flying the plane.

The ban outraged dog organizations, particularly the American Kennel Club. The AKC called the decision a case of breed discrimination and blamed the incident on an improperly secured kennel.

American said the dog was in an approved plastic kennel with the door properly shut. A Web site for American pilots reported that the kennel door was damaged "where the dog apparently ran into it with its head."

The AKC launched a nationwide letter-writing campaign and met with animal handling expertsfor American and the International Air Transport Association, arguing that the problem was bad kennels, not bad dogs.

American announced in May it would require that kennels be sealed with reusable cable ties _ like the plastic handcuffs used by police _ on all four corners of the kennel's door. With the new requirement in place, American lifted the breed ban May 17.


Taking off the gloves over medical malpractice

As the Legislature prepares to reconvene for yet another special session on the medical malpractice issue, the battle between supporters and opponents of a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages is getting downright nasty.

Last week, a group called Floridians for Patient Protection held a rally in Tampa complete with a 15-foot-tall wheelchair. Calling themselves an organization of victims of malpractice, members cited personal medical horror stories as their rationale for opposing caps on awards.

But when the president of the group, Jacqueline Imbertson, refused to disclose who finances the group or the television ads being run in its name, representatives for another selfless-sounding group swung into action.

In e-mails to reporters, a spokesman for the Coalition to Heal Healthcare noted that Imbertson's group is registered with the state as an affiliate of _ surprise _ the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers. The two groups share an office in Tallahassee as well as the same chairman, Scott Carruthers. The day after the Tampa rally, Imbertson confirmed that the trial lawyers group started her organization and funded the TV ads.

"But we have become an activist group of victims and their families," she said. "We're working on positive solutions so there's less malpractice."

But what about the Coalition to Heal Healthcare? It proudly boasts that it is backed by the Florida Hospital Association, the Florida Medical Association and "130 top medical and business groups." Among those are major insurers such as BlueCross BlueShield of Florida and First Professionals Insurance Co.


NASCAR teams with Nextel in race for fans

One word explains why NASCAR shifted the sponsorship of its Winston Cup series to Nextel: Television.

"Nextel can advertise on TV," explained Mark Dyer, vice president of licensing and consumer products for the Daytona Beach stock car racing circuit. "The growth of every major national professional sport has been tied to television coverage. Given the ever-tightening restrictions and marketing budgets confronting tobacco companies, we had to part company with R.J. Reynolds and Winston."

Dyer offered more on the 10-year, $700-million deal at a symposium staged last week by the University of Florida David A. Miller Center for Retailing and Research.

"Nextel is national," Dyer said. "It has a database of more than 9-million wireless customers. It links us to a high-tech company, which we hope will connect us to younger generations."

Not that Winston Cup languished. Among sports, TV ratings for the 36-race series last year were second only to the National Football League.

The two other big suitors for the sponsorship were Visa International and Eastman Kodak Co.

NASCAR walks a tightrope with TV networks that want a national audience. That means more races in places such as California and less emphasis on the Carolinas.

About 38 percent of NASCAR fans live in the South, home to 35 percent of U.S. population. But the West, which houses 21 percent of the population, provides only 19 percent of the NASCAR fan base. It's the only region of the country left where NASCAR's fan base lags the region's share of the U.S. population.

The most pressure for a bigger NASCAR presence is in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. NASCAR sanctions races in upstate New York, but struck out getting closer to New York City.

"That's why people in New York City just don't get NASCAR as much as the rest of the country," Dyer said.