March 16, 2022
Amazon has informed gig workers selecting items at local Whole Foods stores for delivery to customers that they soon will become Whole Foods employees. The change marks Amazon’s latest effort to simplify its sprawling grocery and physical retail operations, which have grown to include two supermarket chains, convenience stores and apparel stores.
After the close of trading on March 9, Amazon’s board disclosed that it approved a 20-1 stock split (its first split since September 1999), as well as a $10 billion stock buyback. The board said the split would “give our employees more flexibility in how they manage their equity in Amazon and make the share price more accessible for people looking to invest.”
Amazon could be days away from closing its deal to buy Hollywood studio MGM. Antitrust agencies in the U.S. and Europe both have to decide if the $8.50 billion deal violates antitrust law. Amazon announced the transaction in May 2021. In Europe, EU antitrust regulators are set to clear the planned acquisition without conditions, according to people familiar with the matter. The deadline for the U.K. to act is today, followed by the U.S. FTC’s deadline, reportedly in the coming days.
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Southeastern Grocers (SEG) announced plans to continue its Florida expansion with the opening of a Winn-Dixie store in 2023. SEG has refreshed more than 70% of all stores throughout its Southeast footprint. It recently debuted the new Westlake Winn-Dixie, following openings in St. Augustine Shores and Viera in 2021. SEG also opened eight new Winn-Dixie units in Boynton Beach, Fort Myers, Gainesville, Lakewood Ranch, Lake Mary, and West Melbourne, as well as two locations in Jacksonville in 2020.
Grupo Comercial Chedraui is in integration mode after closing on its acquisition of Smart & Final from Apollo Global Management in July 2021; Smart & Final now operates as a division of Bodega Latina, the Company’s U.S. subsidiary, along with the El Super and Fiesta Mart chains. In late December 2021, Bodega Latina announced a name change to Chedraui USA to more closely align it with Grupo Comercial Chedraui. Altogether, Bodega now has 377 locations across California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Our report takes a closer look at the Company’s operational and competitive status, including market position, real estate and sales trends, and provides visual competitive analyses as well as key real estate metrics like store count, average sales per square foot, and the new Real Estate Intelligence analytics solution. Click here to request this report.
The Children’s Place recorded 4Q21 sales growth of 7.4%, a 1% decrease from 4Q19, with comps up 13.3% for the quarter. The growth was primarily driven by improved pricing and promotions, and a more favorable product assortment, partially offset by the impact of permanent store closures. The Company closed 256 stores since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in FY20, below the previously announced target of 300 closures due to favorably negotiated lease terms. Since the Company’s fleet optimization initiative was announced in 2013, it has permanently closed 527 stores. Looking ahead, despite significant headwinds in FY22 including high cotton prices, record inflation, lapping stimulus payments from last year, and ongoing freight disruptions, the Company expects to deliver double-digit EPS and double-digit operating margin in FY22.
At a virtual investor day last week, Kohl’s management announced plans to add 850 Sephora in-store shops (roughly 75% of its 1,100 U.S. stores), open 100 new units over the next four years at roughly half the size of a typical Kohl’s (approximately 40,000 instead of 80,000 square feet), and increase its Kohl’s Cash rewards program to 7.5% of purchases from 5%. The Company also unveiled new strategies to grow its online business, including self-service for pickup orders and returns. CEO Michelle Gass stated, “We’re evolving our position from a department store to a more focused lifestyle concept centered around the active and casual lifestyle.” The Company aims to grow its Sephora business to $2 billion through the aforementioned in-store shops rollout; it aims to grow its digital business to $8 billion by rolling out BOPIS to all stores this year, and continues to test self-serve returns and checkout. Kohl’s will expand its women’s dress offerings, outdoor and swim categories, and broaden its size offerings.
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BBQ Holdings announced it will acquire Barrio Queen, a seven-unit Mexican fine-dining restaurant chain based in Phoenix, AZ. The deal is set to close in early April and marks the third acquisition for BBQ Holdings over the past year. The $28 million acquisition will be funded with cash and debt.
The Kmart store in Woodbridge, NJ will close on April 17, leaving only three Kmart stores in operation. The remaining units are located in Westwood, NJ; Miami, FL; and Bridgehampton, NY. At its height, Kmart had about 2,400 stores across the U.S.
Citi Trends’ 4Q21 sales decreased 4.3% to $241 million, and comps were down 6.2%. However, when compared to pre-pandemic 4Q19, sales rose 14.2%, and comps were up 9.2%. The Company opened 27 new stores and remodeled 25 existing stores during the year, ending with 609 units in operation. Looking to 1Q22, management indicated that sales trends are improving compared to January 2022, when sales were negatively impacted by the sharp spike in COVID-19 cases; lapping the March 2021 government stimulus, which contributed to a 39% sales increase last year, Citi Trends anticipates 1Q22 sales to be down 25% – 30% year-over-year.
Last week, employees at three more Buffalo-area Starbucks have voted to unionize, bringing the total number of Company-owned stores with a union to six out of roughly 9,000 stores nationwide. Since the December votes, workers at more than 100 Starbucks stores in more than 25 states have filed for union elections, in which they are seeking to join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Workers in cities including Seattle, Boston, Rochester, NY and Knoxville, TN have begun voting or will do so this month.
In other news, Starbucks is expanding its community store concept footprint to 1,000 locations globally by 2030, by opening new stores and rebranding existing ones. It currently has 150 community stores. The concept provides dedicated programming and experiences that support economic opportunity in local communities and creates “pathways to opportunity” for employees.
On March 11, Topgolf opened a new location in Ontario, CA, which features 102 hitting bays, a bar and restaurant, and a rooftop terrace. This is the Company’s third site in California, joining two existing units in San Jose and Roseville. Meanwhile, this spring the Company will open a location in El Segundo, CA that will include a 10-hole green grass golf course. Topgolf now operates 68 locations in the U.S. and seven internationally.
Floor & Décor opened its newest location, a 75,000 square-foot warehouse store and design center in Garden City, NY on March 14. The Company operates more than 160 warehouse stores and two design studios across 33 states.
Wawa is looking to open its first stores in North Carolina by the end of 2024. Specific locations have not been disclosed, but the Company is reportedly scouting potential sites in the state. Wawa ventured outside of the Mid-Atlantic region for the first time in 2012, when it began opening stores in Florida, and then in 2017 when it entered Washington D.C. The Company currently operates convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and D.C.
The Buckle’s 4Q21 sales increased nearly 20% to $381 million, and comps were also up 20%. Online sales increased 10.5% and represented 19.5% of total sales. Operating income rose almost 30% to $110 million. FY21 sales jumped more than 43% to $1.30 billion, and comps increased nearly 44%.
Operating income roughly doubled to $335.5 million. At FYE21, the Company operated 440 stores in 42 states, down from 443 stores in FY20. Since then, The Buckle shuttered one underperforming store, leaving it with 439 units.
Canadian Tire plans to invest C$3.40 billion (US$2.66 billion) over the next four years in its physical and online presence. The Company said it would expand its rewards program and rollout its premium annual membership across its stores nationwide, while also introducing more than 12,000 new products under its own brands by 2025. Canadian Tire said about C$1.20 billion of its investment would go toward improving the connection of its digital and physical channels, to boost its same-day pickup options, including curbside. It also plans to invest about C$675 million to boost its supply chain infrastructure by adding more warehouse space and opening a new e-commerce fulfillment center.
Ace Hardware held a grand opening for its 40,000 square-foot Terre Haute, IN store, which had a soft opening back in January. The space was previously occupied by Stein Mart. In addition, Ace is opening a new 14,600 square-foot location in Big Rapids Township, MI in a former Save-A-Lot. This is the 14th location owned by franchisee Byron Clouse and his family, following recent openings in Reed City and Alma, MI. The store is slated to open in May.
Zumiez reported 4Q21 sales increased 4.6% to $346.7 million. However, gross margin declined 50 bps to 38.6%. As a result, operating income of $51.7 million fell 3.9% year-over-year but rose 2.6% compared to pre-pandemic 4Q19. FY21 sales increased 19.5% to $1.18 billion, and operating income jumped 62.8% to $157.8 million. Net sales are expected to be $215 million – $221 million, down meaningfully from last year due to the positive impact of stimulus measures last year and current economic uncertainty. Zumiez intends to open 34 new stores in FY22, including up to 15 stores in North America, 14 stores in Europe, and five units in Australia. As of February 26, the Company operated 738 stores, including 602 in the U.S., 52 in Canada, 67 in Europe, and 17 in Australia.
Walmart plans to expand its Baytown, TX supply chain campus with a new one million square-foot distribution center. The new facility will be Walmart’s fourth in Baytown and is set to open this fall. The additional facility will bring the total square footage of the campus to over five million square feet.
Tilly’s 4Q21 sales increased 15% to $204.5 million. Consolidated comps were up 12.5%, with physical store comps up 20.7%; store sales represented 74.4% of total sales, compared to 68.9% in the prior year. E-commerce sales declined 5.6% and represented 25.6% of total sales, down from 31.1% in the prior year, as consumer behavior favored stores over online sales. Through March 6, 1Q22 sales increased 10.4%, with physical store sales up 14% and e-commerce sales down 1.3%. 1Q22 sales are expected to be $143 million – $148 million, and comps are expected to decline 10% – 13%, as the Company laps last year’s pent-up demand coming out of 2020’s pandemic-related restrictions and stimulus payments. Tilly’s plans to open 15 to 20 new stores during FY22, on top of nine opened in FY21 (another six stores were permanently closed). The Company ended the year with 241 stores in operation.
Tops Friendly Markets reopened its largest store in Amherst, NY, following an extensive renovation. The 120,000 square-foot unit features an expanded fresh perimeter, wider assortment and a variety of new and enhanced services.
Ulta Beauty’s 4Q21 sales and comps grew 24.1% and 21.4%, respectively, with comp growth driven by an increase in transactions and average ticket. 4Q21 gross margin improved 250 bps to 37.6%, and 730 bps to 39% for FY21. During the quarter, the Company continued to expand its real estate footprint, opening six new stores, relocating three and remodeling one; during FY21, Ulta opened 48 new stores, relocated seven, remodeled nine and closed four. The Company’s FY22 outlook includes net sales of $9.05 billion to $9.15 billion, comps of 3% to 4%, 50 net new stores, 35 remodel and relocation projects, operating margin of 13.7% to 14%, $900 million in share repurchases, and capital expenditures of $375 million to $425 million.
Following the expiration of its last contract with Kroger’s Ralphs banner and Albertsons’ Vons, Pavilions and namesake banners in Southern California, UFCW representation in the region authorized a strike vote, set for March 21, following stalled talks. Workers from seven local unions will cast their vote. The UFCW is seeking wage increases and more safety protections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite 67 temporary store closures in the latter half of January due to a surge in COVID cases, Build-A-Bear’s 4Q21 revenue increased 38.8% to $130 million and rose 24.3% compared to 4Q19, driven by a more favorable merchandise mix, improved digital marketing, and strong consumer demand. E-commerce sales increased 3.5%, representing nearly 21% of net retail sales. The Company noted that its third-party retail partnerships with Carnival Cruise Lines, Great Wolf Lodge Resorts, and Landry’s and Beaches Family Resorts were mostly reopened.
Gap opened a 4,000 square-foot in-store shop in British fashion retailer Next’s largest West End store in London, U.K. The opening is part of a joint venture that Gap entered into with Next in September 2021 to grow the Gap business in the U.K. and Ireland. Next will manage Gap’s e-commerce busniess as well as Gap-branded in-store shops within Next locations. Next operates roughly 500 stores in the U.K. and Ireland. Gap previously operated 81 Company-owned stores in the U.K. and Ireland; in July 2021, the Company announced the decision to close all 81 units following a strategic review. At the time, Gap said it would look for more cost-effective ways to maintain a presence and serve customers in Europe.
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