Tuesday, May 26, 2020

U.S. consumer confidence edges up in May

Yahoo Finance
U.S. consumer confidence nudged up in May, suggesting the worst of the novel coronavirus-driven economic slump was probably in the past as the country starts to reopen, but it would probably take a while to fully dig out of the hole amid record unemployment.

The Conference Board said on Tuesday its consumer confidence index edged up to a reading of 86.6 this month from a downwardly revised 85.7 in April.. . . more

PREIT CEO thinks J.C. Penney can stay alive with a scaled-down format

Chain Store Age
PREIT CEO Joseph Coradino, who several years ago began buying back department store space in the company’s malls and filling them with more viable retail concepts, now thinks we may not have seen the last of J.C. Penney.

“We were encouraged to see they worked through their Sephora issues and believe there is a place for a scaled-down Penney’s, so we look forward to working with them,” Coradino said during PREIT’s first-quarter earnings call on Thursday. . . . more

Will anyone save Stage Stores from retail oblivion?

Retail Dive
In late November, as Stage Stores CEO Michael Glazer took the phone on a conference call with investors, he said that he had been looking forward to the call "because I want to share with you the incredible excitement that is going on here at Stage Stores."

The retailer indeed had plenty to brag about. During the third quarter the company set records across its financial metrics and posted a comparable sales gain of 17%. . . . more

AutoZone Q3 tops Street amid ‘most extreme fluctuations’ in sales in its history

Chain Store Age
AutoZone, whose stores remained open during the pandemic, reported third-quarter profit and sales that easily beat expectations helped by stimulus checks that fueled sales late in the quarter.

Net income fell to $342.9 million for the quarter ended May 9, from $405.9 million in the year-ago period.

Sales inched down 0.1% to $2.779, beating estimates of $2.69 billion. Domestic same-store sales fell 1.0%. . . . more

REI partners with West Elm for the summer

Chain Store Age
For the first time in its 82-year history, REI will sell its product through another retailer.

The outdoor specialty co-op has teamed up with home furnishings company West Elm on a co-curated collection, called REI x West Elm, of lifestyle products designed to help people feel at home while in the outdoors. . . . more

Saks’s Owner Denies Claim It Stripped Assets in Reorganization

Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay denied allegations in a lawsuit that an internal restructuring amounted to a move to strip the company of its assets and impair collateral for a loan to subsidiaries of a real estate joint venture.

In a memo filed Saturday in New York in response to the lawsuit by U.S. lenders, the company called it “a transparent attempt to gain leverage in negotiations” with the borrowers, who are landlords of 34 Saks and Lord & Taylor stores. Owned by a Hudson’s Bay joint venture, they defaulted on $7.4 million of payments of a $846 million loan as retailers stopped paying rent after the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close, according to the document.. . . more

Amazon, Costco have ‘most favorable’ COVID-19 response, shoppers say

Supermarket News
Shoppers named Amazon, Costco Wholesale, Walmart, Publix and Kroger as the top retailers in terms of their response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to consumer market research firm Magid.

Amazon led all food retailers, with 30% more customers saying they feel more favorable about the online retail giant’s COVID-19 response than those who feel less favorable about its efforts, the May 2020 Magid Food & Beverage Consumer Insights Tracker, which polled 1,000 shoppers. The only other retailers with a more favorable differential of at least 20% were Costco (+25%), Walmart (+22%), Publix (+21%) and Kroger (+21%).. . . more

Friday, May 22, 2020

The coronavirus is crushing bankrupt retailers’ hopes for a rebound – and threatening even more jobs

Bankruptcy doesn’t need to mean the end of a company. It can be a shot to shed debt, reorganize and come out stronger.

But during the coronavirus pandemic, bankruptcy filings are increasingly spelling doom for retailers. In turn, it threatens thousands of more workers in an economy that has already suffered tens of millions of lost jobs. . . . more

Biggest U.S. Mall Is Two Months Delinquent on $1.4 Billion Loan

The Mall of America, the largest U.S. shopping center, missed two months of payments for a $1.4 billion commercial mortgage-backed security, the latest sign of the devastating impact of pandemic-related shutdowns on the retail industry.

“The loan is currently due for the April and May payments,” according to a report filed by the trustee of the debt, Wells Fargo & Co., which is also the master servicer for the loan. “Borrower has notified master servicer of Covid-19 related hardships.” . . . more

Foot Locker swings to Q1 loss; phased store reopening underway

Chain Store Age
Foot Locker reported a much wider-than-expected fiscal first-quarter loss as its stores went dark during the pandemic and is temporarily suspending its cash dividend.

The athletic shoe and accessories retailer swung to a net loss of $98 million for the quarter ended May 2, from net income of $172 million in the year-ago period. 

Sales dropped 43% to $1.18 billion, below estimates of $1.36 billion. Comparable-store sales decreased 42.8%. . . . more

Bed Bath & Beyond to reopen 600 stores by June 13; expanding contactless curbside pickup

Chain Store Age
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. is getting ready to welcome back customers to its stores amid surging digital sales.

The home goods retailer said it plans reopen 600 stores, including about 500 Bed Bath & Beyond locations across North America, along with 50 Christmas Tree Shop stores and 50 Cost Plus World Market stores in the U.S. The re-opened stores will follow the company’s store safety plan, which includes social distancing measures, enhanced cleaning and occupancy limits. . . . more

Americans splurge at Walmart, Target as stimulus checks kick in

Yahoo Finance
The Trump Administration's coronavirus relief payment provided a fillip to sales of major retailers in April as millions of Americans used the money to buy everything from video games to sewing machines even as the country struggles with record job losses.

Walmart and Target Corp noted in their earnings call this week that quarterly comparable sales, which rose about 10%, got a major boost from increased demand for non-essentials at the end of last month.

"Call it relief spending, as it was heavily influenced by stimulus dollars," Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon said on Tuesday, citing a jump in sales of clothing, televisions, video games, sporting goods and toys. . . . more

Mass. unemployment rate hit 15% in April

Boston Business Journal
The state’s unemployment rate rose to 15.1% in April after Massachusetts lost an estimated 623,000 jobs in a single month due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data published Friday.

The rate is the highest on record in Massachusetts, according to an Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development database that dates back to 1976. The previous high during that time frame had been 10.3%, in January 1976. . . . more

TJX aims to have all stores open by end of June

Boston Business Journal
TJX Cos. has started reopening many of its stores worldwide, and anticipates that most of its stores could be open by the end of June, the Framingham-based parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods reported to the SEC on Thursday.

In mid-March, TJX closed stores in nine countries, as well as online shopping sites, distribution centers and offices around the world, amid the global coronavirus pandemic. The company furloughed its store and distribution center employees in North America after April 11, and reduced the base salaries of CEO Ernie Herrman and Executive Chairman Carol Meyrowitz by 30% between April 12 and July 4. . . . more

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Best Buy earnings, sales fall but beat Street as digital sales skyrocket

Chain Store Age
Best Buy Co. reported first-quarter earnings and sales that beat analyst expectations amid a 155% rise in online sales as customers took advantage of curbside pickup at its stores.

In the middle of the quarter, March 22, the consumer electronics giant shifted all its stores to a curbside-only operating mode, which allowed customers to purchase items online or via the Best Buy app and request pickup at their local Best Buy. . . . more

BJ’s Q1 same-store sales jump a record 27%

Chain Store Age
BJ's Wholesale Club reported profit and sales that topped analyst expectations amid surging online sales and a spike in new members during the pandemic.

The membership-based warehouse retailer reported that its total revenue increased 20.8% to $3.80 billion for the quarter ended May 2, above estimates of $3.32 billion, as net sales rose 21.1% and membership fee income increased 8.4%. . . . more

How Much Further Could U.S. Retail Rents Drop?

Even more turmoil lies ahead for the U.S. retail sector as effective retail rents are projected to plunge 11.00 percent in 2020, according to Moody’s Analytics recent market forecast.

This drop would be nearly twice the decline in retail rents that occurred following the Great Recession of 2008. It will also make retail the hardest-hit commercial real estate sector, Moody’s Analytics pointed out.. . . more

Victoria's Secret to close about 250 stores in the U.S. and Canada, Bath & Body Works to close 50

USA Today
Victoria’s Secret plans to permanently close approximately 250 stores in the U.S. and Canada in 2020, its parent company L Brands announced Wednesday.

L Brands also plans to permanently close 50 Bath & Body Works stores in the U.S. and one in Canada, according to information the company posted online as part of its quarterly earnings. L Brands will discuss its earnings with analysts Thursday morning.

L Brands' total company sales declined 37% in the quarter that ended May 2. Almost all of the company’s stores have been closed since March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. . . . more

Macy's warns of up to $1 billion quarterly loss due to lockdowns

Macy’s Inc said on Thursday it could rack up operating losses of up to $1.11 billion in the first quarter, as the department store operator was forced to shut stores due to lockdowns aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus.

The health crisis has forced brick-and-mortar retailers to tap credit lines, lay off employees and suspend dividends and buybacks in a bid to stay afloat amid store closures. . . . more

Nearly 39 million have sought US jobless aid since coronavirus hit

Boston Herald
More than 2.4 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the viral outbreak that triggered widespread business shutdowns two months ago and sent the economy into a deep recession.

Roughly 38.6 million people have now filed for jobless aid since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The number of weekly applications has slowed for seven straight weeks, and last week the figures declined in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Yet historically, they remain immense — roughly 10 times the typical figure that prevailed before the virus struck. . . . more

Pier 1 Imports, with 7 Mass. locations, plans to close all stores

Boston Business Journal
Pier 1 plans to start store closing efforts and liquidation sales once store locations can reopen in compliance with coronavirus guidelines from local government and health officials. The company is currently continuing to serve customers through its website, and orders are being processed and filled.

The home decor chain has 540 stores, including seven Massachusetts locations. There are Pier 1 stores in Hanover, Norwood, Woburn, Danvers, Bellingham, Shrewsbury and North Dartmouth. Two locations are near the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border, in Salem and Nashua. . . . more

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants expects some dine-in capacity at 65% of restaurants by end of May

Nation's Restaurant News
Darden Restaurants Inc., parent to the Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse casual-dining brands, expects to have 65% of its 1,800 restaurants open for some dine-in service by the end of May as coronavirus restrictions ease further across the nation, the company said Tuesday.

The Orlando, Fla.-based company said same-store sales for the fourth quarter, which started Feb. 24, through May 17 had declined 47.9% amid the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.. . . more

Target's 141% digital growth during pandemic pushes sales and costs up

Retail Dive
In a first quarter defined by the new coronavirus, Target's comparable sales rose 10.8%, the company said in a press release.

Digital sales, which rose a whopping 141%, accounted for 9.9 percentage points of that comp expansion. Helping to drive that figure were Target's same-day services — pick up, drive up and Shipt — which grew 278% in Q1.. . . more

Ch. 11 is J.C. Penney's best shot at a turnaround, but it's not a sure one

Retail Dive
Since filing for bankruptcy, J.C. Penney executives have painted a picture of a hobbled retailer that was on the mend before the COVID-19 crisis hit.

"Before the pandemic, the Company had a substantial liquidity cushion, was improving its operations, and was proactively engaging with creditors to deleverage its capital structure and extend its debt maturities to build a healthier balance sheet," CFO Bill Wafford said in court papers. "Unfortunately, that progress was wiped out with the onset of COVID-19.". . . more

Poag CEO: Our lifestyle centers are ready to thrive in the post-COVID-19 world

Chain Store Age
As the COVID-19 related shutdowns began to wind down in Texas and Georgia, Poag Shopping Centers’ lifestyle centers were among the first to welcome back guests. As we watched them shop our retailers, enjoy freshly prepared meals, and stroll our grounds, we saw expressions of relief and hope, happiness and joy. It was clear that what was true before the pandemic will be true after: Brick-and-mortar is the most important channel for retailers.

There were lines at some retailers and extended waits at the restaurants. We set up additional tables in our public green spaces so that those not wanting to wait or eat inside could order takeout and eat on the property. Our level of cleaning has gone up dramatically. These are actions many more operators will be taking as more states open though, to be sure, different regions of the country will have different regulations. . . . more

Lowe's Smashes Q1 Earnings Forecast as Digital Sales Surge

The Street
Lowe's Companies posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings Wednesday and said its solid performance continued this month, as big retailers that remained open during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic continue to book big top and bottom-line gains.

Lowe's said adjusted earnings for the three months ending on May 1 were up 45% from the same period last year. Group revenues, Lowe's said, rose 11% to a forecast-beating $19.7 billion, with same-store sales in the U.S. rising 12.3% and digital sales surging by around 80%.. . . more

Kohl’s CEO says this is the ‘low point’ of 2020, as margins take a hit from coronavirus

Kohl’s Chief Executive Michelle Gass anticipates the worst is behind her business, as the retailer reported a quarterly net loss on Tuesday, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think this is the low point of the year,” Gass said in a phone interview. “For half the quarter, our stores had no sales.” . . . more

J.C. Penney to reopen 153 stores as clock is threatening its bankruptcy reorganization

The Dallas Morning News
J.C. Penney is reopening stores in Texas, Florida, Indiana and Ohio on Wednesday as the clock is ticking in its bankruptcy, the largest so far since the coronavirus pandemic shutdown the economy.

As Penney enters its first week of bankruptcy, details have emerged of its difficult path for exiting Chapter 11. The company will attempt to spin off of its real estate into a separate company and permanently close stores while it’s still trying to reopen locations.. . . more

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Facebook Survey Shows 31% of Small Businesses Stopped Operating

One-third of U.S. small businesses have stopped operating, while another 11% expect to fail in the next three months if Covid-19 conditions persist, according to an April survey.

“The numbers are devastating,” said Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., which helped conduct the survey of 86,000 business owners and employees, in partnership with the Small Business Roundtable.. . . . more

Report has Amazon in talks with J.C. Penney; bankrupt chain to close 242 stores

Chain Store Age
Amazon is said to be a contender for either all or parts of J.C. Penney, according to an exclusive report by WWD.

“There is an Amazon team in Plano [Tex.] as we speak,” said one source who does business with the online giant, reported WWD. “There is a dialogue and I’m told it has a lot to do with Amazon eager to expand its apparel business — for sure.”. . . more

Pier 1 Imports to liquidate as soon as it can get its stores open

The Dallas Morning News
Pier 1 Imports, one of the original home furnishing stores that expanded throughout the U.S. starting in the 1960s, is liquidating its business as soon as it can get its stores open again.

The Fort Worth-based home furnishings retailer filed for bankruptcy in February and was trying to reorganize with around about 450 stores or find a buyer who would keep the business alive.

The coronavirus pandemic dashed those hopes. . . . more

Retail sales in the US could fall more than 6% in 2020

There are still so many unknowns regarding the coronavirus pandemic and how it will continue to throttle the retail industry.

But U.S. retail sales could be down at least 6.5% in 2020, according to new estimates from market research company Euromonitor. For comparison, retail sales were down just 2.2% in 2009, the year the Great Recession finally came to a halt, according to the firm. And sales were up 3.3% year over year in 2019, it said. . . . more

Kohl's online sales surge amid lockdown, reopens about half of its stores

Yahoo Finance
Kohl's Corp reported a surge in online sales in its coronavirus-hit first quarter on Tuesday and said it had reopened nearly half its stores as lockdowns eased across the United States, sending its shares around 5% higher.

Kohl's was forced to close all its U.S. stores to curb the spread of the virus, hammering sales and sending shares in the retailer some 63% lower so far this year.

But the company said that online sales rose 24% overall in the quarter and more than 60% in April, dwarfing earlier growth as the chain limited operations to its app and website. . . . more

Home Depot Misses Q1 Earnings Forecast on Coronavirus Costs; Scraps 2020 Profit Outlook

The Street
Home Depot posted weaker-than-expected first-quarter earnings Tuesday while scrapping its 2020 profit guidance, as pre-tax costs to counter the coronavirus pandemic reached $850 million.

Home Depot said earnings for the three months ending in on May 3 were down 8.4% from the same period last year. Group revenues, Home Depot said, rose 7.3% from last year to $28.3 billion, topping analysts' forecasts of $27.53 billion tally.

Home Depot also suspended its full-year 2020 profit guidance, which had forecast comparable sales rising between 3.5% and 4.%. . . . more

Restaurants, retailers frustrated by lack of re-opening date

Boston Business Journal
Groups representing the state’s restaurants and retailers are voicing disappointment with the Baker administration’s plans to reopen their industries, including the continued uncertainty around when exactly they’ll be able to welcome in customers.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that retailers and restaurants can begin opening their establishments to customers, with restrictions, in Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase plan for reopening Massachusetts. They can now offer take-out and delivery if they're a restaurant, or remote fulfillment if they're a retailer considered nonessential. . . . more

Monday, May 18, 2020

From touchless payments to 'quarantined' returns, the retail experience may be forever changed

NBC News
Eager shoppers will soon be able to browse their local retail stores as states continue to roll back stay-at-home orders. But instead of testing a swatch of lipsticks at a makeup counter or waiting in line to try on summer shorts, customers should expect “virtual try-on tools,” styling via app, shuttered fitting rooms, and returns that are quarantined for 72 hours.

Apple is the latest company to reopen stores, requiring face coverings for staff and customers, temperature checks at the door, conducting "health questions" to screen anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, and deep cleanings throughout the day. . . . more

Guitar Center makes debt payment, dodges default

Retail Dive
Guitar Center has addressed its April 2020 debt payments, reported to be late, through a series of transactions that had the support of the company’s lender groups, according to a Friday press release. The company said the transactions provided additional near-term liquidity to help it navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

"We believe that with these transactions and the staged reopening of the country along with our pre-pandemic positive business performance, we are well positioned to meet these challenging market conditions," Guitar Center CFO Tim Martin said in the release.. . . more

Who’s paying rent and who’s not? (Staples paid!)

Chain Store Age
News outlets reported in early April that Sycamore Partners refused to pay April rents for its Staples stores during the pandemic, even though the stores remained open. Not true. As May began, 82% of the month’s rents for Staples were in landlord’s hands.

That’s the actual payment rate determined by Datex, a supply chain software and management solutions provider. Its Tenant Track of more than 1,000 shopping centers and tens of thousands of retail stores found that only 42% of total retail rents had been collected by May 8—exactly half the total collected on that same date in 2019.. . . more

Children’s Place sales down 38% in Q1; reopening stores in 10 states

Chain Store Age
The Children’s Place is beginning to reopen its stores as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on its revenue.

The nation’s largest pure-play children’s specialty apparel retailer said its sales fell 38% to $254 million in the quarter ended May 2. To help fulfill surging online demand, Children’s Place enabled its ship-from-store capabilities in approximately 85% of its U.S. stores in late April, which more than doubled its daily shipping capacity. The retailer said its seond quarter digital demand is up more than 400% through May 16. . . . more

Restaurant and bar owners say social distancing could wipe out their industry

The US state of Georgia allowed restaurants to reopen on April 27. The three owned by Ryan Pernice are still shuttered.

The entrepreneur hasn't opened his restaurants, Table & Main, Osteria Mattone and Coalition Food & Beverage, since March 16. Pernice is worried about the health of his employees and customers, but there's another reason the restaurants are still shut down: They can't make a profit with social distancing rules in place. . . . more

Apple details its plan to safely reopen retail stores

The Verge
Apple’s head of retail Deidre O’Brien has posted a letter on the company’s website detailing how it plans to safely restart operations at its retail stores. Apple shut all of its stores outside Greater China in March as COVID-19 spread worldwide; all the Greater China stores reopened that same month, while Apple is still in the process of taking careful steps elsewhere.

“Our commitment is to only move forward with a reopening once we’re confident we can safely return to serving customers from our stores,” O’Brien writes. “We look at every available piece of data — including local cases, near and long‑term trends, and guidance from national and local health officials. These are not decisions we rush into — and a store opening in no way means that we won’t take the preventative step of closing it again should local conditions warrant.”. . . more

Bankrupted JC Penney plans to spin its properties into separate real estate company

A piece of J.C. Penney’s proposal to emerge from bankruptcy includes spinning its real estate into a publicly traded real estate investment trust.

As part of a plan filed with the bankruptcy court, Penney would reorganize into a new retailer (“JCP”), along with a REIT that would collect rent checks from the retail business. Court documents say as much as a 35% stake in the newly created REIT could be sold to a third-party investor to raise cash, or to provide additional funding for the REIT. . . . more

Friday, May 15, 2020

Starbucks seeks rent relief for next 12 months

Chain Store Age
Starbucks is asking its landlords for a break on rent as COVID-19 takes a toll on sales.

In a letter to landlords that the coffee giant sent earlier the month, the company asked them to “adapt to new realities” — including an anticipated $225 billion hit to the American restaurant industry during the next three months, reported The Seattle Times.. . . more

Coronavirus Finishes the Retail Reckoning That Amazon Started

The Wall Street Journal
Amazon.com hurt many retailers. Coronavirus will finish some of them off.

Roughly 100,000 stores are expected to close over the next five years—more than triple the number that shut during the previous recession—as e-commerce jumps to a quarter of U.S. retail sales from 15% last year, UBS estimates. The turbocharged shift to e-commerce is expected to further depress profit margins and accelerate a shakeout in a country that already had too much bricks-and-mortar space for an increasingly digital world.. . . more

IKEA's shopping malls arm Ingka Centres plans U.S. entry in major play

IKEA’s shopping malls business, one of the world’s biggest, is looking to enter the United States in the next couple of years and is in talks to snap up central properties in major cities, its boss told Reuters.

Gerard Groener, managing director of Ingka Centres, which has 45 shopping centres in Europe, Russia and China, said his company was in several negotiations for inner-city real estate. . . . more

One in 4 restaurants won't re-open after pandemic, study says

USA Today
Your favorite restaurant, now closed or only accepting take out orders due to the coronavirus, may never reopen, according to a top exec with reservation service OpenTable.

Steve Hafner, CEO of Booking Holdings’ OpenTable and travel site Kayak, told Bloomberg that one out of every four restaurants won't come back.

With most restaurants being closed or open for takeout only, reservations on OpenTable's services were down 95% on May 13 from the same day a year ago, said the report. . . . more

Retail sales plunge a record 16.4% in April, far worse than predicted

Consumer spending tumbled a record 16.4% in April as the backbone of the U.S. economy retrenched amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a government report Friday.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected the advanced retail sales number to fall 12.3% after March’s reported 8.3% dive already had set a record for data going back to 1992. The March numbers were revised to be not as bad as the 8.7% initially reported. . . . more

Coronavirus to keep Massachusetts casinos closed until ‘at least’ June 1

Boston Herald
Casino owners and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission say they aren’t going to roll the dice with a May opening under coronavirus, with the regulators extending the closure until “at least” June 1 and operators saying they don’t expect to open anytime soon.

The Gaming Commission unanimously voted to extend the temporary closure of the three casinos in the state through the end of the month, with Interim Executive Director Karen Wells saying that’s an “at-least’ date.”. . . more

Tempting back the terrified: shops and restaurants try to reassure customers

Boston Business Journal
A rotating conveyor belt that allows customers to help themselves to food and avoid contact with staff might seem the ideal set-up for a restaurant trying to operate under social distancing rules.

But Richard Hodgson, chief executive of the Yo! Sushi chain, said he would not reopen a single outlet until he could be sure diners would return. “Irrespective of what restrictions are lifted, we need to see what the customer sentiment is,” he said. “When you see someone in a face mask and perspex screens, it reminds you that there is a risk.”

While authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are beginning to loosen lockdowns, companies at the sharp end of dealing with the public know it will take more than changes in government advice to get business going again.. . . more

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Westfarms mall set to reopen on May 20, but not all stores will be open

Hartford Courant
Westfarms shopping center in West Hartford will reopen on May 20, mall officials said Wednesday, the first day retail stores and malls can operate following widespread business shutdown due to the coronavirus. But it’s unlikely all stores in the mall will open on the same day.

While the facility itself is opening on May 20, individual stores inside will open on a case-by-case basis. According to a spokesperson for Taubman Centers, which owns and operates Westfarms and malls around the country, the company is seeing an average of 30 to 50% of stores inside their malls reopening. Westfarms recommends customers call ahead to see if specific stores will be open.. . . more

J.C. Penney pays out nearly $10M to execs as finances falter

Retail Dive
J.C. Penney is paying out millions of dollars in performance bonuses to its top executives as its stock nears $0 and the retailer reportedly drifts toward bankruptcy.

In a recent securities filing, the company said its board had approved changes to its compensation program that include pre-paid cash incentive awards worth a fraction of executives' target variable compensation.. . . more

Is Curbside Pickup a Long-Term Strategy or Short-Term Fix?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the U.S. retail sector and alter the way people shop, big retail landlords are implementing curbside pickup programs to help their tenants ramp up sales as the economy begins to reopen.

Kimco Realty Corp. and Federal Realty Investment Trust are two large shopping center owners designating curbside pickup areas at their centers for essential retailers that are currently open and non-essential retailers that will reopen as government restrictions are eased. . . . more

LL Bean reopens two of its Freeport retail stores

BDN Business
L.L. Bean became the latest retailer to partially reopen its stores Wednesday after it had closed all of them on March 16 to help curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The iconic Maine outdoors goods company, which began a slow reopening last week with curbside pickup at most of its Freeport stores, has opened its Bike, Boat & Ski and Hunting & Fishing stores in downtown Freeport, it told customers in an email Wednesday. . . . more

Weekly jobless claims total 2.981 million, bringing coronavirus tally to 36.5 million

New filings for unemployment claims totaled just shy of 3 million for the most recent reporting period, a number that while still high declined for the sixth straight week, according to Labor Department figures Thursday.

The total 2.981 million new claims for unemployment insurance filed last week brought the coronavirus crisis total to nearly 36.5 million, by far the biggest loss in U.S. history. The count announced last week count was revised up by 7,000 to 3.176 million, putting the weekly decline at 195,000 between the two most recent reports. . . . more

Americans keep clicking to buy, minting new e-commerce winners

Boston Business Journal
Online sales in the United States have surged in recent weeks, after shelter-in-place measures enacted in March shuttered brick-and-mortar stores throughout the country.

While the shutdowns immediately altered how people spent their money, the patterns have continued to shift as the weeks have gone on, new data shows, shaped by waves of panic buying and even payouts of government aid. The latest bump in online spending came after the government sent out stimulus payments to tens of millions of American households beginning on April 11.

Beyond what might be temporary shifts, consumer habits appear to be changing in ways that may well endure beyond the pandemic and determine who will become the most important online players. . . . more

Why a 10% plunge in spending is good news

Yahoo Finance
When activity collapses in an economic crisis, before you can talk about a recovery you must first slow the rate of declines.

And so good news, relatively speaking, becomes characterized by a deceleration in the deterioration. You may recognize this from calculus class as a turn in the second derivative.

This is exactly what Bank of America’s credit and debit card activity has started to show.. . . more

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

As states grapple with reopening, retail industry thinks it has a 'blueprint'

Retail Dive
Retail as an industry is planning for its reopening. Waiting for it is a patchwork of states with different governments, different rules and different rates of infection from COVID-19.

According to a recent poll, 66% of Americans don't think their states should reopen retail stores yet. Many are beginning the re-opening process anyway. . . . more

Expert Insight: The ‘New Next’ for Retail

Chain Store Age
In early 2020, retail was predictable.

Clothes were neatly stacked on shelves and displayed on mannequins, shoppers browsed in search of just the right item, and online orders came into the warehouse and awaited fulfillment. Then COVID-19 hit, and a new reality emerged.

Stores closed and workers and consumers were sheltering at home, leaving fashion and specialty retail footfall at a near standstill. Meanwhile, the demand for essential goods and services, including groceries, accelerated at an unprecedented rate that challenged the supply chain. . . . more

“Czech sphinx” makes big bet on Macy’s

The Real Deal
Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky has acquired a 5-percent stake in Macy’s, with plans to work with management to turn around the struggling retailer as it prepares to reopen its stores.

Kretinsky, who has a net worth of about $3.4 billion and recovered from a coronavirus infection in March, is known as “Czech sphinx” for his inscrutable demeanor. He first built his fortune in the energy business, and his Energetický a průmyslový holding is now one of central Europe’s largest power companies. . . more

Massachusetts businesses hoping for May 18 end to coronavirus shutdown can wait for answers: Charlie Baker

Boston Herald
There are more questions than answers for Massachusetts businesses hoping to reopen next week — but won’t know if they will be allowed to unlock their doors until Monday, when Gov. Charlie Baker’s order banning non-essential business operations is slated to expire.

“The folks that are most likely to be able to operate successfully on the 18th are going to be many of the folks that are currently operating — the essential businesses,” Baker said, speaking after a tour of MatTek life sciences lab in Ashland on Tuesday.

“The second group that’s likely to come up earliest are going to be people who work in ways and in spaces that don’t have a lot of face-to-face interaction with customers as part of their regular business,” Baker said. . . . more

Neiman Marcus creditor calls for deal with Saks Fifth Avenue

Hedge fund Mudrick Capital Management LP asked Neiman Marcus Group’s independent directors on Tuesday to explore a combination with rival department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue, challenging the company’s plan to reorganize under bankruptcy protection.

A lawyer for Mudrick, which holds portions of Neiman Marcus’s roughly $5 billion of debt, wrote in a letter to the directors that a sale or merger with Saks would result in better financial recoveries for creditors than the company’s current plan to restructure and hand control to senior lenders.. . . more

J.C. Penney Nearing $450 Million Funding to Navigate Bankruptcy

The Street
J.C. Penney reportedly is close to securing $450 million in funding that it will use to navigate a possible bankruptcy filing, marking what would be the third major U.S. retailer to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing economic shutdown.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the retailer is planning to file for bankruptcy as soon as this Friday, CNBC reported, though that timing could still be delayed. The company is considering closing 180 to 200 stores while in bankruptcy. . . . more

Retail stores reopening as coronavirus lockdowns lift

Yahoo Finance
U.S. retailers are slowly reopening after the coronavirus forced them to shutter.

As the U.S. emerges from over a month-long lockdown, in which states and municipalities prohibited all but essential businesses from operating, retailers aim to recover from pandemic-related losses. Retail sales dropped 8.7% in March, the largest monthly dip ever recorded. Now, although some states like New York and California are still shut down, most of the U.S. has partially reopened. . . . more

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

GNC says Ch. 11 is a possibility as pandemic hits sales and profits

Retail Dive
Nutrition supplement retailer GNC has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic, with its comparable sales down 10.1% in the first quarter, the company reported.

The company recorded a $157.5 million asset impairment related to disruption from COVID-19. That led to a net loss of $200.1 million for Q1, wider by more than 1200% than its net loss from the prior year.. . . more

Scarred and Scared, the Reshaping of American Consumers Begins

Even with the rosy assumption that the Covid-19 virus will be contained in the coming weeks, the U.S. economy is in for a slow and painful struggle back from this devastating public health crisis.

Consumers drive 70% of U.S. gross domestic product and they’ve been dealt multiple blows. For some it’s a direct hit to their bank account. For others it’s a shot to their psyches as earners, spenders and social animals.. . . more

How Will Food Halls Fare Post COVID-19?

Food halls will struggle as states reopen businesses and some may close permanently, say industry sources. Over the long term, however, they should return to their pre-COVID-19 success.

Before the virus hit, there were approximately 226 food halls operating in the U.S., according to Phil Colicchio, executive managing director of Colicchio Consulting, the specialty food and beverage, hospitality and entertainment group at Cushman & Wakefield . . . more

Bed Bath & Beyond’s digital pivot continues; most stores won’t reopen before June

Chain Store Age
Bed Bath & Beyond continues to expand its fulfilment capabilities and omnichannel offerings to support increased demand across its digital channels and is also making plans to gradually reopen its stores.

The company, which expects the majority of stores across its banners to remain closed until at least May 30, 2020, is expanding buy-online-pickup-in-store and contactless curbside pickup services to at least 200 additional stores, for a total of 750 stores, or approximately 50% of its store fleet across the U.S. and Canada . . . more

Online grocery sales to grow 40% in 2020

Supermarket News
U.S. online grocery sales grew 22% in 2019 and, propelled by high demand from nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns, stand to surge about 40% this year, according to the Coresight Research U.S. Online Grocery Survey 2020.

Of 1,152 consumers polled, 52% had bought groceries online in the past 12 months — the first time that more than half of respondents had done so and representing more than double the number of shoppers from two years ago, Coresight said. E-commerce accounted for roughly 2.6% of U.S. food and beverage retail sales in 2019, but the projected growth in online grocery activity would raise that sales percentage to 3.5%, or nearly $38 billion. . . . more

Steak n Shake permanently closes 57 restaurants amid dismal first quarter

Indianapolis-based Steak n Shake, already struggling before the COVID-19 pandemic, closed 57 restaurants in the first quarter—a stretch when it posted a nearly $11 million operating loss.

With its restaurants limited to drive-thru, takeout or delivery nationwide for much of March because of the virus outbreak, the burger chain saw quarterly revenue plummet by $59 million, or 35%, compared with the year-ago period, parent Biglari Holdings Inc. reported late Friday.. . . more

Simon Property Wants to Reopen Malls, but Gets Stymied by Political Opposition

The Wall Street Journal
Simon Property Group is trying to open many malls as soon as it can, but some local politicians are stalling efforts to get many of them back in business.

In the past two weeks, the Indianapolis-based company had to backpedal on plans for reopening some of its properties in Indiana and New York, after local officials—especially in areas harder hit by the coronavirus—said it was too soon to allow people into malls. . . . more