October 28, 2020
In the J.C. Penney bankruptcy case, the Debtors provided notification that following mediation, Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management, the Majority Lender Group, and the Debtors reached agreement on all outstanding business points in the Master Lease Agreement (in connection with the sale of the Debtors assets). The Debtors intend to finalize the Master Lease Agreement by November 1 and proceed with a sale hearing on November 2. The Debtors cautioned that “all parties’ rights remain reserved with respect to all outstanding transaction documents until such time as the transaction documents, including the Asset Purchase Agreement and the Master Lease Agreement, are executed.”
As of October 20, the Debtors stated that they have “nearly concluded the process of right-sizing the operational footprint,” and have conducted GOB sales at 146 stores, with the last of these locations closing by the end of October. The Debtors currently operate 839 locations across 49 states and Puerto Rico. Click here to request a list of store closures.
Bealls Inc. has acquired the intellectual property of Stage Stores, DIP’s Bealls banner, as well as fee rights to a distribution center, for $7.0 million. Bealls Inc. operates Bealls stores and outlets in Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, but it is unrelated to Stage Stores and the Bealls banner owned by Stage. Bealls Inc. started as a dollar store and has since grown to more than 540 stores under the namesake, Burkes Outlet, Bunulu, and Home Centric banners. The distribution center included in the deal will allow Bealls Inc. to expand its Burke’s Outlet chain outside of Florida. Prior to this deal, Beall’s Inc. had rights to use the name Bealls in Florida, Georgia and Arizona, while Stage had the rights to the name nationally. Now, Bealls Inc. has the right to use the name nationally. Bealls Inc. also bought the brand property belonging to Stage, which includes the marks and trade names for Stage Stores, Goody’s, Gordmans, Palais Royal, and Peebles. Click here to request a list of Stage Store closures.
Amazon is launching free, one-hour grocery pickup for Prime members at Whole Foods locations nationwide. Prime members can use the Amazon app or website to place orders from the Whole Foods Market tab to shop, then select their one-hour pickup window at checkout on orders of $35 or more.
In other news, Amazon has begun hiring for four new Amazon Fresh grocery stores planned for the Chicago area. The Company is aiming to fill about 1,500 full and part-time positions, including managerial roles, for stores in Naperville, Bloomingdale, Oak Lawn and Schaumburg, IL (no timeline for openings has been given). The first Amazon Fresh store opened to the public in mid-September after an invitation-only launch in late August.
Meanwhile, Amazon Fresh opened its second store last Thursday in Irvine, CA, just a few weeks after the new grocery format debuted in Woodland Hills, CA. The new 40,000 square-foot supermarket focuses on low prices as well as Amazon technology like Dash Carts and Alexa features. Like the first Fresh store that opened in Woodland Hills, the Irvine location served as a dark store to fulfill online grocery orders before opening to the public. The Company plans to open more Amazon Fresh stores in the Los Angeles and Chicago metro areas, along with debuting a new Go Grocery store in the Washington, D.C. area.
Amazon has also invested $100.0 million in Mexico to improve the logistical infrastructure and to fund two new fulfillment centers, one in Monterrey and another in Guadalajara, as well as support building projects outside Mexico City. The Company also added 12 new stations to its delivery network, increasing the total to 27 centers across the country. Collectively, the new units measure 742,000 square feet.
Amazon announced plans to open its first fulfillment center in Waco, TX, anticipated to launch in 2021. The 700,000 square-foot robotics fulfillment center ships small items, such as books, electronics, and toys.
Yesterday, Amazon announced it has promoted more than 35,000 operations employees in 2020, that 30,000 employees have taken advantage of Amazon’s Career Choice program, and that it is creating an additional 100,000 seasonal jobs. Click here for a list of Amazon future openings.
On October 26, Ross Stores announced it completed its 2020 expansion plans to open 66 new stores. This included opening 30 Ross Dress for Less and 9 dd’s Discounts stores across 17 states in October, including 12 stores altogether in California, Texas and Florida, and 2 stores in Ohio. In addition, Ross Dress for Less entered West Virginia, its 40th state, and dd’s opened its first store in Arkansas, its 21st state. Altogether, Ross operates 1,594 locations, and dd’s operates 275 units. Click here to request a list of recent and future store openings.
Albertsons posted impressive 2Q results, including a 67% increase in EBITDA. The stronger results were driven by a 14% increase in comps, including 243% growth in digital sales, while gross margin was also stronger. The EBITDA gain came despite $120.0 million in incremental COVID-19 costs during 2Q. As has been the pattern, traffic continued to fall, but this was more than offset by bigger baskets. Management noted it added curbside pickup, which grew by over 1,000% in 2Q, to another 200 stores, for a total of 950 locations, with plans to offer the service at 1,400 units by FYE20 and 1,800 by FYE21. With the results driving strong cash flow, the Company upped its capex budget for FY20 by $300.0 million to $1.90 billion, including for additional investments in e-commerce and technology, and initiated a $0.10 per-share dividend and a $300.0 million share repurchase program. Management noted progress with its two micro-fulfillment centers, including a 25% increase in labor productivity, which is critical considering issues with delivery time and fulfillment costs related to digital sales. Construction of four more MFCs is underway, with plans for six more in the next 18 months.
In addition, Albertsons is piloting PickUp lockers inside or outside of its stores as another digital fulfillment option. Mobile initiatives, which have grown in popularity throughout the grocery sector during the pandemic, are also a focus, including the just or U loyalty program and new contactless payment applications. Since Albertsons merged with Safeway in 2015, the Company has remodeled approximately half of its store base, including 132 units in 1H20, and plans to continue to remodel at least 10% of its base annually. Management provided FY20 guidance, targeting comps of at least 15.5% and EBITDA of $4.15 billion – $4.25 billion, including EBITDA growth of about 18% in 2H20. Management also continues to consider tuck-in acquisitions, such as the recent Kings and Balducci’s transactions.Click here to request a list of future store openings and closings.
Dunkin’ Brands is reportedly in talks to sell itself to Inspire Brands, which is backed by private equity firm Roark Capital. The deal would take Dunkin’ Brands private at a price of $106.50 a share, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations. The price would be a 20% premium over the Company’s closing price on Friday and implies a Company valuation of about $8.80 billion. Dunkin’s share price has more than doubled since March, and shares are up about 18% from a year ago. Inspire Brands’ portfolio currently includes Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic, and Jimmy John’s.
Apple is launching new “Express” stores as attachments to existing locations, with sales counters and a few shelves of accessories set up in front of store buildings. There are currently 20 such stores in the U.S. and Europe, and the Company plans to expand to 50 by the end of October. Customers can schedule an appointment to pick up orders placed online or interact with Apple’s technicians for customer service. Apple operates 271 stores in the U.S., and the new format will allow it to more easily navigate the busy holiday season, particularly during the pandemic.
On November 5, ALDI will open its first Arizona locations in Chandler and Goodyear. Over the summer, the Company announced it would also open stores in Peoria and Gilbert, but dates for those locations have yet to be released.
ALDI also recently opened stores in Totowa, NJ (October 13), Wetumpka, AL (October 15), and Burbank, CA (October 22). Click here to request a list of future store openings.
Wakefern Food Corp. reported retail sales of $18.30 billion for the 53-week fiscal year ended October 3, a 9.75% increase over the prior year. The largest retailer-owned cooperative in the U.S., Wakefern opened four new ShopRite stores, welcomed new banner Fairway Market, and added a new member, the Maniaci family, during the period. Nicholas Supermarkets, founded by the Maniaci family in 1943, operates four new Fresh Grocer supermarkets in northern New Jersey. Wakefern also announced that CFO Doug Wille, who served more than four decades with the cooperative, recently retired. Neil Falcone, Wakefern’s former VP of ShopRite Financial Services (SFS) and corporate finance, has been named as the new CFO. EVP Chris Lane reported on the Company’s initiatives during the year, including the continued rollout of ShopRite’s flagship store brands, Bowl & Basket and Paperbird, as well as the recent expansion and rebranding of its other store brands, Wholesome Pantry and Wholesome Pantry Organic.
Wakefern also opened its second standalone micro-fulfillment center (MFC) in Egg Harbor, NJ, which uses robotics to assemble online grocery orders and expands the reach and capacity of online shopping services for its stores. Wakefern’s first MFC opened in July 2019 in Clifton, NJ. Mr. Lane said the cooperative plans to open additional MFCs over the next few years.Click here to request a list of future openings.
On October 22 at its investor presentation, The Gap announced that it plans to open 30 – 40 new Old Navy stores per year; Old Navy, along with Athleta, is expected to comprise 70% of total sales by 2023, up from 55% in 2019. The Company also said it will shrink its Gap and Banana Republic banners by 350 stores (30% of the fleet), with 75% of North American closures to be completed by the end of FY21. The vast majority of these stores are mall-based. Click here for a list of store openings and closings.
The Company’s guidance for 2022 and beyond includes sales growth in the low to mid-single digits annually and reaching an EBIT margin of 10% by 2023.
A Saladworks recently opened as a standalone restaurant within a Giant Food store in Camp Hill, PA. Orders can be placed in person, or using the Saladworks website, DoorDash, Grubhub, or Uber Eats.
DoorDash launched a plan to give restaurants across the U.S. that have been forced to remain temporarily closed due to the pandemic a chance to survive through a new program called Reopen for Delivery. The plan matches the struggling brands with ghost kitchen facilities to open delivery-only locations. Krazy Hog, a full service restaurant in the Chicago market that has been temporarily closed since the onset of the pandemic, will be the first brand to take advantage of the program. DoorDash has worked closely with Krazy Hog over the last few months, alongside virtual kitchen operator Á La Couch, to help Krazy Hog create a new delivery-only model. Krazy Hog staff will continue to cook their food, Á La Couch staff will prepare and assemble the orders, and DoorDash will support by facilitating the last-mile delivery. The new location operates out of Á la Couch’s Lincoln Park facility. Eventually, both the delivery-only kitchen and a new Southside location will operate in the Chicago area. DoorDash has not yet named any other restaurant partnerships.
The RealReal opened a new 12,000 square-foot flagship store in Chicago, IL. The store is the Company’s largest to date and offers men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel and accessories. It also features a watchmaker station, a tailor providing custom fittings, alterations, apparel repairs, and repair services for handbags, shoes, and jewelry. Merchandise includes Louis Vuitton and Gucci apparel and handbags, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry, Rolex and Cartier watches, Yeezy and Jordan sneakers, and Burberry and Moncler outerwear. The store also includes a consignment office and the chain’s fourth in-store café, which serves “clean” eating options and supports local producers. Launched in 2011, The RealReal operates an online marketplace, five physical stores, and consignment offices in each of its stores. Its first brick-and-mortar location opened in New York City in 2018, followed by a location in Los Angeles, CA. Subsequent locations opened in New York City and San Francisco, CA.
On October 23, Le Château filed an application under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) in Canada, seeking Court protection to wind down its operations and proceed with an orderly liquidation of its assets. The CCAA application was heard by the Superior Court of Quebec (Commercial Division). That evening, the Superior Court of Quebec (Commercial Division) issued an Initial Order under the CCAA approving the Company’s wind down and liquidation. Under the order, Gordon Brothers Canada ULC and Merchant Retail Solutions ULC were appointed to implement the liquidation, and PricewaterhouseCooper Inc. was appointed as monitor to oversee operations during the liquidation.
Additionally, Le Chȃteau obtained interim DIP financing from Wells Fargo Capital Finance Corporation Canada, which it will utilize to fund its post-filing working capital requirements during the liquidation and the CCAA proceedings.
Management reiterated that it plans to remain fully operational throughout the liquidation, and its 123 stores and e-commerce website are expected to remain open in conformity with provincial and regional guidelines. Click here to request a list of store closures.
A year after tornados severely damaged H.E. Butt’s Dallas, TX Central Market store, the Company announced plans to reopen it in April/May 2021. The store has been closed since October 2019 while undergoing a complete rebuilding and restoration.Click here to request a list of future openings.
Kings Super Markets, Inc., DIP filed a motion to reject leases on two stores (Reston, VA and New York, NY), which “do not have a place in the go-forward business plan.” The Debtors also stated that “no party has shown any interest in the stores during an 18-month marketing process.” Kings has removed substantially all inventory from the stores, ceased ongoing operations, and has physically vacated the locations. A date for a hearing on the motion has not yet been set. Click here for a list of store closures.
On October 26, the Court authorized the sale of 27 Kings Food Market and Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market locations to Acme Markets, Inc., a unit of Albertsons Companies, for an all-cash purchase price of $96.4 million. The stores will be operated under the Kings Food Market and Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market brands upon completion of the transaction.
Amazon’s Whole Foods will open a 47,000 square-foot unit in Fort Lauderdale, FL on October 28. It will be the Company’s second store in the city. Click here to request a list of future openings and closings.
In the ascena retail group bankruptcy case, the Debtors filed a motion seeking to replace the stalking horse bidder for the sale of the Justice brand’s assets. Following the initial selection of Premier Brands Justice LLC as the stalking horse bidder (for $35.0 million, with a break-up fee of $1.0 million), the Debtors received a higher proposal from Bluestar Alliance LLC. The Bluestar bid, which includes the acquisition of intellectual property and related assets, is valued at over $60.0 million, consisting of $44.0 million in cash, and the assumption of certain liabilities. Additionally, the Bluestar bid contemplates a cash deposit of $10.0 million, which is $6.5 million higher than under the Premier bid. Bluestar formed a new entity (Justice Brand Holdings LLC), which offered to purchase the Company’s Justice assets under terms of a stalking horse purchase agreement. Commenting on the development, Joey Gabbay, CEO of Bluestar, said, “We offered a bid that we believe speaks to the strong existing connection consumers have to the Justice brand and its future potential. We look forward to maximizing the business with both current and new partners, as well as growing the brand to enhance and expand its current footprint.” Bluestar owns, manages, and markets a portfolio of consumer brands that span many tiers of distribution, from luxury to mass market. The portfolio consists of retail brands including Brookstone, Tahari, Bebe, Kensie, Catherine Malandrino, Nanette Lepore, Joan Vass, Michael Bastian, English Laundry, and Limited Too. Separately, the Court rescheduled the confirmation hearing to November 5 from October 23. Click here to request a list of closures.