National business briefing

New Seasons Market, an upscale grocery chain based in Portland, said Tuesday it has sold its business to a South Korean company.

New Seasons will close one store in Seattle, scrap plans to open a second there and convert a store on nearby Mercer Island to a different brand controlled by the new owners. The Portland stores will remain open but New Seasons said any future growth will be “modest.”

The Portland company’s new owner is Emart, a South Korean company that will control New Seasons through a U.S. affiliate called Good Food Holdings. Emart purchased Good Food last year for $275 million.

New Seasons didn’t disclose its sale price but said CEO Forrest Hoffmaster will continue running the business. The grocer said Hoffmaster was unavailable Tuesday morning to discuss the sale.

Known for fine foods — and correspondingly high prices — New Seasons emerged in 1999 from another Portland grocery chain, Nature’s Fresh Northwest, following Nature’s sale to Wild Oats Market.

The chain has grown rapidly over the past 20 years and now employs 3,800 at 21 stores, 18 of them in the Portland area. The company has one store in the Bay Area in addition to the two in the Puget Sound region.

Airlines are looking forward to another big Christmas and New Year’s season, with 3% more people flying in the U.S. than during last year’s holiday stretch.

The trade group Airlines for America said Tuesday that 47.5 million people are expected to fly over an 18-day period from Dec. 19 through Jan. 5.

The busiest days are forecast to be the Friday and Saturday before Christmas and the Thursday and Friday after Christmas, which falls on a Wednesday this year.

The trade group expects the lightest days to be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

U.S. productivity fell in the summer, the first decline in nearly four years, underscoring the struggles companies are facing in boosting worker efficiency.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that productivity edged down at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.2% in the July-September quarter, the first quarterly drop since the fourth quarter of 2015. The new report represented a slight revision from an initial estimate of a 0.3% drop in productivity.

Labor costs were up at an annual rate of 2.5% in the third quarter, a sharp rebound from a tiny 0.1% increase in the second quarter.


gains during the current record-long expansion, now in its 11th year, have lagged significantly, averaging annual gains of just 1.3% from 2007 through 2018. That is just half the 2.7% annual productivity gains seen from 2000 to 2007.

— Bulletin wire reports

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