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EasyJet Launches Discount Retail Chain

EasyJet Launches Discount Retail Chain

The founder of EasyJet has announced plans to open a discount retail chain

EasyJet launches a new food retail store.

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of EasyJet, announced plans easyFoodstore, a UK discount food chain that will be mainly no-brand-name packet and tinned foods.

The new store will be designed to occupy the niche one step down from Aldi and Lidl. A website has already been set up and a proposals for a pilot site in Croydon are in discussion. Ioannou planned to open the first store in an office block at his easyGroup company, which also holds his easyGym, easyOffice, and easyHotel ventures.

Ioannou was inspired to take on this new challenge by the number of foodbanks being used in the UK and his own experience with “food for the heart” charitable program.

“I hope that a commercially viable venture offering affordable food will help many people in need as well as producing a viable return for the capital employed,” says Ioannou in a press release.

If the first store shows that there is a need, there is a chance that there will be more easyFoodstores rolling out in 2014.


Company behind 99p Stores launches discount retail chain Family Bargains

The single price specialist 99p Stores has launched a new retail chain to capitalise on the flight to value among consumers and soft out-of-town property market. The team behind the retailer, where everything is sold for 99p, opened its first Family Bargains shop in Carmarthen, Wales, last Thursday.

Faisal Lalani, the buying director at 99p Stores, said that Family Bargains sells a greater range of general merchandise, including toys and soft furnishings, and is not constrained by the 99p price tag, although most products will be under £10. It also offers bigger pack sizes, such as a 24-pack of crisps and larger bottles of shampoo.

He said: "At the moment, we cannot sell in 99p Stores a lot of the products we will sell in Family Bargains. As good a retailer as I am, I cannot sell garden furniture for 99p. With lots of the furniture guys being in trouble in the past, such as [the defunct chain] MFI, there is a lot of vacant space on the retail parks."

The move by 99p Stores this week to a new warehouse and head office in Pineham, Northampton, which can serve up to 400 stores, is another driver behind it launching Family Bargains.

Faisal's brother Hussein Lalani, who is the co-founder and commercial director of 99p Stores, said he wants to open 10 Family Bargains this year.

But he will wait to see how the new chain's festive sales of products, such as Christmas trees and toys, shape up before deciding on a bigger roll-out.

Family Bargains will initially be targeted at out-of-town retail parks in the Midlands, followed by sites in the North and eventually the South of England.

Hussein Lalani said: "Discounting in my opinion is quite accepted throughout the Midlands and North – and the retail space in the Midlands is cheaper than the South." He added that it chose Carmarthen for its first stores because an attractive site became available. Family Bargains sells brands including Dove, Gillette and Hasbro.

While the big single-price retailers Poundland and 99p Stores were growing before the downturn, the recession and collapse of Woolworths put a turbo-charger under their sales and store expansion. Both chains snapped up scores of former Woolworths stores after the 800-store variety retailer collapsed in November 2008.

For the year to 31 January 2010, 99p Stores delivered pre-tax profits of £1.79m – nearly a sixfold increase on the £333,348 posted the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Its sales rocketed by 63 per cent to £183.5m over the period, boosted by 54 new stores.

Poundland, which has over 260 stores, was sold to Warburg Pincus for £200m last month.


Crosby’s Launches Rewards App

LOCKPORT, N.Y. Crosby’s Convenience Stores is launching its new customer reward program, My Crosby’s Rewards on Sept. 15. It will be available for shoppers at all 81 Crosby’s locations across western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania.

The chain created the My Crosby’s Rewards program in partnership with Paytronix, a national provider of rewards programs. Through the program, members can earn points on purchases of food, fuel and most other merchandise at all Crosby’s locations. Every gallon of fuel purchased earns a member five points, while every dollar spent on items in store will earn 10 points, though some exceptions apply. They can redeem points for in-store rewards using Crosby’s new mobile app or online at the Crosby’s website. Customers can download the mobile app can from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

“We’ve always offered a great range of prepared foods, friendly service and great prices that have brought customers in, but with our new My Crosby’s Rewards Program, we can give something back to our most loyal customers,” said Doug Galli, vice president of Crosby’s Stores. “We look forward to helping our customers save on their everyday needs and provide rewards and discounts on the products and services they use most.”

When the program launches, every new registered member will receive 10 cents off their first three gas fillups within 90 days of registration, and will also have access to members-only pricing on Crosby’s coffee and f’real frozen beverages. Crosby’s is also working with vendor partners to offer surprise rewards and bonus points for program members. In addition, Crosby’s will feature a “reward yourself” catalog of snack and beverage treats such as Coffeehouse coffee, fountain soda, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Crosby’s Signature cheese pizza and other items. In addition, members celebrating a birthday with Crosby’s will receive a special birthday surprise.

Members in the My Crosby’s Rewards program can also take advantage of several “clubs” that will offer purchase rewards on specific Crosby’s Signature products, including prepared foods:

  • Hot or Cold Dispensed Beverages: Buy seven, get the eighth free.
  • Crosby’s Made-to-Order Whole Subs: Buy eight, get the ninth free.
  • Perry’s Ice Cream Pints: Buy seven, get the eighth free.

Using the new Crosby’s mobile app, customers will be able to keep track of their point balance, select their preferred store and even access information for any individual location, including the prepared food menu and hours. Users can also place a call to a store from the app or request directions to the nearest Crosby’s location. The Crosby’s mobile app will also provide a platform for the addition of other new features such as online ordering, which will be coming soon to further enhance the member experience, the company said.

Newton, Mass.-based Paytronix Systems powers the customer relationships for many restaurant, retail and convenience-store brands.

Crosby’s, a division of the Reid Group, is based in Lockport, N.Y. The company operates 81 Crosby’s c-stores. The Reid Group, founded in 1922, is a full-service independent motor fuel marketer providing a comprehensive range of products and services for retail motor fuel outlets and convenience stores. The company services retail and commercial customers. Reid Petroleum Corp. is No. 79 in CSP’s 2020 Top 202 list of c-stores by store count.


EasyJet founder launches a store where every item is 25p – but will it win shoppers over?

It’s the brainchild of easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, below, who’s aiming to do for our weekly shop what he did for budget air travel.

But industry experts have warned that he faces an uphill struggle after the astonishing success of discount chains Aldi and Lidl.

And Leigh Sparks, Professor of Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, says it will be a severe test of the entrepreneur’s financial clout.

“Stelios has deep pockets and I think he’ll need them if he’s going to get sufficient volume in this business,” said Professor Sparks.

“It didn’t really work for the discounters for 15 years as they had to learn about British consumers.”

After more than two years of planning the first easyFoodstore opened for business at the start of the month. “New concept store” boasted the advertising signs at the site on a busy ring road in North London.

Curious shoppers who flocked in would have instantly recognised the familiar orange branding, used on the airline and other easy operations.

The interior is Spartan in the extreme, basic and functional even by discount chain standards.

And that may be too much of a turn-off for many.

While he reckons the foray may “intensify the battle on price” with some supermarkets responding, retail analyst Neil Saunders from Conlumino says “Many customers will find the concept too stark and depressing to use regularly.”

The sole attraction is the price with everything sold at 25p right through February. It’s thought prices will then increase but not to any higher than 50p.

There are a mere 76 items currently on sale but the rock-bottom pricing means that a basic weekly shop – fresh goods not included – for a family of four could cost as little as £15.75 and a three-course dinner for £2.75.

The easyGroup say Aldi and Lidl have gone upmarket and that they are catering for ultra-cost-conscious shoppers and looking at expansion as soon as possible.

But Prof Sparks has serious doubts about this happening.

“It’s a bold move but I think this will struggle to be more than a niche approach. I don’t see how you can get the finances to stack up as far as acquiring other sites as retail costs are high.

“And it’s all very well thinking about the price but you’ve got to think about the quality, too.

“The discounters realised that people had to be happy with the quality. And I’d wonder whether shoppers will be happy with these products because of the corners that had to be cut to offer them at such very slim margins, if any, on the price.

“I’d worry about that quality and I also don’t think the market they are going for is big enough.”

Prof Sparks doubts that Lidl and Aldi will lose any sleep over the new arrival.

“I don’t think they’ll see it as any threat unless Stelios gets more sites and some traction with this idea,” he adds.

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Warren Buffett Buys New-Car Retail Chain

Erik Holm

Chelsey Dulaney

Warren Buffett wants to sell you a car.

The billionaire investor on Thursday agreed to buy America’s fifth-largest auto retailer and use it to launch a consolidation of the highly fragmented business.

His Berkshire Hathaway Inc. would acquire an about $8 billion retail business with operations from Florida to California, and use it to snap up family-owned dealerships elsewhere. The retailer, which will be named Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, can leverage Berkshire’s other companies to provide car sales, financing and related services.

he move comes as car-retailing is poised to undergo significant changes that provide greater efficiencies. Dealer profits have been rising as auto makers culled less financially stable businesses during last decade’s financial crisis. Customers also have embraced the Web to shop for cars, cutting dealer overhead costs.

“We’re certainly thinking big and would like to grow the business,” said Jeff Rachor, president of Phoenix-based Van Tuyl Group, which Berkshire agreed to acquire in an all-cash deal. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.


Bruce Halle Overcame Early Stumbles to Create Discount Tire Chain

Bruce Halle and his wife, Diane, in 2012.

James R. Hagerty

Bruce Halle struggled with poor grades in high school and college, and he had trouble controlling his temper. By age 29, he had failed as a life-insurance salesman and as part-owner of an auto-parts business.

He had a wife, children, a home mortgage and about $17,000 of other debt. So in 1960, when he opened a scruffy tire-retailing shop in Ann Arbor, Mich., Mr. Halle had little margin for error. It was three days before his first potential customer walked in—and a week before the first tire was sold. To lure customers, he offered to change snow tires for free.

Mr. Halle’s Discount Tire Co., based in Scottsdale, Ariz., now has nearly 1,000 stores across the U.S. His fortune was estimated by Forbes last year at $6 billion. The company has been running a 10-second TV ad, featuring a woman throwing a tire through a window, since the mid-1970s.

Mr. Halle rejected all talk of selling the business or going public. “These capital people, with all the money they have to spend, they want to buy everything, but you know what they do to companies,” he told a biographer. “They rape and pillage.”

Mr. Halle, who collected tire-advertising posters, died Jan. 4. He was 87.


Why Car Makers Are Taking On the EV Supply Chain

Stephen Wilmot

Henry Ford invested in steel production and Brazilian rubber. Today’s car makers are getting into batteries and software.

On Tuesday, Chrysler owner Stellantis and iPhone-assembler Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry , announced a joint venture to develop in-vehicle software and services. This is the latest in a long series of moves by auto makers to improve their supply chains for fully electric, digital vehicles.

Car makers want more control over components central to the performance and experience of EVs. But they don’t have a lot of experience with those parts, and face many competing claims for investment. JVs with specialist suppliers offer a solution.

Batteries, the single most expensive EV component, have been the chief focus so far. General Motors has a JV with South Korean battery giant LG Chem to make cells Stellantis and Volkswagen have deals with European battery companies Toyota has one with Panasonic . Ford said last month that it too wanted to get into cell production, though it hasn’t yet detailed how.

The Stellantis-Foxconn JV, called Mobile Drive, applies this approach to software. It is a logical step, but still an unusual one. Toyota and Volkswagen, the two largest car makers by sales, are building up their own software companies. Smaller players such as Volvo and Renault are leaning heavily on Google owner Alphabet, which has a version of its Android smartphone operating system for vehicles.


Landing a Spot in the Retail Big Leagues

Getting into the retail major leagues is something many entrepreneurs dream about. Have you ever envisioned your products on the shelves of a big box retailer but wondered just how to get your company ready for the prime time?

According to experts--and some entrepreneurs who've already made the leap as vendors or suppliers--there are some basic principles that can help guide you through the process. If expanding into the retail big leagues is your goal, these eight steps can help you get placement for your product.

1. Begin with questions. Before you try to make the leap to multiunit retail, ask yourself these basic questions: Does your product fit a demand just waiting to be tapped? Have you already found a multiunit retailer that's a good fit for your product? What is it about your product that would make a buyer see fit to take a chance on your product? If you land the deal, can your production handle the volume? Do you want to sell your product directly to the retailer, or do you want to license your product to a manufacturer who'll then distribute it for you?

Lake Charles, Louisiana, chef Kevin Hester took the licensing approach with his Cajun Chickcan, a wire caddy he designed to solve the problem of beer can chicken recipes run amuck by the cooking bird's toppling tendencies.

After patenting his idea and marketing the caddies to local, independent hardware retailers, Hester asked himself all the right questions and discovered his product was ready for prime time. It didn't hurt that a popular cookbook on making beer can chicken and a barbecue guru extolling the beer-tender fowl's virtues were fueling demand for his product among American barbecue chefs in love with the idea of poultry impaled on a can of suds.

Hester's next step? Knowing that he needed some help getting exposure for the Chickcan, he went in search of a licensee. Walking the aisles of Home Depot and Lowes led him to Rodney Barber, owner of Bayou Classic in Brandon, Mississippi, who agreed to license the product, manufacture it and get it on the shelves.

"Barber invented the turkey fryer, and he saw what a good product could take off and do . He helped me launch into the big box stores, which I would not have been able to do [on my own]," Hester said. Now the Chickcan is on the aisles in Wal-Marts throughout the country, and Hester earns royalties from an estimated $4 million in sales per year.

2. Plan ahead for profit. Before you even think about becoming a multiunit chain's vendor, you need to make sure you can build a reasonable profit margin into your product's wholesale price. Plan for a manufacture cost that's one-fifth the retail price--or less. Then build the cost of packaging, commissions, marketing and distribution into the wholesale cost of your product. Check the retailer's guidelines for other fees as well that you'll have to build into the cost of your product.

A discount retailer will trim profit margins to the bone to squeeze those famed low prices out of products--but there are some advantages for vendors willing to go lean. In the case of Wal-Mart, for example, there's the sheer power of numbers that goes along with exposure to the world's largest market.

Retired retailer Martin Lehman, a volunteer with SCORE , a national organization that provides business counseling for entrepreneurs, says companies wishing to sell to big discount retailers need to closely examine their bottom line. If a widget costs $1 dollar to make, and the retail price is $4, and the product wholesales to boutiques at $2, a big box retailer may only offer the manufacturer $1.25--just 25 cents over the cost to make it. "They're a tough buy," Lehman says. "A manufacturer has to ask, 'Can I make enough with that quarter?'"

3. Look for the right store. A search for the best retailer for your product starts with you browsing stores for similar or related products. Spend some time in local retail stores to see what's on the shelves. Picture where in the store your product would sit on the shelf, and keep that in mind when it comes time to approach the store's buyer and make your presentation.

Check to see if the retailer offers any special programs that could give you a leg up, such as local vendor programs that serve as an entrée to regional markets or programs that offer breaks to women-owned or minority-owned businesses.

Kate Crosby's Charlottesville, Virginia, company, Dionis Inc. , grew from a cottage industry to a small business as the line expanded from soap to include what is now the company's driving product, lotion--all still using goat's milk from the Blue Ridge Mountain area. The company had more than a decade of business under its belt before courting the attentions of Cracker Barrel . Crosby just knew her product was a perfect fit for the chain, which bills its 538 company-owned units in 41 states as "Half Restaurant, Half Store, All Country." And the company agreed, first placing Crosby's products in just a fraction of its stores to test its customer interest.

Happy with the placement she was getting in just one district, it never occurred to Crosby that her products could be a national presence in Cracker Barrel stores. "It was above our radar," she recalls. "But one day we got called out of blue, and we went national. We went from 10 to 15 stores to 350 and had to start ordering [in quantities of] 50,000 and 100,000."

4. Determine who should pitch your product to retailers. Your decision to either offer the product to retailers yourself or hire a representative to do it for you depends a lot on your product as well as on your strengths as a businessperson.

If your product line is one that involves frequent changes--say, clothing, for example--you may want to hire a manufacturer's representative who'll present your line among the others he or she pitches in return for a percentage of the sales, says SCORE'S Lehman.

In the grocery industry, for instance, it's common to pay a commission to a broker who'll try to pitch your product to a grocery retailer's category manager. As a new vendor, you'll usually pay a commission of 5 to 7 percent or more, says Shea Mancini, owner of Richmond, Virginia-based Mancini Sales and Marketing Inc., who represents manufacturers like Mrs. Cubbisons, Georgio Foods, Nature's Earth, Wincup and Chempro, as well as smaller companies like Celli Pasta importer Bontel USA. (Commission percentages vary according to industry and are frequently negotiable, with many settling around the 5 percent mark.)

Just how do you find a rep to pitch your product? One way, Lehman says, is to get referrals from buyers. Another is to search the directory of trade associations within your product's category or track down a list of the sales reps attending regional or national trade shows.

If you have a one-time pitch that needs to be done, you may choose to do it yourself. Austin, Texas-based entrepreneur Tracy Claros, owner of Sticky Toffee Pudding Company , got in to see grocery retail buyers after making a few phone calls. And while they loved her English-style Sticky Toffee Pudding Cakes, there was a problem--which they brought up and wanted to negotiate on the spot.

"[The buyer] said, 'We love your product--it's delicious--but you really have to do something about your packaging,' " Claros recalls, a problem she fixed immediately in order to land the business. And although her first pitches were successful, Claros thinks she'll most likely enlist the help of a broker as her business grows in order to expand her reach.

5. Fill out the vendor application. If there's an application process, be sure to read the guidelines thoroughly before submitting the paperwork necessary to apply to become a vendor for that company. Once your material's been submitted, give the buyer at least a few weeks before you follow up with a phone call or e-mail to ask for an appointment for a presentation.

The bigger the chain is, the more specific their vendor requirements will likely be. A company like J.C. Penney , for example, requires vendors to be listed with Dun & Bradstreet and able to raise the capital needed to supply their purchases. The successful J.C. Penney vendor also will be able to obtain $2 million in insurance, do business electronically, commit to labor law and product safety compliance, and to meet production delivery and lead time deadlines. (Whew! And you thought this would be easy!)

6. Make contact with a buyer or category manager. Call the buyer or category manager who handles your type of product and determine when and how frequently they look at new products. Be sure to ask about their policies and procedures for carrying new products. If the buyer expresses an interest in meeting you, set a time for a presentation, which will be on their turf (meaning there may be some traveling in your future).

Some companies, such as pet supply retailer PETCO , have monthly, quarterly or annual open vendor days, where prospective vendors can schedule appointments for a 30-minute meeting to present their merchandise. In most instances--that's if the meeting goes well and they want to do business with you--vendors are expected to be able to supply the chains with product within 30 days of the meeting.

7. Be ready for the presentation. Make sure your paperwork ducks are all in a row before you meet with the buyer. Familiarize yourself with the industry standard for the terms that will be bandied about, such as conditions of sale, discounts, credit, shipping and allowances. Sales trainer and author Alan Zell offers sample outlines of terms and conditions of sale on his website to help you bone up.

In addition to mentally preparing for the meeting, here's a list of some of the things a retail buyer may expect to see at your presentation:

  • A sample of both your product and its packaging, including a barcode and pricing. Packaging is of huge importance to buyers--your product's packaging should take its cue from things already on the store's shelves and racks.
  • A product brochure that provides thorough information on the product
  • A price list or catalog that includes wholesale and retail prices, discounts, credit, shipping, allowances and conditions of sale
  • A list of retailers currently selling your product
  • Your marketing and promotion plans, including such things as in-store demos, point-of-sale displays, advertising and publicity
  • Proof of the potential for a large sales volume
  • Manufacturing information that includes proof of your capability for handling large production runs
  • Your business history
  • Your business card

According to product and invention consultant Matthew Yubas , one important point you need to get across at the sales presentation is your commitment to product marketing. "Retailers really want support from the vendor," says Yubas, who's based in San Diego. "They want in-store demos, they want point-of-sale displays, they want advertising and promotion--they want any type of support you can give."

8. Prepare for increased production volume. A whole new retail market for your product will mean a whole new volume of production for you both you and the retail buyer need to know--and believe--that you're prepared to ramp up the numbers. And you need to know that your manufacturer can handle that volume while maintaining quality.

It took Michael Marrin a year and a half to get production set up to meet the volume needs of chain customers for his etchable, disposable Etch-It Party Cups . With a million cups out on the shelves, Marrin got a shock: The first generation of bags were popping open on the shelves, and there were wrinkling issues with the labels.

"That killed us, and it was almost to the point where I gave up," recalls Marrin, who's based in Aliso Viejo, California. But he survived by solving his production problems then finding a manufacturer that was willing to build the manufacturing machinery, run it, warehouse his product and fulfill big orders, all at one turn-key cost.

Getting production and delivery running smoothly isn't only essential to customer relations, but to your business's bottom line as well. Some retail contracts will specify fees that penalize vendors for not getting the merchandise to them exactly on time.

If you're looking to hit the big time, you can. By thoroughly assessing your prospective marketplace, preparing carefully for production, and taking full advantage of existing resources available to help you grow your business, your dream of seeing your product on a multiunit store's shelves doesn't have to remain a dream.


June Oven Launches The Smarter, Faster, Cheaper Second Generation

Two years ago, June Oven came to market with something audacious - a smart countertop oven with premium components, internal cameras, temperature probes, and an onboard computer watching the entire cooking process that was constantly being upgraded based on real-world data. It also cost $1,500, which is probably why you've maybe heard of it but don't have one on your counter.

Now June Oven is back with a sleeker, smarter, sexier second generation that costs only $499 at launch, a third of the price of the first generation. It offers the same carbon fiber heating elements (allowing it to cook food without time-consuming preheating), the same HD internal camera, the same quad-core computer. In fact, if it weren't for the wildly divergent price tag, you'd think you were looking at a Gen 1 June. I asked CEO Matt Van Horn whether it was manufacturing or supply chain improvements that drove the cost down.

"It's a combination of all of that," he said. "There are also less parts in the Gen 2. It's easier to build and there's a simplicity of design."

It also helps that every June Oven keeps track of what its users are actually doing with their devices. The June Oven's computer feeds into a central database that their developers in turn use to make decisions on improvements and future roadmap items. as well as what goes on the chopping block.

"We could see that no one was really using the weight scale," Matt continued, "So we got rid of the weights in Gen 2. At the same time, we could see how people were using their Junes, so we knew what not to go cheaper on or eliminate. Being able to start cooking without preheating is huge for June owners, so we kept the carbon fiber elements. They use the internal camera to see how their food is progressing, so we kept that. We kept the 2.3 GHz quad-core computer because we wanted the Gen 2 June Oven to remain as responsive and agile as Gen 1."

It Takes a Lot of Steps to Make the Perfect Steak

When I tried out the June Oven a couple of years ago, I was impressed with how well it replaced, not only my old toaster oven, but my regular oven as well. The onboard computer uses its visual sensors and temperature probe to keep track of doneness, sending you updates as to when your food will be ready.

There's also something magical about being able to toss in a couple of toaster waffles and having the June automatically pull up the proper cook program, for the proper amount of items. And it's not just frozen pastries - dress a whole chicken and place it in your June Oven and it knows what to do as soon as you close the door and confirm what's inside.

Matt cooked up a steak while we were chatting, and it was a seamless process. With the temperature probe in the side, he placed the steak in June, confirmed that it was, in fact, a filet (and not a bit of pork loin), and hit the start button. June remembered that Matt likes his steaks medium rare, so it didn't bother him with additional details (though he could have easily accessed the cook settings to adjust it if needed). It was a little hard to focus on our conversation after that as I watched the June Oven working over Matt's shoulder. It cycled through convection, broil, resting, and five additional steps to produce a mouth-wateringly perfect steak.

"We noticed that Japanese chefs add a resting step in the middle of the cook, so we added that in. It works wonderfully," Matt noted. When June first came out, cooking a steak used to consist of just three steps in the programming and required you to flip it halfway through. Now it's an eight-step process that eliminates the need to flip the steak. Real-world data has enabled June to create a better experience and share it with everyone. What's genius is that it's the June Oven working harder. You do less work and still end up with better food

Seven Appliances in One

All your unitaskers belong to us.

Countertop ovens often get criticized as being unitaskers or underperformers. But if the June Oven is a unitasker, it's a unitasker that eats other unitaskers.

Beyond just learning how to cook food better, the nimble programming of the June means that additional functionality can be added on the fly. Matt grinned like a culinary Santa Claus and said, "Everyone woke up one morning to find out that their June was now a slow cooker too." Additionally, the June team has added air fryer and dehydrator functions since launch. So then the June Oven is a convection oven, air fryer, dehydrator, slow cooker, broiler, toaster, and warming drawer all in one convenient countertop box (oh, and you rice fans might have a little something special in the future too—don't tell anyone).

What's interesting are the features that arise from parsing the collected user data. When I asked what's the most surprising thing that's been added since launch, Matt laughed. "Reheated pizza! We had a pizza setting, but we didn't have a setting for heating up yesterday's pizza. We do now."

Alexa, When's Dinner?

Yes, yes there is an app for that.

While there are over a hundred one-tap programs on the June Oven, what's even more interesting is the integration between the June Oven app and the oven itself. If you spring for the guided recipe book (there's a charge for an annual subscription), complicated recipes or concepts are broken down step-by-step in short videos. It's like your own personal Tasty tutorial. As you step through the recipe in the app (it will even help you place the temperature probe in the optimal spot), the June Oven is preparing itself. By the time you walk over to put your food in, the oven is ready to go. It knows what's for dinner and just needs you to press the button to get things started.

By the time you get the protein ready, June will be ready to go.

But even if you don't go all-in with the guided recipes, having an oven with a companion app is revelatory. You can be across the house or outside (or across the country) and pop in to see how your meal is progressing (and not just the raw data, but a live video feed of the cook). You can adjust things on the fly without having to be anywhere near the kitchen. Amazon has even taken an interest in June Oven. With the new Alexa skill, you can tell your oven to start cooking or ask how much time is left in a cook. It frees you up to do all the things you wish you could be doing while you're cooking.

Pricing and Availability

And that's the ultimate goal of June - to allow everyone to cook at home more often, serving up meals that were previously unobtainable due to time or skill constraints (I know that I'd never go through an eight-step process to make a steak if I was doing it manually).

June Over 2.0 has already launched at JuneOven.com for $599 for the base oven. It comes with the temperature probe, June pan, and roasting rack. You can get an additional pan, one extra year of warranty, and air dry and dehydrating baskets, as well as three years of the guided cookbook, for an additional $200.

If you're interested, you'll want to act quickly. Not only has the June Oven been sold out since September (so there's a lot of pent-up demand), but the company is offering $100 off during launch. I'll be back with hands-on impressions and a deeper dive into the app soon.


Whole Foods

Shutterstock

Like other grocery stores, Whole Foods employees are still required to wear face masks. When it comes to customers, the company's policy regarding face coverings hasn't changed since July 20.

"Whole Foods Market requires all customers to wear face coverings while shopping in our stores to protect the health and safety of our team members and communities. Whole Foods Market provides face masks at the entrance of all stores for customers who do not have their own face covering," the company says.


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