October 12, 2022
According to published reports, Amazon has put a freeze on corporate hiring in its retail division, including tech roles and at its Amazon stores segment, through the end of 2022. The reports cite an internal document sent to recruiting teams, which indicated that new openings will be listed early next year. In a statement, a spokesperson commented, “Amazon continues to have a significant number of open roles available across the company. We have many different businesses at various stages of evolution, and we expect to keep adjusting our hiring strategies in each of these businesses at various junctures.” The news comes weeks after the Company announced that for the first time it would hold a second Prime Day event this year (which kicked off today in 15 countries and ends tomorrow). The Company still plans to hire 150,000 employees for the holidays, roughly the same amount as last year, to fill full-time, seasonal, and part-time jobs across its operations network, for packing, picking, sorting and shipping.
Amazon has stopped testing “Scout”, its autonomous robot that drove around neighborhoods, dropping off packages. The team building the robot has been scaled back, and the Company is postponing its tests because “there were aspects of the program that weren’t meeting customers’ needs.” Amazon has been trialing the Scout robots since 2019.
Published reports claim Amazon Fresh could replace a shuttered Office Depot in Davie, FL. The town of Davie will consider a site plan for the location. This would mark the banner’s debut in South Florida and would be its 35th Fresh unit.
Forever 21 plans to open 14 new stores across the U.S., including one that has already opened in August in Calexico, CA. The remaining 13 stores are expected to be open by June 2023 (see chart below for the list of future openings, as well as the adjacent Retail Openings & Closings map). The Company indicated that all 14 stores will offer BOPIS services. Forever 21 operates 572 locations globally, including more than 400 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Click here to request a sample list of future store openings and closings.
Walmart announced it will lay off 1,458 employees at a facility in Fulton County, GA, outside of Atlanta, by December 2, according to a WARN Notice. The 1.2 million square-foot distribution facility, which opened in 2015, housed half-a-million SKUs, including electronics, toys, apparel, home furnishings, and sporting goods. In a statement, a spokesperson said the Company is converting the DC for its Walmart Fulfillment Services business, which supports its marketplace sellers. The news follows Amazon’s more recent scaling back of fulfillment centers — and could imply that these massive e-commerce investments are draining resources, as many consumers are increasingly heading back to stores.
Days earlier, nonetheless, Walmart announced an agreement to purchase micro-fulfillment center (MFC) developer Alert Innovation. Financial terms were not disclosed. Walmart partnered with Alert on a multi-year pilot of the Company’s robotic grocery order-fulfillment technology, known as Alphabot. It launched a test of the autonomous cart-based system in a 20,000 square-foot warehouse connected to a Supercenter in Salem, NH in 2019. Alert Innovation will continue to operate under its existing name and remain in the Boston area.
Separately, Walmart opened its first “next-gen” fulfillment center in Joliet, IL, one of four the Company plans to construct over the next three years. The facility stands at 1.1 million square feet. According to Walmart, the four next-gen fulfillment centers, once operational, will be able to provide 75% of the U.S. population with next or two-day shipping. The centers will also be used to fulfill Marketplace items shipped for third-party e-commerce sellers, as part of Walmart Fulfillment Services.
Walmart Canada is making its logistics and fulfilment solutions available to Walmart Marketplace sellers with the launch of Walmart Fulfilment Services in Canada. As a result, third-party Walmart sellers in the Great White North will be able to offer two-day shipping or in-store pickup to customers, making delivery faster than in a typical Walmart Marketplace experience. There are no inventory requirements or minimums to participate.
Finally, the Company named Stephanie Wissink as its new SVP of investor relations, effective October 24. She succeeds Dan Binder, who transitioned into his new role as Walmart’s SVP and global treasurer. Wissink is currently managing director and senior research analyst at investment banking firm Jefferies.
Costco reported September (five weeks ended October 2) sales growth of 10.2% to $21.46 billion. Comps, excluding the impacts from changes in gas prices and currency exchange, rose 8.6%, consisting of growth of 8% in the U.S., 9.6% in Canada, and 11% in Other International. E-commerce sales were up 2.3%.
Costco announced its new 160,500 square-foot club in Liberty Township, OH, in the Cincinnati metro area, will open on November 17. The club, which will replace the nearby Springdale Costco which will close a day earlier, is located in the 88-acre, $139 million mixed-use Freedom Pointe development; a retail strip of businesses will see construction start in spring 2023. The Company was originally working to transition the 150,000 square-foot Springdale location into a Costco Business Center but was unable to do so in a cost-effective way. Costco’s business centers average 110,000 square feet.
On September 30, the city of Celina, TX confirmed it would be the site of a 160,000 square-foot Costco. The city is the smallest ever to receive a full-service warehouse club, but its current population of more than 30,000 has nearly tripled since 2010. Of Costco’s more than a dozen stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, the Celina location will be its farthest north. Phase one of the development, which initiated once the deal was effectuated, will total roughly 200,000-225,000 square feet of commercial retail space, including the Costco building, pad sites, restaurant and entertainment uses. The anticipated ad valorem tax value is estimated at more than $200 million at full buildout. Click here to request a sample list of future store openings.
In the Olympia Sports, DIP case, the Court entered an order approving the Debtors motion to reject certain leases (click here to request the list) which the Debtors believe will reduce operating costs by over $630,000 per month, collectively. The order provides that the leases are rejected as of the petition date, with the exception of the lease for the Derby Shopping Center in Newport, VT (designated as Store 6141) which is deemed rejected as of September 20, 2022. The Court entered an interim order authorizing the Debtors to use cash collateral.
The Court also approved the appointment of SB360 to conduct store closing sales, despite an objection by the U.S. Trustee. The objection asked the court to deny SB360 from running the liquidation because its chairman and CEO, Jay Schottenstein, is also Chairman of Designer Brands, which purchased the Shoes.com intellectual property from Olympia owner, CriticalPoint Capital.
Kroger and Local 1059, the union representing about 12,500 workers at 82 central, northwest and southeast Ohio stores, averted a labor strike last week, after workers ratified the grocer’s latest contract offer. The unionized workers rejected the last three proposals and voted in mid-September to authorize the UFCW to call a strike, before returning to the bargaining table with Kroger on September 27 and 28, resulting in the ratified contract. Under the new contract, 85% of unionized workers will receive a front-loaded $1.00 wage increase, starting October 23. Department heads, assistant department heads and full-time top-rate associates will also receive a $2,500 bonus.
EG Group has completed the initial group of its Tom Thumb to Cumberland Farms conversions in the Gulf Coast, with the first converted location opening in Gulf Shores, AL; more than 50 are projected to open by year-end. The new units feature updated equipment and menu items, including hot prepared foods and Farmhouse blend coffee. In February, EG Group announced plans to expand its Northeast-based Cumberland Farms brand to the Gulf Coast by converting existing Tom Thumb stores in Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama, in addition to developing new locations. Cumberland Farms already operates more than 50 stores on the east coast of Florida.
ABC Supply announced the openings of locations in Pottstown, PA, Danvers, MA, and Haslet, TX, bringing its branch openings for the year to 15. The Pottstown location, the third to open this year in Pennsylvania, strengthens the Company’s presence in eastern Pennsylvania where it operates more than a dozen locations. Meanwhile, the Danvers facility is the ninth in the Boston metro area, and the Haslet facility is the 10th in the Dallas area. ABC Supply has over 840 locations nationwide; other openings this year include Montoursville and Cheswick, PA; Orange Park, FL; Farmville, VA; Redding, CA; Cleveland, OH; Gibbon, NE; Medford, OR; Missoula, MT; Hayden, ID; Tiffin, IA; and New Braunfels, TX.
In the Sears Holdings Corporation, DIP Chapter 11 case, the Debtors provided notification that the effective date of the Plan of Liquidation is expected to be October 28. We note that the Plan of Liquidation was confirmed (approved by the Court) in October 2019, subject to a delayed effective date because all administrative claims had not yet been paid in full (the Plan was administratively insolvent). The full payment of the remaining amounts to administrative creditors will enable the case to be declared effective. In that regard, on the effective date, the Debtors will pay Allowed Administrative Expense Claims, Priority Claims, and Secured Claims; certain amounts will be reserved for disputed claims.
SpartanNash has sold four food production and distribution facilities to Provender Partners, a California-based real estate investment firm that specializes in food-related properties, for $29.9 million. The portfolio includes refrigerated facilities in Indianapolis, IN and Minot, ND, as well as a center in Lakeland, FL that handles frozen and refrigerated foods. Provender is also acquiring a grocery and produce distribution cross-dock facility in Newcomerstown, OH. SpartanNash originally acquired the four facilities as part of its 2016 acquisition of Caito Foods Service. The four facilities together occupy about 483,000 square feet (about 7% of its owned distribution center square footage as of 1/1/2022).
Though management did not comment on usage of the proceeds or any future similar transactions, earlier in the year activist investors had pushed SpartanNash to monetize its sizeable owned distribution center and retail real-estate portfolio. The investors estimated the portfolio could fetch nearly $1 billion. Subsequent to this transaction, the Company still owns 6.3 million square feet of distribution center space and 30 owned stores representing another 1.4 million square feet.
CVS Health is reportedly in exclusive talks to buy Cano Health Inc., a health-care provider that operates primary care facilities and supports medical practices that cater to seniors in Florida, Texas and Nevada. The Company listed on the NYSE last year through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) sponsored by billionaire Barry Sternlicht, who leads Starwood Capital Group Management. There is no certainty a deal will be reached, in part because Humana Inc. has a right of first refusal should Cano find a buyer under an agreement they made in 2019. CVS has been expanding more directly into health care via acquisitions, including an agreement made last month to buy Signify Health, as well as its $68 billion purchase of insurer Aetna in 2018. In 2007, it acquired Caremark RX for about $27 billion. Click here to request a sample list of future store openings.
Wawa plans to open its first Georgia store in 2024, with the potential for up to 20 stores in the market in the future. The Company is looking to double its footprint within the next decade, specifically in the Florida Panhandle region, along with adjacent markets in South Alabama. Wawa is reportedly “actively looking” in the Florida markets of Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee, along with Mobile, AL; it is expected to open 40 stores in these markets beginning in 2024. Click here to request a sample list of future store openings.
Ahold Delhaize USA’s Stop & Shop chain reopened another three remodeled supermarkets — two in Queens and one in Brooklyn — under the Company’s $140 million redevelopment program for its New York City metro area stores. The locations are the first modernized units in these boroughs. Sheepshead Bay and Maspeth opened on Friday; Glendale will open this Friday. The enhancements were focused on expanding product selections oriented to the stores’ diverse local neighborhoods, including new kosher, Asian, Latin, Eastern European, Russian and Turkish products, but also included updated décor and signage, a larger selection of fresh prepared meals, and upgraded produce and bakery departments. The first metro area store to be remodeled, the Bay Plaza Stop & Shop in the Bronx, reopened in June. Ahold Delhaize has 25 Stop & Shop stores in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
BJ’s Wholesale Club has completed the move of its headquarters to its new Club Support Center in Marlborough, MA. The new facility incorporates modern, open-space concepts for more than 1,000 team members. In April, the Company announced plans to move its corporate offices five miles away, from a 282,000 square-foot building in Westborough to the 180,000 square-foot Marlborough location. BJ’s received a property tax exemption and a tax increment financing deal (TIF); as part of the TIF, the Company agreed to maintain a minimum of 800 full-time positions in Marlborough and sign a 20-year lease. Concurrent with the move, BJ’s opened its 231st club in Noblesville, IN, marking its entry into the 18th state. Click here to request a sample list of future store openings.
Orgill plans to build a new 800,000 square-foot distribution center in Tifton, GA, which will replace its existing 650,000 square-foot facility that has been operating there since 1995 and is its oldest location. Plans call for the new location to be built in close proximity to the existing facility to enable a smooth transition. Construction is slated to begin toward the end of 2022, with an anticipated completion date in early 2024. Orgill operates eight other full-service distribution centers throughout the U.S. and Canada, in addition to the Tifton location.
In late September, employees at a Trader Joe’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn filed to unionize, claiming poor working conditions, racial discrimination and, more recently, union-busting efforts. The news follows the successful unionization of two other Trader Joe’s locations – in Hadley, MA in July and in Minneapolis, MN in August. Workers at a store in Manhattan had been working with the UFCW International Union since April; as they were about to publicize their intent to unionize in August, the Company closed the location. Click here to request a sample list of future store openings.
Stitch Fix plans to close its Mohnton Mills cut-and-sew factory and knitting mill in Pennsylvania, according to a WARN notice listing 56 jobs will be impacted. The Company acquired the plant in 2017 to produce a sustainable, size-inclusive private label called “Mohnton Made;” this label will be discontinued. The move comes as the Company continues to cut costs. In June, it cut about 330 positions, 15% of its salaried workforce. FY22 sales (ended July 30) fell 1.4% to $2.10 billion, and net loss grew to $207.1 million from $8.9 million last year. Stitch Fix lost 370,000 customers during 4Q22, down 9% from the prior year to 3.8 million.
Sprouts Farmers Market opened a new store in Cape Coral, FL last week, an area impacted by Hurricane Ian. The store, serviced by the Company’s Orlando distribution center, opened two days early to provide groceries to the community despite floodwaters and increased traffic. Sprouts now operates 35 stores in Florida. Click here to request a sample list of future store openings.
Urban convenience store, market and café hybrid Foxtrot is entering the Austin, TX metro market, with three new locations opening this year and into early 2023. Based in Chicago, Foxtrot has 21 retail locations in Chicago (15), Washington, D.C. (3), Dallas (2) and Virginia (1). Its stores resemble curated boutiques, with artisanal groceries, grab-and-go meals, and beer and wine that can be delivered in under an hour via its app, along with connected cafés and outdoor space. Foxtrot places an emphasis on small, regional brands. The Company is preparing to take its presence nationwide, having announced last summer its plans to add 50 new stores within the subsequent two years. In late September, Foxtrot launched a two-tier loyalty program that offers perks like free drinks and snacks, exclusive merchandise, early access to products and free delivery. Founded by Mike LaVitola and
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