Wendy’s wants help creating next great hamburger

Filed under: Retail |

Two patties, Pepper Jack cheese, fajita-seasoned peppers, onions and sliced jalapeÑos would be Wendy’s chief marketing officer Ian Rowden’s ideal hamburger. What would yours include?

This summer, Wendy’s is initiating its largest promotional effort with a 25-city taste tour. Wendy’s will invite consumers to create the next great hamburger — a dream burger that just might appear on its menu.

The online schedule shows the contest will reach Denver on Aug. 22.

Through Aug. 15, consumers can visit www.ThisIsMyBurger.com to create their own custom hamburger in the “Build Wendy’s New Burger” contest. Computer kiosks also will be provided at the tour stops for entering the contest.

Participants can choose from 54 ingredients — including sauerkraut, pineapple and pepperoni; 13 kinds of cheese; and 20 condiments, including four types of mayonnaise, as well as the classic lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onion.

A team of hamburger experts from Wendy’s will judge the contest entries for taste, quality of build, originality and how well a creation will fit into Wendy’s menu.

Ten finalists will be selected from Aug. 24 to Sept. 24. Consumers will vote for the winner, who will receive $25,000. Nine runners-up will receive hamburgers for a year.

The winner will be announced in November.

So, how about salsa and guacamole as a topping? Or, perhaps teriyaki sauce, caramelized onions and Colby Jack cheese?

Employee theft ranks high

Dollar losses from theft and fraud have reached an all-time high, according to results of the latest National Retail Security Survey.

Retail shrinkage (inventory losses occurring from employee theft, shoplifting, organized retail crime, administrative error and vendor fraud) averaged 1.61 percent of retail sales last year, nearly unchanged from 1.6 percent in 2005.

Even though shrinkage as a percentage of sales stayed virtually the same, total retail losses increased last year to $41.6 billion because of higher retail sales in 2006.

According to the survey, the majority of retail shrinkage last year hit was a result of employee theft, at $19.5 billion, which represented almost half the losses (47 percent). Shoplifting accounted for $13.3 billion, or about one-third (32 percent) of losses. Other losses included administrative error ($5.8 billion and 14 percent of shrinkage) and vendor fraud ($1.7 billion and 4 percent of shrinkage).

The survey suggests that the phenomenon of organized retail crime is gaining awareness within the industry. About half of companies say they are tracking organized retail crime activity.

To combat criminal action, retailers have been investing in technology to deter, detect and convict criminals. According to the survey, most retailers’ loss prevention systems include burglar alarms (95.7 percent), visible closed circuit televisions (87.1 percent) and digital video (84.9 percent). Retailers also conduct check screening (60.4 percent), use armored cars (69.8 percent), operate point of sale data mining software (69.1 percent) and have hidden closed circuit televisions (57.6 percent).

“Retail theft does not only affect the bottom line,” said Joe LaRocca, NRF’s vice president of loss prevention. “When criminals steal from retailers, consumers pay higher prices, the safety of innocent employees can be compromised, and shoppers looking for popular merchandise often cannot find it.”

Product categories that experienced the highest degrees of shrinkage include cards, gifts and novelties; specialty accessories; crafts and hobbies; and supermarket and grocery items.

The National Retail Security Survey is an annual survey of loss prevention executives that benchmarks retail shrinkage and operational information about how retailers are combating losses. The study, which surveyed 139 retailers during the first half of 2007 and uses data from 2006, is a partnership between the University of Florida and the National Retail Federation.

U.S. chain store sales

Same-store sales inMay increased 2.5 percent at U.S. chain stores, according to International Council of Shopping Center’s index.

Wholesale clubs showed the most sales growth for the month, averaging 6.5 percent. Drug stores took second place with an average 5.3 percent sales increase. Department stores grew their sales 2.2 percent and discounters posted an average gain of 1.7 percent. On the negative side, apparel chain store sales fell by 0.6 percent.

“While it was a mixed story for the nation’s retailers, May’s sales rebound confirmed that the April sales tumble was largely an anomaly and not a sign of a more severe pullback in consumer spending,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research. “Between February and May 2007, the average industry run rate for sales was 2.2 percent, compared with its 2006 average for that same period of 4.1 percent. The demand softness that is present this year versus last is largely a direct or indirect consequence of the residential housing market weakness.”

Niemira said he expects same-store sales will increase between 2 percent and 2.5 percent during June.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.