November 15, 2023
In the RITE AID CORPORATION, DIP case, the Debtors notified the Court that they intend to close 15 additional stores. These units are in addition to the initial list of 183 store closings which were previously announced. The Debtors stated that they intend to close at least 400 stores.
AHOLD DELHAIZE USA announced it has entered into an agreement to sell its FreshDirect business to Getir, a grocery delivery company operating in key markets in the U.S. and globally. The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, is expected to close during 4Q23. The divestment loss is estimated to be $275 million to $325 million pre-tax. All customers will continue to be served by their local delivery teams.
Premier Kings Inc., DIP, a substantial franchisee of BURGER KING CORP., has filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama. This comes after the unexpected passing of the sole manager and owner, Manraj "Patrick" Sidhu in May 2022, which the Company said "triggered great operational instability." Sidhu's Popeyes franchise business, Premier Cajun Kings, DIP, filed for bankruptcy in March 2023, and 11 stores were closed while 19 remain in operation and for sale. Premier Kings' Chief Restructuring Officer David Baker said the Company has over 200 creditors and operates 172 Burger King franchise locations throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. As we noted in our 10/20 Alert, Burger King has already seen two sizable franchisees declare bankruptcy in 2023: Meridian Restaurants Unlimited (a 118-unit Burger King franchisee based in Utah) and TOMS Kings (a 90-unit Burger King franchisee based in Illinois). Premier Kings said it closed several restaurants and intends to continue operating while conducting a sale of its remaining stores.
Anagram Holdings, LLC, PARTY CITY'S balloon-manufacturing subsidiary, filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. The proceedings have been designated as case number 23-90901. The filing occurred after Party City, its parent, rejected its supply contract (an executory contract), with Anagram as part of its own bankruptcy proceedings in May 2023.
Commenting on steps leading to the planned closing of the MATTRESS FIRM acquisition, TEMPUR SEALY CEO Scott Thompson stated, "We continue to expect to formally respond to the FTC's second request in 4Q23 and to close the transaction in mid to late 2024. I am pleased to share that Tempur Sealy and Mattress Firm continue to make joint progress in synergies planning. In addition, Tempur Sealy has signed post-closing supply agreements with numerous companies providing Mattress firm with access to certain consumer-desired products, solidifying important supplier relationships ahead of the expected close. Additional discussions regarding supplier relationships are ongoing."
AMAZON has made grocery delivery and free pickup available to customers without a Prime membership in all U.S. locations were Amazon Fresh is available. The rollout follows a pilot in select cities this past summer. The same services will soon be available from Whole Foods to non-Prime members. Additionally, customers without a Prime membership can now order delivery from a variety of local grocery and specialty retailers on Amazon.com, including Bristol Farms, Cardenas Markets, Pet Food Express, Weis Markets, and Save Mart.
Meanwhile, Amazon also announced that based on feedback from redesigning Amazon Fresh stores in the Chicago area, it has done the same to three Fresh stores in the Los Angeles area, in Pasadena, Irvine, and Woodland Hills. The updates include an in-store Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop, self-checkouts, and more than 2,000 new national and private label products across the aisles. In addition, the redesigned stores feature the latest version of Amazon's Dash Cart.
Finally, Amazon will close its two brick-and-mortar Amazon Style stores in favor of focusing on its grocery and online fashion operations. Both stores closed on November 9. Last year, Amazon shuttered all its stand-alone bookstores and other non-grocery stores. Amazon Style locations featured technology that provided customers with suggestions based on their preferences, but critics warned that it was confusing or otherwise less than ideal for shoppers.
CAMPING WORLD is acquiring Youngblood RV in Springfield, MO. The transaction is anticipated to close in 1Q24 and will increase the Company's Missouri location count to six. The Company ended 3Q23 with 209 locations. Subsequent to quarter end, Camping World announced the acquisition of Travelcamp RV, which will add 12 locations (including seven in Florida), although the Company also closed seven underperforming dealership locations in order to redeploy working capital to higher returning investments.
EQUINOX extended its revolver, this time by two months, to now mature January 8, 2024 (from November 8, 2023). This is the second revolver extension following a very similar punt earlier in the year, which pushed the maturity from March 2023 to November 2023. As of November 8, the Company had $66 million outstanding on the $75 million revolver. As with the prior extension, Moody's characterized the transaction as a "distressed exchange."
Gerrity's, which became a WAKEFERN member in June 2023, completed the renovation and rebranding of its 10 grocery stores in Northeast Pennsylvania to The Fresh Grocer banner. The Fresh Grocer banner specializes in serving high quality, fresh prepared foods to communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Gerrity's decision to rebrand makes it the 48th member of Wakefern. The rebranded locations are located in the Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Northampton counties of Pennsylvania.
INSTACART reported a nearly $2 billion loss in its first earnings report since going public, driven by "significantly elevated" stock-based compensation during its IPO. For FY23, Instacart said it anticipates gross transaction value to grow in mid-single digits, and it expects 3x more adjusted EBITDA for the period than the $187 million it had in 2022.
In other news, Instacart has partnered with Geissler's Supermarkets, a seven-store IGA retailer with locations in Connecticut and Massachusetts. As part of the partnership, Instacart will introduce its AI smart carts, called Caper Carts, in Geissler's locations, replacing its traditional shopping carts. Other retailers that use Caper Carts include Schnucks and Wakefern's ShopRite and Fairway banners.
WARBY PARKER opened 11 new stores during 3Q23, ending with 227 stores. E-commerce revenue was up 3% YOY, and active customers increased 1.8% to 2.3 million. The Company raised its FY23 sales outlook from the previously projected $655 million to $664 million to a revised range of $666 million to $669 million.
WALGREENS announced the layoffs of 267 corporate employees, representing 5% of the total corporate workforce. CEO Tim Wentworth said that no store, micro-fulfillment center, or call center level employees will be impacted. This is on top of a layoff of over 500 high-ranking employees in May and the closing of an e-commerce facility in Illinois, which eliminated 400 roles. In a letter to its employees, Wentworth commented, "We've had to make some difficult decisions about budgets and investments, including stopping projects, dramatically reducing our spending, and going line by line in our budgets to unlock all potential savings. However, despite those efforts and many of yours, our costs are not aligned with the performance of the business."
KRISPY KREME CEO Josh Charlesworth stated in a recent earnings call that it is in discussions with MCDONALD'S to expand its partnership. Over the last year, the two chains have been offering doughnuts in select McDonald's outlets in Kentucky, including in nearly 160 restaurants across Louisville and Lexington. McDonald's has been capitalizing on the popularity of coffee and scaling back on its own bakery items as part of the partnership. Charlesworth stated, "While nothing has been finalized, we are excited about our continued partnership with McDonald's, and we are in advanced discussions about expanding the relationship."
CARROLS reported 3Q23 sales increased 7.2%, with comps up 8.1% at Burger King and 11.7% at Popeyes. Looking ahead, the Company plans to remodel 45 Burger King restaurants in 2024. The Company has closed three Burger King and four Popeyes restaurants this year, including one Popeyes during 3Q23.
Black Friday spending... Based on a 2023 Black Friday consumer sentiment survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group, 74% of consumers expect to take advantage of Black Friday deals, up seven percentage points from the prior year. More than 7,000 consumers across the U.S., Canada, and several European countries were surveyed. Spending is expected to increase 3% to 22% compared to 2022. U.S. consumers expect to spend the most ($460), followed by Switzerland ($390), and Germany ($385). To cut costs, more than 50% of those surveyed reported that they have cut back on non-essential purchases in the past three months, while 49% check and compare prices more frequently, and 41% buy more based on deals and promotions.
Seasonal Hiring and Revenue Expectations... Retailers added 147,800 seasonal positions in October, a 3% increase from the 143,700 added in October 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzed by coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. So far this season, large-scale hiring announcements are lower than previous years. U.S. based companies announced 573,300 seasonal positions in September and October combined, down from 590,200 in 2022 and 939,200 in 2021.
December retail sales are expected to increase 3% this year, in stark contrast to the 14.6% surge in 2021 and 7.5% in 2022, according to the Holiday Retail Trends Guide. Personal savings rates are well below the long-term average, credit card usage is up 14%, and student loan payments have resumed after a three-year pause, all of which places pressure on consumers' spendable income.
Rising Credit Card Debt... Credit card debt surged during 3Q23 to a record high of $1.080 trillion, according to data released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The $154 billion YOY gain in debt was the largest such increase since 1999. At the same time, the 90-day delinquency rate measure for credit cardholders increased to 5.78%, up from 3.69% a year earlier. The report found that rising delinquencies were particularly acute among millennials and those with auto or student loans.