February 10, 2021
On Monday, Golub Corp. (Price Chopper) and Tops Markets announced they have agreed to merge, a deal most likely made more attractive by the operational benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic on the grocery sector. A newly formed parent company for the two entities will be headquartered in Schenectady, NY, while the Price Chopper (estimated sales of $3.80 billion) and Tops Markets (estimated sales of $2.50 billion) businesses will retain offices in Schenectady and Williamsville, NY, respectively, and continue to be managed locally by their respective leaders. Golub is 56% owned by the Golub family and 44% employee-owned. The transaction is expected to close later this year, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The transaction will merge a union operator, Tops Friendly Markets, with a non-union operator, the Golub Corporation. UFCW Local One represents 10,000 Tops Friendly Markets employees. The union is keeping a close eye on the transaction, as there is concern it would be structured as an acquisition of Tops by Price Chopper, with the possibility they would seek to eliminate union jobs and replace them with nonunion jobs to reduce labor costs. UFCW Local One President Frank DeRiso commented, “Now we’re dealing with a nonunion company who doesn’t have the same ideals of operating a company as Tops might have for their employees.” The union has tried unsuccessfully over the years to organize operations at Price Chopper, including at a warehouse and at stores, and is preparing the legal side in the event there is a change in operations. Mr. DeRiso noted that UFCW’s contract with Tops for Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse has about two years remaining. The union’s contract with Tops in the Adirondacks region expires this summer. Local 264’s contract with Tops has another four years remaining.
Below is a store overlap analysis of the two companies. There are 18 Tops Friendly Market stores within a 5-mile radius of 14 Price Chopper stores in the U.S. Click here for more information.
Amazon remained one of the biggest beneficiaries of the ongoing channel shift, especially during the holiday period. In 4Q, sales rose 44% to $125.56 billion. By channel, online sales rose 46%, while physical store sales fell 8%, likely due to a deceleration in grocery purchases as certain regions began opening up, allowing consumers to dine out. Amazon Web Services (AWS) sales remained strong, growing 30% and comprising 11.8% of total sales. Amazon’s gross margin slid 141 bps, as shipping costs jumped 67% and was 17% of sales. Operating margin of 5.5% was up 104 bps from last year.
In other news, Amazon will invest $200.0 million in Eastern Tennessee to build a new warehouse distribution site. The facility is expected to be completed in 2022. It will be Amazon’s third fulfillment center to use robotics technology in Tennessee and its eighth fulfillment center in the state. Separately, Amazon is building an operations hub in Nashville, TN. Click here for a list of Amazon future store openings.
Kroger will close two supermarkets in Long Beach, CA, including a Ralphs and Food 4 Less, citing government-mandated pandemic hazard pay as the cause. In January, the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring grocery stores with at least 300 employees nationwide or more than 15 employees per store to pay workers an additional $4 per hour for at least 120 days. Since then, both Seattle and Los Angeles have instituted their own grocery pay raise mandates. Click here to request a list of future store openings and closings.
Hudson’s Bay is launching an online marketplace on thebay.com later this year; it invited Canadian vendors to become part of its seller community in apparel, home, beauty, or accessories. The Company is also considering new lines of product offerings. The marketplace initiative is part of Hudson’s Bay’s “digital-first strategic evolution.” Competitors like Amazon and Walmart use the marketplace to expand their online presence, with independent sellers bringing in 50% of Amazon’s sales, and the number of sellers on Walmart’s platform doubling to more than 50,000 from 2019.
Hudson’s Bay also confirmed the layoff of 600 employees last week, all of whom worked at its namesake stores in Canada. The Company is not closing any of its 88 full-line stores, though some are temporarily closed due to lockdown rules for non-essential retailers.
PriceSmart plans to begin construction on its ninth warehouse club in Colombia, which is anticipated to open this fall. With the addition of this new Colombia club and previously announced new clubs in Guatemala City, Guatemala and Portmore, Jamaica, the Company expects to have 50 clubs in operation by spring 2022.
The Company also reported January net merchandise sales growth of 5.2% to $267.1 million, negatively impacted by 3.5% due to foreign currency exchange. Comps increased 2.8%. The Company opened two new warehouse clubs over the past year, bringing its count to 47.
On February 4, Asos announced the planned acquisition of four Arcadia brands, Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, and HIIT, for £265.0 million (US$365.5 million) in cash. Asos expects to integrate the brands into its business quickly, using its existing warehouse and technology infrastructure, and it plans to deepen its partnership with Nordstrom to accelerate U.S. growth. All existing standalone stores are likely to close, but reports indicate that Asos may keep the Topshop flagship store in London.
The Company will also open a new 16,000 square-foot discount supermarket in Port Angeles, WA in late April. The store will be located across the street from a Safeway. Click here to request a list of future store openings and closings.
In the ascena retail group bankruptcy case, Simon Property Group, Inc. filed an objection to confirmation of the Plan of Reorganization, citing a dispute with Sycamore Partners Management, whose Premium Apparel LLC subsidiary purchased Ascena’s Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Loft, and Lou & Grey units out of bankruptcy. The purchase agreement provided for Premium Apparel to operate no less than 900 of 1,500 Ascena stores, although it did not specify which ones. Following closing of the transaction, Simon alleged that Premium Apparel “significantly reduced the business’ physical store presence by assuming many leases with shorter durations, and designating a number of profitable stores for closure.” Simon alleged that Premium Apparel would be a “riskier, less creditworthy tenant as a result,” and it raised concerns about Premium’s ability to satisfy its contractual commitments after the proposed Plan becomes effective. Simon stated, “The acquirer is a newly-formed entity and is wholly owned by a parent company - Sycamore - that has repeatedly bankrupted retailers it acquired, and is currently at the center of fiduciary duty and fraudulent conveyance litigation surrounding Sycamore’s failed investment in Nine West. Against this backdrop, the recent decision by the Purchaser to close 160 of 226 stores leased from Simon - stores that the Debtors intended as recently as November to keep - gives rise to significant concerns regarding the Purchaser’s financial and operational ability to satisfy their statutory and contractual commitments.” Click here to request a list of store closures.
Publix opened a new GreenWise Market in Fort Lauderdale, FL on February 4. The 27,760 square-foot specialty, natural and organic store includes curated local products and experience zones. It is the eighth GreenWise Market and the sixth for the state, including a location in Boca Raton. Click here to request a list of store openings.
On February 8, Belk reaffirmed its plans to complete a financial restructuring through an expedited “pre-packaged, one-day” reorganization. The Company expects to file for Chapter 11 on February 24 and anticipates that the confirmation hearing to approve the restructuring will be held on the same day. Lenders holding 99% of Belk’s first lien term loan and 100% of Belk’s second lien term loan have now entered into the previously announced Restructuring Support Agreement (RSA), which enables Belk to raise $225.0 million of new capital, significantly reduce debt by about $450.0 million, and extend maturities on all term loans to July 2025. Under the terms of the RSA, Sycamore Partners will retain majority control of Belk.
After a pause in 2020, Hy-Vee will open two full-line stores in the Twin Cities this year, in Maplewood and Spring Lake Park, MN. The 75,000 square-foot Spring Lake Park unit, originally scheduled to open in late 2019, will open this spring. The Maplewood unit, expected to open in the spring/summer, will take over space previously occupied by a Rainbow Foods. Click here to request a list of future store openings.
Chipotle Mexican Grill’s 4Q revenues grew 11.6% to $1.61 billion, based on a combination of 5.7% comparable restaurant sales growth and incremental contributions from net 146 new restaurants opened over the course of the year. Full-year sales and comps improved 7.1% and 1.8%, respectively. Digital sales continued to rise as a proportion of total sales, reaching 49% in 4Q and 46.2% for the full year. 4Q restaurant operating margin increased 30 bps, which management attributed to menu price increases, partially offset by higher delivery fees. Management indicated that operating results are on the upswing in early 1Q21, with comps up about 11% in January. Click here to request a list of future store openings.
Topgolf Entertainment plans to open two new locations in the Los Angeles metro area, in Ontario and El Segundo, CA. Both sites are slated to begin development this month and are expected to open in early 2022. The new locations will join an existing Topgolf in Roseville (outside Sacramento) and a San Jose location, which is expected to open later this year. Click here to request a list of store openings.
Weis Markets opened a new store in Martinsburg, WV on February 4. The new 66,000 square-foot unit offers Weis 2 Go Online ordering with curbside pick-up and delivery. Click here to request a list of future store openings.
In the Francesca’s Holdings bankruptcy case, the Debtors notified the Court of the closing of the sale of substantially all their assets as a going concern to the stalking horse bidder, a group including TerraMar Capital LLC and Tiger Capital LLC. The $27.0 million purchase price is comprised of approximately $18.0 million in cash, subject to certain adjustments, a $1.25 million promissory note, and the assumption of $7.77 million in liabilities. TerraMar has committed to continue operating at least 275 stores. As of mid-January, the Company had 551 locations, mostly in malls. About 140 stores were closed before the Chapter 11 filing in December. TerraMar is an investment firm that provides debt and equity capital to middle-market businesses, and Tiger was engaged to dispose of the Debtors’ merchandise; it also provided DIP financing. Click here to request a list of store closures.
On January 29, BJ’s Wholesale Club opened a 79,000 square-foot warehouse club in Long Island City, marking its 45th club and ninth in New York. The Company also opened an 89,000 square-foot unit in Newburgh, NY earlier last month. Click here to request a list of future store openings.
At Home Group opened its first stores of the year on February 3 in Nanuet, NY; Johnstown, CO; and Ocean Township, NJ. The Company will also open a store in San Jose, CA later this month. The new additions give At Home 222 locations in 40 states. The Company plans to open 12 to 15 stores across the country this year, as part of its plans to potentially reach 600 stores operating in the U.S. Click here to request a list of future store openings.
In the Christopher & Banks bankruptcy case, the Debtors filed a motion to reject additional leases. Some of the leases include: (i) month-to-month leases, and (ii) agreements that expired on January 31. The Debtors stated that they do not believe these agreements constitute executory contracts or unexpired leases; however, they have included these agreements for rejection out of an abundance of caution. Click here to request a list of additional lease rejections.
24 Hour Fitness emerged from bankruptcy on December 29, 2020 with a leaner balance sheet, shedding about $1.20 billion (86%) of debt and closing about 160 (36%) of its clubs. Major lenders who held more than 60% of the Company's prepetition senior secured debt and helped provide DIP financing, received 95% of the Company's equity upon emergence. However, operations are expected to remain pressured through 2021, given the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.Click here to request an Emergence Outlook Report.