November 8, 2023
In the RITE AID CORPORATION, DIP case, the Debtors notified the Court that they intend to close 24 additional stores.These units are in addition to the initial list of 159 store closings which were previously announced. The Debtors stated that they intend to close at least 400 stores. Objections to closure of any of the locations are due November 12, 2023.
In other news, the NYSE notified the SEC of its intention to remove Rite Aid's common stock from listing on November 13. In reaching its delisting determination, the NYSE noted that the restructuring term sheet contemplates that the Company's equity holders are expected to receive no recovery.
PUBLIX reported 3Q23 sales were up 7.2% and comps rose 4.3%, primarily due to the impact of inflation on product costs. The Company's stock, which is not publicly traded and is available only for current Publix employees and board members, was priced at $15.10 as of November 1, up from the previous price of $14.75. The Company ended the quarter with 1,351 supermarkets across seven Southeastern states. It plans to enter an eighth state, Kentucky, in early 2024. For the YTD23 period, Publix opened 33 supermarkets, including nine replacement stores, and closed four locations; it also remodeled 79 stores. In the coming weeks, it plans to open stores in Dacula, GA; Winston-Salem, NC; Ooltewah, TN; and Lakeland, FL.
NATURAL GROCERS BY VITAMIN COTTAGE will open a store in Loveland, CO on November 15, bringing its Colorado store count to 45. The Company also recently opened a store in Kennewick, WA on October 25 and a remodeled location in Norman, OK on November 2. Natural Grocers operates more than 165 stores in 21 states.
GELSON'S opened its 28th store and first location in West Los Angeles, CA. The 33,000 square-foot store features a sushi/tapas bar, build-your-own pizza bar with an adjacent cafe and bakery, self-serve salad bar, a hot-food and soup bar, a poke bar, and a wine and cheese section.
PRICESMART operated 51 clubs at the end of FY23 (August 31, 2023), compared to 50 the prior year. Comparable net merchandise sales increased 7.1% YOY for the 50 clubs that were open for more than a year.
COSTCO reported October sales increased 4.5% to $18.53 billion, with U.S. sales up 1.1% and Canada sales were up 8.5%. E-commerce sales were up 3.7%. For the eight week period ended October 29, sales were up 5.3% to $36.57 billion.
Simon Property Group reduced its stake in Sparc Group, a 50-50 venture with AUTHENTIC BRANDS GROUP, to 33%. The sale provided after-tax gains of $118.1 million in 3Q23. Sparc operates Forever 21, Brooks Brothers, Aeropostale, Eddie Bauer, Lucky Brand, Nautica, and Reebok.
L CATTERTON disclosed that it sold its stake in active apparel brand Rhone to a group led by Rhone management and several select investors. While the news was just announced, the deal actually closed in July 2022. Rhone closed on a Series D round of financing through a Special Purpose Vehicle fund that provided the capital needed to buy out L Catterton's minority stake. With the new infusion of capital, Rhone has opened 11 stores over the last 12 months, nearly doubling its footprint. Rhone will open several more stores before year's end, giving it 15 locations.
BOOT BARN opened 10 new stores during 2Q24, bringing its store count to 371. Comps decreased 4.8%, led by a retail comp decline of 3.8% and an e-commerce comp decline of 11.7%. Looking ahead, the Company expects to open 52 new stores during FY24, of which 26 have opened so far; 44 stores were opened during FY23.
VON MAUR plans to open a two-story, 118,000 square-foot department store in Pittsburgh, PA, in a former Sears at South Hills Village. The new location is slated to open in Fall 2024 and will be its first in the state. Management indicated that it sees this as a good entry point for the market, and it may open one to three locations in the area. Von Maur operates 38 stores upscale department stores under the Von Maur banner and 72 women's specialty stores under the Dry Goods banner.
FLEET FEET acquired the flagship location of The Ultra Running Co. in Myers Park, NC. The location has been rebranded as Fleet Feet Charlotte-Myers Park. Founded in 1976, Fleet Feet is the largest franchisor of locally owned and operated run specialty stores. It has more than 260 locations in 40 states.
According to reports, FRANCHISE GROUP’SCEO Brian Kahn was implicated as a co-conspirator in an alleged scheme to commit securities fraud. This follows an admission by John Hughes, a co-founder of Prophecy Asset Management, that he defrauded clients out of $294 million, which they were told would be invested according to a “low-risk” strategy. Hughes said he worked with two co-conspirators and although prosecutors have not identified the co-conspirators, reports state that they were Prophecy CEO Jeffrey Spotts and Brian Kahn. It is not clear if Spotts or Kahn are facing charges.
CENTRAL GARDEN & PET announced the acquisition of TDBBS, LLC from Bregal Partners. Based in Richmond, VA, TDBBS is a provider of premium natural dog chews and treats. The addition of TDBBS will expand Central's portfolio with bully and collagen sticks, bones, and jerky, and further strengthen Central's e-commerce and digital capabilities.
EG GROUP has finalized the sale of the majority of its U.K. and Ireland based fuel, foodservice, grocery, and merchandise business to Asada for a total of $2.50 billion. The Company will maintain operations in the United States, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium, as well as 32 sites in the U.K. Additionally, the Company will also retain certain foodservice brands such as Cooplands, its wholly-owned bakery business, as well as franchise businesses with Starbucks, KFC, Sbarro, Chaiiwala, and Cinnabon brands, which are factored into the overall purchase price.
The $2.5 billion received from the purchase along with net proceeds of $1.4 billion from a recent sale and leaseback transaction and an additional $43 million from the disposal of non-core U.S. assets, will be utilized to repay debt, which will significantly reduce the Company’s net leverage. Furthermore, EG Group also amended the remaining $3.2 billion of its term loan, extending the maturity to February 2028. Lastly, the Company announced an up to $500 million Term Loan B add-on, which will be used to partially refinance the remaining 2025 maturities. EG Group remains committed to addressing its debt, targeting a net leverage of 4x in the near to mid-term.
ALIMENTATION COUCHE-TARD completed its previously announced transaction with Copec, which includes 112 Company-operated fuel and convenience retail sites from MAPCO Express as well as surplus property and a logistics fleet. The transaction was financed using available cash and its U.S. Commercial Paper Program.
Monthly Background Checks See Rebound... The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reported that the October 2023 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) number increased 8.2% to 1.26 million, rebounding after five months of declines (8.2% in September, 13% in August, 17% in July, 19.6% in June, and 0.1% in May). The last positive month was April, up 0.7%. Last month's terrorist attack in Israel and the subsequent invasion of Gaza have raised tensions worldwide, leading to increased demand for self defense. NSSF noted that October was the third highest October on record and marks the 51st month in a row that it exceeded one million adjusted background checks in one month. For comparison, the unadjusted October NICS figure of 2.19 million reflects an 11.4% decrease YOY from 2.47 million.
Pharmageddon... Non-union pharmacy workers at CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens walked off the job last week to protest inadequate staffing and increasing work requirements. CVS reported that its pharmacies remained open during the protests, and Rite Aid said it was "unaware of plans by our pharmacists to participate in this activity." Walgreens said that three locations temporarily closed on October 30 and that a small number of pharmacies experienced workforce disruptions. According to published sources, 25 Walgreens pharmacies closed in 15 states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Texas, and Illinois. Meanwhile, ongoing labor disputes continue at other retailers. Nearly 700 warehouse workers at Smart & Final held a two-day "practice strike" last week amid negotiations, and two Smart & Final warehouses in California joined the Teamsters Local 730 union earlier this year.