Thursday, April 30, 2020

More than half of mall-based department stores could close in two years

Retail Dive
Green Street Advisors now expects "about a little more than half of all mall-based department stores to close by the end of 2021," according to Vince Tibone, a retail specialist at the property research group.

Losing those anchors would have a "knockdown" effect as in-line mall tenants would be allowed to lower rents, he said during an April 29 webinar. In two years, traditional malls overall are likely to see a 20% decline in cash flow compared to 2019, which will "accelerate the demise of many malls," he said.. . . more

Starbucks details plan to reopen 90% of U.S. stores by June 1 — with big changes

Chain Store Age
There are some major changes afoot — temporarily — as Starbucks Corp. ramps up to open its U.S. stores, which have been closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Starting on May 4, the coffee giant will begin opening its stores in the U.S. and Canada. It expects to have approximately 90% of all company-operated U.S. Starbucks stores reopened by early June in various formats with enhanced safety protocols and modified schedules. The emphasis will be on mobile order and pay. Starbucks noted that pre-COVID, 80% of U.S. store customer visits were for to-go take-away.. . . more

Saks Owner Missed April Payments on Commercial Mortgage Debt

Hudson’s Bay Co. missed April payments on two commercial mortgage-backed securities, signaling the retail industry’s woes are spreading to debt markets.

The securities, part of $696 million in financing for Saks Fifth Avenue and other stores, were current until this month when the company missed interest-only debt payments totaling $3.2 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and a person familiar with the matter. . . . more

Global retail sales to fall 9.6% in 2020: Forrester

Global retail sales will fall by an average of 9.6% in 2020 because of the coronavirus crisis, representing a loss of $2.1 trillion, research firm Forrester said on Thursday, predicting that it will take four years to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

Forrester predicted that non-grocery sales from stores will fall 20% in 2020, for a loss of $360 billion from the company’s pre-coronavirus forecasts for growth, with online sales remaining flat.

The crisis will speed the shift to e-commerce, it said. By 2024 Forrester expects a third of non-grocery spending to be online and grocery retailing to have more than doubled its online share.. . . more

Macy’s says it plans to have all of its stores reopened in 6 weeks

Macy’s is planning to reopen 68 department stores Monday, in states including South Carolina and Georgia, where local governments are loosening lockdown restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

It expects to have all of its roughly 775 stores reopened in six weeks, should Covid-19 infection rates taper off, and local governments allow retailers to proceed, a spokeswoman confirmed to CNBC. . . . more

US consumer spending plunges record 7.5%, reflecting virus

AP News
U.S. consumer spending plunged 7.5% in March, reflecting the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic as Americans complied with stay-at-home orders.

The Commerce Department said that the spending decline was the sharpest monthly drop on records that go back to 1959, exceeding the previous record, a decline of 2.1% in January 1987.

Personal incomes also fell sharply last month, declining by 2% with wages and salaries, the largest part of incomes, falling by 3.1% as millions of Americans started getting lay-off notices. . . . more

Massachusetts retailers want employee access to closed stores

Boston Business Journal
Planning to order a bouquet of flowers for Mother's Day? Think again.

With the special occasion around the corner, florists are among the non-essential businesses that are being told to remain closed through at least May 18. But some retail industry leaders are starting to ask whether Gov. Charlie Baker's closure order needs to be as strict as it is. . . . more

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Best Buy to start reopening stores—by appointment only; resuming home ops

Chain Store Age
Best Buy Corp. will gradually start reopening some stores but, initially, customers will need an appointment to enter. It also is resuming home delivery and other at-home services.

Starting in May, the consumer electronics giant will open select locations for in-store consultations. Customers will be able to schedule appointments (by phone, online or app) with dedicated sales associates to come into a store and discuss their technology needs. The service will launch in about 200 of Best Buy’s approximate 1,000 U.S. stores. . . . more

Simon plans to re-open 49 malls and outlets in May

Chain Store Age
The nation’s biggest mall owner is about to make the nation’s grandest move back into business.

An internal memo from Simon Property Group obtained by CNBC revealed its plan to re-open 49 malls and outlets centers in 10 states between May 1 and May 4. . . . more

Guitar Center Debt Restructuring Looms After Skipped Payments

Guitar Center Inc., the largest U.S. retailer of music instruments and equipment, is trying to work out a deal with its creditors after skipping payments on two of its bonds, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The chain failed to pay interest on its unsecured bonds due 2022 and first-lien bonds due 2021, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter. It’s seeking advice from investment bank Houlihan Lokey Inc., which served as Guitar Center’s financial adviser on past efforts to rework its debt, the people said. . . . more

Millennials Will Swap Experiences for Buying Stuff

One of the lasting effects of the Great Recession was a shift in consumer preferences from things to experiences. Homeownership, especially among millennials, fell out of favor amid distressed personal finances and changes in mortgage regulations while the rise of smartphones, social media and services such as Uber and Airbnb nurtured a consumer culture focused on dining, travel and events. A post-coronavirus, pre-vaccine world will upend this lifestyle, which will likely be replaced with the consumption patterns of older generations. As long as social distancing and fears of getting the virus persist, consumers probably will spend more on the trappings of their homes rather than services and experiences involving public spaces and crowds. . . . more

In March, Americans shopped at the grocery store like it was 1996

Covid-19 has Americans shopping at grocery stores like it was the 1990s. In March 2020, almost 63% of food and drink bought by US consumers was purchased at stores. This was the highest share since January 1996, according to data from the US Census.

The share of food spending at restaurants and bars (including takeout) has been slowly rising for for over half a century. In 1970, only about one quarter of US household expenditures were spent on eating out. By the beginning of 2020, that number had reached about 50%. . . . more

Mall Owner Pyramid Sees 6 CMBS Loans Slip Into Special Servicing
Retail owner Pyramid Cos. now has had six CMBS loans transferred to special servicing, with two more added this week.

All of the properties associated with the loans have been shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has put intense pressure on loans tied to retail properties as mall revenue dries up. . . . more

The Victoria’s Secret Contract That Anticipated a Pandemic

New York Times
It’s no wonder the buyout firm Sycamore Partners is trying to back out of its $525 million deal to buy a majority of Victoria’s Secret from struggling L Brands.

Until now, the private equity firm has generated impressive returns for its investors and huge paydays for its executives even as its core retail businesses have been in precipitous decline. . . . more

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Product demand peaks but remains higher than last year amid COVID-19

Chain Store Age
Overall product demand during the week ended April 12 has leveled from the mid-March panic shopping peak that accompanied the COVID-19 outbreak, but remains up 13% compared to the prior-year period.

That’s according to IRI’s newly launched IRI CPG Demand Index, which tracks consumer product goods demand in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The metric measures weekly changes in consumer purchases, by dollar sales, against the year-ago period across departments, categories and retail formats.. . . more

Chico’s is first national apparel retailer to set reopening date

Chain Store Age
Chico’s FAS will begin a three-part store reopening plan on May 4. But it won’t be business as usual.

The women's apparel and accessories retailer, whose banners include Chico’s, White House | Black Market and Soma, said that, starting May 4, it will roll out three phases of reopening stores, beginning with the fulfillment of national orders through physical locations using store inventories. . . . more

Major Retailers Call on States to Adopt Uniform Reopening Plans

The top two trade groups representing major retailers such as Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. are calling on governors to adopt uniform reopening standards as the pandemic subsides, including allowing warehouses and distribution centers nationwide to reopen all at once, rather than state-by-state.

As states, cities, and companies big and small struggle over when and how to restart the economy, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Retail Federation have some ideas. . . . more

Retail Tenants, Landlords Clash Over Proposed Pandemic Rent Clauses

The Wall Street Journal
Some retail tenants are aiming to rewrite their leases to include pandemic escape clauses and other additional forms of relief, setting up a showdown with landlords who oppose these measures.

Most retail leases limit a tenant’s ability to claim a rent abatement based on business interruption or force majeure clauses, which either exclude pandemics or don’t relieve a tenant from paying rent. Tenant lawyers say they are insisting these clauses become a part of new leases.. . . more

Kohl’s, Macy’s, Gap, Belk Are Among The Retailers Delaying Payments To Their Suppliers

Landlords and employees are not the only people getting stiffed by retailers desperate to conserve whatever cash they can get their hands on.

They are now also telling their suppliers the check is most certainly not in the mail.

With their stores closed and revenue at just a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, many of America’s big retailers are struggling to find a way to survive the coronavirus economic collapse.. . . more

Curbside pickup at retail stores surges 208% during coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is making curbside pickup much more valuable to customers and more beneficial to retailers, as many stores remain shut to try to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The number of orders placed online and picked up at bricks-and-mortar stores by customers surged 208% between April 1 and April 20 compared with a year ago, according to data pulled from Adobe Analytics, which measures the web transactions of 80 of the top 100 internet retailers in the U.S.. . . more

Online Fashion Sales in the US Recovered in April After Tanking in March

During a pandemic, “window shopping” has become endlessly scrolling through Instagram boutique feeds and navigating every category on a department store’s site.

The fashion and apparel industry took a punch from Covid-19 in March when online retail sales plummeted by 30%. But now, new data from ecommerce personalization platform Nosto shows that revenue has resurrected globally this month, rising 21% higher than the same time last year. . . . more

Monday, April 27, 2020

A flood of business bankruptcies likely in coming months

Boston Herald
Business filings under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law rose sharply in March, and attorneys who work with struggling companies are seeing signs that more owners are contemplating the possibility of bankruptcy.

Companies forced to close or curtail business due to government attempts to stop the virus’s spread have mounting debts and uncertain prospects for returning to normal operations. Even those owners receiving emergency loans and grants aren’t sure that help will be enough.

The most vulnerable companies include the thousands of restaurants and retailers that shut down, many of them more than a month ago. Some restaurants have managed to bring in a bit of revenue by serving meals for takeout and delivery, but even they are struggling financially.. . . more

Brookline cheese shop gives raises thanks to federal stimulus money

Boston Business Journal
Jenn Mason’s relationship manager from Citizens Bank called her two Fridays ago, in tears, with great news: the Brookline-based specialty cheese shop had received its federal PPP funding in full.

By that Sunday, Mason had signed paperwork electronically, and the following Tuesday, the $36,200 was in the company’s bank account.

Mason opened Curds & Co. in 2017 with her husband Matt, and the couple had self-financed the company up until this year. The couple has taken a home equity loan, and at the beginning of March had begun exploring a business loan with Citizens (NYSE: CFG). . . . more

Adidas projects a 40% decline in sales for the second quarter

Adidas has predicted that sales will fall by 40% in the second quarter, as the impact of the coronavirus takes hold.

The German sportswear giant on Monday reported a 19% decline in net sales for the first quarter from the year before to 4.75 billion euros ($5.16 billion), as 70% of its stores worldwide closed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. . . . more

Investors to challenge Neiman Marcus bankruptcy loan, push for sale

An investor group that comprises investment firm Mudrick Capital Management LP and Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point LLC plans to challenge a $600 million financing package that Neiman Marcus Group has lined up for its looming bankruptcy, and will push the U.S. department store operator to sell itself, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

Neiman Marcus is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in a Dallas federal court as soon as Monday, the sources said. The debt-laden company’s sales all but evaporated after the coronavirus outbreak forced it to temporarily shut all 43 of its Neiman Marcus locations, roughly two dozen Last Call stores and its two Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York.. . . more

Friday, April 24, 2020

Germans aren’t shopping despite stores being open — experts explain why

Despite the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures in the country, Germans are seemingly reluctant to rush back to stores.

Speaking to CNBC, the CEO of behavioral science consultancy Innovation Bubble, Simon Moore, said the coronavirus pandemic has shifted consumers’ mindsets from a “gain” to “maintain” mentality.

Instead of seeking out ways to make the most of deals on goods, Moore explained that people were now more defensively minded because of the uncertainty created by the pandemic. . . . more

Germans aren’t shopping despite stores being open — experts explain why

Despite the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures in the country, Germans are seemingly reluctant to rush back to stores.

Speaking to CNBC, the CEO of behavioral science consultancy Innovation Bubble, Simon Moore, said the coronavirus pandemic has shifted consumers’ mindsets from a “gain” to “maintain” mentality. . . . more

Facing furor, Ruth's Chris high-end steak chain returns $20M small-business loan

Yahoo Finance
Ruth's Chris Steak House will return the $20 million coronavirus small-business loan it procured from the government's $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, the company announced Thursday.

The PPP was designed to throw a financial lifeline to the millions of small businesses who have seen revenues plunge due to social distancing lockdowns — but the hastily conceived program left thousands of applicants high and dry, after funds were snapped up in less than two weeks. . . . more

Victoria’s Secret Sale at Risk as Buyer Blames Virus Response

New York Times
A private equity firm acknowledged the “international tragedy and health emergency,” but said it didn’t excuse actions taken by the lingerie chain’s parent company, including closing stores.

The plan to sell Victoria’s Secret to a private equity investor appears to be in trouble, with the buyer saying on Wednesday it wanted to terminate the deal because of the retail chain’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.. . . more

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Trader Joe's explains why the store won't be starting curbside pickup or grocery delivery

The reason the grocery store chain hadn't implemented curbside pickup, or even self-checkout, is a simple one. The company would rather invest in its employees, said Matt Sloan, TJ’s Vice President of Marketing.

"Creating an online shopping system for curbside pickup or the infrastructure for delivery, it's a massive undertaking. It's something that takes months or years to plan, build and implement and it requires tremendous resources. Well, at Trader Joe's, the reality is that over the last couple of decades we've invested those resources in our people rather than build an infrastructure that eliminates the need for people." . . . more 

Gap warns of cash shortage, suspends rent payments

Gap Inc warned on Thursday it may not survive the next 12 months intact and would need to borrow more funds in the face of widespread coronavirus shutdowns that have crippled the business of clothing retailers globally.

The apparel retailer also said it had suspended rent payments for shuttered stores, and was in talks with landlords to defer payments, change lease agreements, or in some cases terminate the leases and permanently close some stores. . . . more

Target's online sales skyrocket as Americans shelter in place

As shelter-in-place orders took hold around the country last month, Target’s sales in stores began to slide. But online sales more than made up for it, skyrocketing to record levels.

The trend has continued into April with online sales — which include delivery and curbside pickup — up 275% so far this month.

Target’s overall comparable sales have risen 7% thus far in the February-to-April quarter, the company said Thursday morning.. . . more

Guidelines set for Friday's 'retail to go' plan in Texas

CBS 4News
As part of Gov. Greg Abbott's plan to reopen the Texas economy, businesses will be allowed to operate as retail to-go beginning Friday.

Retail services that are not essential can provide delivery, mail or pick-up options. Hair salons remain closed and shopping inside non-essential businesses is not part of this phase of the plan, but Abbott tweeted Wednesday that should be coming soon.. . . more

US weekly jobless claims hit 4.4 million, bringing 5-week total to more than 26 million

Jobless claim filings continued at a historically unprecedented pace last week with 4.4 million new signups for unemployment insurance, bringing the total of the past five weeks to 26.4 million, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The number represented a decline of 810,000 from the previous week, but the five-week total has now surpassed all of the job gains since the Great Recession. . . . more

Sycamore Seeks to Terminate Deal to Acquire Victoria’s Secret

Sycamore Partners wants to terminate its deal to acquire a controlling stake in lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret from L Brands Inc., according to a court filing Wednesday.

Shares of L Brands fell as much as 26% in New York trading to as low as $8.92 apiece. Sycamore Partners agreed in February to buy 55% of the lingerie chain and take it private, leaving L Brands with a minority stake.

The private equity firm said in the Delaware Chancery Court complaint that L Brands has breached covenants under the agreement. It claimed that the Covid-19 outbreak, which has forced the retailer to shutter stores, “provides no relief” under the deal terms. . . . more

The death of the department store: ‘Very few are likely to survive’

Boston Business Journal
American department stores, once all-powerful shopping meccas that anchored malls and Main Streets across the country, have been dealt blow after blow in the past decade. J.C. Penney and Sears were upended by hedge funds. Macy’s has been closing stores and cutting corporate staff. Barneys New York filed for bankruptcy last year.

But nothing compares to the shock the weakened industry has taken from the coronavirus pandemic. The sales of clothing and accessories fell by more than half in March, a trend that is expected to only get worse in April. . . . more

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Updating Real Estate Docs Is More Important Than Ever

Chain Store Age
Retail was already challenged on many fronts prior to the pandemic. Now the industry is facing terrible realities that make the bankruptcies and store closures of the past few years seem tame by comparison.

Despite the federal stimulus efforts, the enormous economic damages will continue to force retailers and landlords to the negotiating table as both sides seek to protect their own financial interests.. . . more

Houston malls may re-open for curbside pickup orders

Chain Store Age
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued a “retail to-go” plan that may allow malls in the state to take orders and deliver them curbside on their properties and several Houston malls are eager to take advantage of the offer, according to

“We’re anxious to get back to full operation as soon as possible,” said Harry Hadland, VP of property management at Metro National Corporation, which owns Houston’s Memorial City Mall.
. . . more

Casper lays off 21% of staff, CFO to exit

Retail Dive
Direct-to-consumer mattress brand Casper announced Tuesday that Greg Macfarlane, CFO and COO, will leave the company on May 15 "to assume a senior executive role outside of the Sleep industry," according to a company press release.

The company also laid off 78 employees, or 21% of its global corporate workforce, and is going to "wind down" its European unit, which it expects to complete by the end of this year. . . . more

GameStop Will Reopen Some Stores In The Middle Of A Pandemic

GameStop’s CEO is taking a 50% salary reduction as part of pay cuts across the company as it prepares to re-open stores in some states, the company announced today.

“The Company has begun the process of re-opening stores in Italy, Germany, Austria and the states of South Carolina and Georgia and is preparing for the potential to re-open in other operating countries and states in the coming weeks,” GameStop wrote in a business update. Currently, one third of GameStop stores are closed in the U.S. while the rest sell games only via curbside pickups.. . . more

Amazon and Target workers plan 'sickouts' over coronavirus safety concerns

USA Today
Amazon and Target workers, on the front lines of COVID-19, are leading nationwide efforts to draw attention to the health risks they face delivering groceries and other critical supplies to Americans.

Their approach? Planned sickouts.

More than 350 Amazon warehouse workers in 50 locations pledged to call out from their jobs starting Tuesday, according to Athena, a coalition of local and national organizations representing workers. . . . more

Experiential Retail Is Figuring Out New Footing in Virtual World

The Wall Street Journal
Retailers have for years been adding experiences to their physical stores as a way to stand out, win loyal customers, create community and give visitors something to post on Instagram. The idea is partly about offering something that e-commerce can’t at a time when it’s tough to compete on cost or convenience.

But experiential retail, as it is called, now has to confront not only the temporary closure of brick-and-mortar venues, but also likely changes to how people will shop in the future, such as avoiding the fitting room or touching fewer items in a store. . . . more

Macy’s weighs raising as much as $5 billion in debt to weather coronavirus crisis

Macy’s is taking extreme measures to avoid dire outcomes like bankruptcy, and will try to raise billions in debt to weather the pandemic crisis, according to people familiar with the matter.

The country’s largest department store is looking at raising as much as $5 billion in debt, the people said. It will seek to use its inventory as collateral to raise $3 billion and real estate to raise $1 billion to $2 billion, they said. . . . more

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Portland, Maine backtracks to allow curbside and delivery by nonessential retail

Retail Dive
The city council of Portland, Maine, on Monday effectively suspended its previous rules forbidding nonessential businesses of all sizes to conduct curbside, delivery or mail order and imposing fines of up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in civil penalties for those that do.

In publishing a list of frequently asked questions, the city on Friday had warned that retailers caught violating the order "could be subject to a $500 civil penalty and costs of prosecution, and the suspension or revocation of your City business license.". . . more

Lord & Taylor mulls bankruptcy

Retail Dive
Lord & Taylor is exploring a bankruptcy filing, Reuters reports, citing unnamed sources.

"The company is working through various options at this time and is declining to comment," a spokesperson from parent company Le Tote said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive.. . . more

T.J. Maxx, Discount Rivals Hunker Down with No Online Options

For years, discount retailers like T.J. Maxx and Ross have been eating their rivals’ lunch as consumers warmed to the thrill of shopping as a treasure hunt experience.

But Covid-19 has revealed a key weakness in the discount playbook: almost no e-commerce.

Now, these off-price retailers, which were among the few outlets to add locations in recent years, are finding that a pandemic means a full halt to operations. The beleaguered department stores, meanwhile, can still rely on their websites for at least some revenue. . . . more

Pandemic deals a blow to one of the nation’s largest malls

Chain Store Age
The 2.2 million-sq.-ft. Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y., may have a tough time coming back following the coronavirus shutdown.

The property’s $388 million debt has been transferred to a commercial mortgage-backed securities special servicing unit because of “imminent monetary default,” according to a report in the Rockland County Business Journal.. . . more

Express adopts poison pill

Chain Store Age
Express Inc. is adopting a shareholder rights plan amid a slump in the company’s share price during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The apparel retailer said the plan, also referred to as a poison pill, is intended to reduce the likelihood that any person or group would gain control of Express through open market accumulations during the current market volatility. It noted that the plan has not been adopted in response in response to any specific takeover bid or other proposal.. . . more

Is Anyone Still Shopping for Clothes During the Coronavirus?

The Wall Street Journal
The disruptive reality of the coronavirus has catalyzed an unprecedented wave of retail store closures around the country, following similar closures throughout China and then Europe. As more states shutter “non-essential” business, companies like Nordstrom, Nike, Macy’s, Patagonia, Ralph Lauren, Apple, Calvin Klein, J. Crew, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Saint Laurent have closed their physical locations. For now most companies are hoping ecommerce can carry them through this turbulent time, and in some cases are sweetening the pot with discount codes or by offering free shipping.. . . more

Retailers are begging for the government’s help — but Treasury might not listen

Retail is reeling, as stores shutter and thousands of people lose their jobs while the coronavirus spreads.

Now, the Treasury Department must decide whether the risk of the industry toppling is worth putting taxpayer money where many others would not. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has shown little appetite for risk and losses, even as he attempts to support a cratering economy. . . . more

Monday, April 20, 2020

Lowe’s in Upstate NY briefly shut down by county exec for violating social distancing rules
The Lowe’s in Big Flats, New York, was ordered to shut down briefly by Chemung County Executive Chris Moss for violating the state’s social distancing rules during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Spectrum News, Moss authorized the closure of the Lowe’s at 913 County Route 64 in Big Flats on Sunday, April 19, following “continual violations” of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order on social distancing. The store had reportedly received multiple verbal and written warnings. . . . more

A tsunami of bankruptcies are about to wash away America's retail sector

Yahoo Finance
As the coronavirus pandemic keeps America’s retail stores closed, Michael McGrail is gearing up for what is shaping up to be a busy summer of running going out of business sales at some very prominent chains.

“Some companies are just not going to survive this,” says McGrail, who is the COO of one of the world’s largest asset disposition and valuation firms Tiger Capital Group. It will be McGrail’s teams — which often includes store associates of a stricken retailer — that hangs the “Everything must go” signs and works to fetch top dollar on fixtures and other inventory.. . . more

Neiman Marcus to file for bankruptcy as soon as this week

Neiman Marcus Group is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection as soon as this week, becoming the first major U.S. department store operator to succumb to the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, people familiar with the matter said.

The debt-laden Dallas-based company has been left with few options after the pandemic forced it to temporarily shut all 43 of its Neiman Marcus locations, roughly two dozen Last Call stores and its two Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York.. . . more

Shake Shack Doesn’t Want Uncle Sam’s $10 Million After All

Social media perked up over the past few days on the news that a number of biggish, publicly traded restaurant chains managed to snare millions in government aid for small businesses that more modestly sized restaurants and vendors missed out on.

Public outrage about this dumpster fire is useful and welcome. It’s also occasionally been misplaced. But it’s founded on the all-too-obvious fact that the White House and Congress lined up $349 billion for entrepreneurs and unloaded that vast pile without properly planning or managing how they would dole it out — and apparently without prioritizing which businesses should receive it.. . . more

Even after 'flattening the curve,' Americans face a long road back to pre-coronavirus normalcy

NBC News
After flattening the curve, Americans should expect a number of curveballs.

Once the immediate crush of COVID-19 cases subsides, epidemiologists say a "post-peak" purgatory lies ahead until a vaccine can be discovered and disseminated that would allow a return to normalcy.. . . more

The coronavirus pandemic will likely leave a lasting legacy on retail: Fewer department stores

America’s department stores are on a sinking ship, racing for a lifeboat that might not be big enough for all of them.

For J.C. Penney, the bankruptcy clock is ticking after it skipped a mid-April interest payment. Its turnaround plans have been sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced the closure of all of its stores. Macy’s, with liquidity drying up, has tapped advisors at investment bank Lazard and law firm Kirkland & Ellis to explore options that include new financing. . . . more

How the coronavirus and retail closures are accelerating the rise of Amazon

The coronavirus outbreak has accelerated the collapse of already struggling brick-and-mortar retailers.

Amazon is positioned to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the broader collapse in retail, as it attracts new customers who are stuck at home and are now turning to the platform for essential goods.
The pandemic has also highlighted some of the risks of Amazon’s dominance in retail.. . . more

Friday, April 17, 2020

Retail Experts Weigh in on Post-COVID World

While retailers are “not going to out-Amazon Amazon,” retail experts discussed how retailers should be addressing their businesses now and for the future during a recent online panel, touching on consumer loyalty, the role of stores and how much the pandemic will change retail—and how much it will just accelerate what was already happening.

While store consolidation will continue, stores still provide an essential piece to the shopping experience—though their function has changed. . . . more

Global Leader in Print and Marketing Undergoes Expeditious Expansion of U.S. Locations

AlphaGraphics, a leading provider of printing and marketing solutions, has announced that a new store in Hamilton, New Jersey, is set to open later this year.

With over 285 locations across six countries, B2B organization AlphaGraphics was the first U.S. printing franchise to expand internationally, as well as the first retailer in desktop publishing. Last year, the franchise’s median gross sales came to over $810,000. The franchise plans to open 25 new stores every year for the next three to five years. . . . more

McDonald’s Long-Term Real Estate Structure Provides It with a Cushion Even in a Severe Downturn

The Golden Arches have lost some of their sales sheen during the coronavirus pandemic, but the real estate strategy of McDonald’s Corp. might serve up a bit of respite from an economic grilling.

McDonald’s reported April 8 that overall same-store sales dropped 22.2 percent in March, with U.S. same-store sales falling 13.4 percent. Globally, three-fourths of the chain’s restaurants are still open. But they’re depending largely on drive-through and delivery sales, as most dining rooms are closed. Foot traffic at McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. plummeted 32.1 percent in March.. . . more

Neiman Marcus Skips Bond Payment, Starts Clock Ticking

The Wall Street Journal
Neiman Marcus Group Inc. is the latest retailer to skip a payment owed to bondholders as the coronavirus pandemic keeps stores closed, setting a clock ticking for the company to restructure its debt or file for bankruptcy.

The luxury retailer didn’t make several bond coupon payments due on Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter. The missed payments set in motion grace periods of between five and 30 days for Neiman to make the payment before creditors can take action, these people said.. . . more

Starbucks sees gradual reopening amid progress in coronavirus fight

Seattle Times
Starbucks is planning to “gradually expand” operations at some stores in the U.S., citing progress in the fight to contain the coronavirus.

The company is taking a store-by-store approach to resuming business activities, which will remain limited to services like drive-thru, delivery and takeout via mobile orders and contactless pickup.. . . more

A Quarter Of PPP Funding Went To Real Estate, Retail And Construction
Before the $350B Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money on Thursday, real estate, retail and construction businesses together received roughly $63.1B, or just over a quarter of the total amount distributed.

Over 114,000 loans totaling almost $34B were approved for construction companies, or 13.73% of all PPP funding, the Small Business Administration reports. Retailers obtained $21.2B, or about 8.57% of the total, while real estate-related companies got $7.9B, or 3.22% of the total.. . . more

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sneeze Guards and Temperature Checks Are the New Normal for U.S. Retail

BNN Bloomberg
Companies considered essential to the U.S. economy such as Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Kroger are creating a standard for operating during a pandemic. For retail locations, that includes wider or one-way aisles (or both) to keep shoppers farther apart, touchless payments and Plexiglas shields (and sometimes masks and gloves) for cashiers. Store hours are being reduced, and the number of customers allowed in at any one time is limited. All the while, store surfaces are cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned again.

Under pressure to show they care for fearful employees (and not to mention customers), companies have been devising a playbook that may change the way shopping looks long after the coronavirus has ceased being a global threat. . . . more

ICSC: 60% of Americans will feel comfortable going to malls after this happens

Chain Store Age
Cornonavirus-cornered Americans expect to be busting out in June, or at least soon after.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) polled 1,004 Americans this week about their expectations of the pandemic’s demise and found them eager to be back at their usual haunts before summer.

Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said they would feel comfortable going to stores to buy non-essential items within or sooner following the lifting of the National Emergency. . . . more

More grocery shoppers making their first-ever online orders during pandemic

Supermarket News
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the United States, new research from CPG marketing agency Acosta finds that while online ordering is ramping up, more shoppers are also making additional stock-up trips to the grocery store.

The report, which found 28% of online grocery shoppers made their first-ever online grocery order in March due to COVID-19, also provides guidance to help retailers and brands navigate unprecedented challenges. . . . more

Mid-Market Fitness Concepts the Most Likely to Feel the Burn of COVID-19

The once-booming fitness sector is taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic as big-box gyms and boutique fitness studios shutter across the United States.

During normal times, fitness is big business. In 2018, U.S. health club industry revenue totaled $32.3 billion and more than 71.5 million U.S. consumers used health clubs, which hit an all-time high, reported the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

The number of fitness centers in the U.S. increased by 24 percent since 2010 to 111,055 locations, according to IBISWorld data, as reported in January by real estate services firm JLL. The figure was expected to jump further, to nearly 121,000 locations by 2024.. . . more

Bed Bath & Beyond Shares Surge After Surprise Q4 Earnings Beat

The Street
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.shares surged in pre-market trading Thursday after posting stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings even as it cautioned that coronavrus closures would pressure plans to revive the struggling home furnishings retailer.

Group net sales, the company said, fell 6.1% to $3.1 billion, again topping analysts' estimates of a $3 billion tally. Comparable store sales fell 10%, Bed Bath & Beyond said, while digital sales tumbled 16% amid weaker holiday activity. . . . more

Weekly jobless claims hit 5.245 million, raising monthly loss to 22 million due to coronavirus

Protection measures against the coronavirus continued to tear through the employment ranks, with 5.245 million more Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

That brings the crisis total to just over 22 million, nearly wiping out all the job gains since the Great Recession.. . . more

What retail could look like when stores reopen

Retail Dive
Tens of thousands of shops have temporarily shuttered across the country — either by choice or government mandate — in an attempt to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

It's not a bright picture for retailers. While Dick's Sporting Goods reopened two stores in Fresno, California, and PetSmart reopened its in-store grooming salons in some states, nonessential retail largely remains closed for the foreseeable future​​. . . . more

‘Pretty catastrophic’ month for retailers, and now a race to survive

Boston Business Journal
Retail sales plunged in March, offering a grim snapshot of the coronavirus outbreak’s effect on consumer spending, as businesses shuttered from coast to coast and wary shoppers restricted their spending.

Total sales, which include retail purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, fell 8.7% from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. The decline was by far the largest in the nearly three decades the government has tracked the data.. . . more

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Retail landlords are creating a blacklist of tenants who aren’t paying rent

The Real Deal
While mom-and-pop retailers may be feeling the economic pain of coronavirus the hardest, some bigger companies have decided to forgo rent payments as well. But landlords aren’t buying it.

Owners of malls and shopping centers have been putting together a “blacklist” of financially stable tenants that haven’t met their April rent obligations, the Wall Street Journal reported.. . . more

COVID-19 wreaks havoc on inventories

Retail Dive
Merchandising in fashion has always been tricky. Once-trendy styles can quickly fall out of favor, leaving over-ordered piles unsold or tagged with margin-killing discounts. Retailers miss out on sales if hot items sell out.

After a busy holiday season that allowed retailers to make a dent in what for many had become bloated inventory, especially in apparel, the COVID-19 pandemic, by keeping consumers away from stores, is reversing much of that progress. . . . more

Best Buy to furlough 51,000 workers as stores provide only curbside pickup

Best Buy will furlough 51,000 store employees in the U.S., or about 40% of its total workforce, as its stores remain closed nationwide aside from curbside pickup.

The Richfield-based retailer’s sales were up 4% heading into the pandemic, and surged 25% in one week in mid-March as consumers preparing to hunker down at home rushed to buy computers, keyboards, webcams and home needs.

While it continues to see strong demand for those products, Best Buy said Wednesday that sales have plummeted 30% in the last month since stores have closed to the public.. . . more

Coronavirus delivers record blow to US retail sales in March

It was supposed to be a big chunk of quick cash for small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but now it looks like it might not be that big—and it definitely won’t be quick.

The Small Business Administration confirmed in an email to loan applicants yesterday that a promised advance of up to $10,000 will be considerably smaller for some businesses. The email was sent to business owners who applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, according to sources who shared a copy of the email with Fast Company. In it, the SBA said the advance amount would be based on an applicant’s employee headcount:. . . more

Dick’s Sporting Goods boosts liquidity

Chain Store Age
Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. has taken another move to bolster its liquidity as its stores remain closed.

The sporting goods giant is offering $500 million in convertible senior notes that mature in 2025. Dick’s said it intends to use a portion of proceeds from the deal for general corporate purposes and it will enter hedging positions to avoid diluting its stock on conversion. . . . more

J.C. Penney weighs bankruptcy in move to refinance debt

Chain Store Age
J.C. Penney is reported to be considering filing for bankruptcy protection as fallout from the the COVID-19 pandemic puts added pressure on the long-struggling department store retailer.

Reuters reported that Penney is considering the bankruptcy filing to "rework its unsustainable finances and save money on looming debt payments, which include significant annual interest expenses" in hopes of continuing operations. The 118-year old company is burdened with nearly $4 billion of long-term debt.. . . more

Retailers and landlords at odds over pandemic

Chain Store Age
Retailers are finding it hard to win concessions over rent during the pandemic shutdown, while hard-pressed landlords are not eager to amend rights that allow them to collect from tenants during a health-imposed shutdown.

A report from WWD said that landlords are unlikely to back down as their financial obligations to their lenders continue to mount.

“COVID-19 has crushed commercial real estate. The retail market was slow before coronavirus, and this enhances and expedites the upcoming recession,” one broker told the publication.. . . more

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

COVID-19 isn’t keeping consumers out of certain stores

Chain Store Age
A majority of consumers are still visiting physical stores when buying groceries — even in the wake of a pandemic.

This was according to a new survey from shopping rewards app Shopkick, which revealed that 72% of consumers are visiting supermarkets and 69% are making big box stores their top shopping destinations. . . . more

Amazon temporarily limits new digital grocery shoppers

Chain Store Age
Customers who want to start ordering groceries online from Amazon and Whole Foods need to wait for an invitation.

In response to continuing heavy demand for online grocery delivery and pickup resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon is temporarily asking new Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery and pickup customers to sign up for an invitation to use online grocery delivery and pickup. Amazon says it is increasing capacity each week and will invite new customers to shop every week.. . . more

COVID-19 will both complicate and accelerate retail bankruptcies

Retail Dive
Along with everything else disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, add retail bankruptcy to the list.

Modell's, which filed in early March, has put its Chapter 11 case on ice for now. Pier 1 suspended a bankruptcy auction for its assets and was granted permission to stop paying rent and vendors as it closes its store fleet.

The calculus of filing for bankruptcy has been scrambled in both the near and long term. But if nothing else is certain at the moment, at least one thing is: More retail bankruptcies are coming. . . . more

True Religion seeks shelter from pandemic (and rent) in Ch. 11

Retail Dive
Denim brand and retailer True Religion filed for Chapter 11 on Monday, its second bankruptcy since 2017.

The company had been racking up losses and struggled with liquidity all last year, according to True Religion interim CFO Richard Lynch​. The COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close its doors and wiped out 80% of its sales, resulting in even deeper liquidity woes and making bankruptcy "unavoidable," Lynch said in court documents.. . . more

Burlington Stores furloughs employees as stores remain closed

Chain Store Age
Burlington Stores Inc. is furloughing employees and its executives are taking pay cuts as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

The off-pricer announced it has furloughed most of its store associates and distribution center employees. Burlington will continue to provide benefits to furloughed workers, including paying 100% of their current health benefit premiums. In addition, the company has established a hotline to help employees gain access to government assistance programs from the recently passed fiscal stimulus package.. . . more

Amazon doubles down on hiring — to hire 75,000 new workers; ups payroll investment

Chain Store Age
Amazon is ramping up hiring — for the second time in less than a month.

The online giant announced on Monday that it will hire an additional 75,000 workers to help serve customers “during this unprecedented time.” The new workers will be in addition to the 100,000 new employees Amazon has hired since mid-March in full- and part-time jobs across its fulfillment centers and delivery network to keep up with surging demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. . . . more

J.C. Penney Is Said to Hire AlixPartners as Revenue Dwindles

Yahoo Finance
J.C. Penney Co. has tapped the consulting firm AlixPartners LLP for advice as the retail chain mulls options for managing its approximately $4 billion debt load amid shrinking revenue, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

J.C. Penney has been in conversations with its banks in recent weeks about their liquidity needs, and has been in on-and-off negotiations with lenders about a possible debt deal, said the people, who are not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named discussing private information. . . . more

Monday, April 13, 2020

Tips for Negotiating with Landlords Amid COVID-19

Chain Store Age
The Covid-19 pandemic has shut down most of the economy and retailers are among the businesses that could be closed for months. Even when they reopen, they will have suffered devastating losses of revenue.

For most of these companies, the biggest fixed expense is rent -- which means many will consider asking their landlords for some relief. Before they do that, they should develop a strategy for the upcoming negotiations built on understanding landlords’ needs, limitations and psychology.. . . more

Department stores are most at risk of default, S&P says

Retail Dive
Department stores as a sector have a 42.1% median probability of defaulting on their debt within a year, according to emailed research from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The sector's default risk, as of April 7, is the highest among consumer companies. Retailers of food and household goods carry some of the lowest default risk, according to S&P. Calculations are based on fluctuations in the company's share price and other industry-related risks.. . . more

Survival of the biggest: Coronavirus transforms retail

The titans of the retail industry — Amazon, Walmart, Target and Costco — are poised to come out of the coronavirus crisis even stronger and more formidable than they were before, as smaller rivals suffer and wither.

Why it matters: The pandemic will permanently reshape America's retail landscape — accelerating a winner-take-all race that started taking shape before stores were forced to close.

What's happening: With piles of cash, extensive delivery networks and massive physical footprints to navigate the pandemic, America’s biggest retailers are raking in sales. . . . more

CRE's Potential Winners and Losers in a Virus-Hit World

It may not be fair, but even pandemics tend to benefit some people and segments of society while devastating others. The Black Death, for example, led to higher wages for suddenly scarce laborers and a vast expansion of Western Europe’s middle class. COVID-19 will also likely leave both the world, and the commercial real estate industry, looking different than they did before.

Here’s how the current pandemic could play out for various segments of the U.S. real estate industry. . . . more

Lidl’s growing U.S. supply chain network lays groundwork for store expansion

Chain Store Age
The German discount grocer Lidl is building a supply chain infrastructure that points to future expansion.

According to a story by CSA sister publication Retail Leader, Lidl is building a network of large distribution centers along the Eastern seaboard that will be capable of serving 1,500 or more stores when fully operational. . . . more

Walmart’s online grocery sales skyrocket in March

Chain Store Age
With an already strong e-commerce presence, Walmart racked up impressive year-over-year online grocery sales growth in March.

Walmart grocery’s online sales reached nearly $900 million in March, up 21% from February 2020 and 99% from the previous year, according to 1010data, a provider of data and analytics to asset managers, retailers and CPG companies. The surge came as consumers rushed online to stock up on groceries and find high-demand items amid the COVID-19 pandemic.. . . more

Brio and Bravo parent files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after closing 71 units

Restaurant Business
The parent of the Brio Italian Mediterranean and Bravo Fresh Italian casual chains has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and raised the possibility of seeking a buyer after closing 71 of its 92 remaining restaurants.

Management of the company, FoodFirst Global Restaurants, said the chains had been struggling with sales and profit declines before the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, 10 stores were closed and the viability of “a substantial number” of additional stores was being viewed, according to bankruptcy court documents.. . . more

Retail Discretionary Spending Could Plummet as Much as 50%

Retail Info Systems
Significant business interruptions brought on by the coronavirus is upending U.S. retail discretionary spending, which is projected to decline by 40%- 50% in the first half of 2020.

This prediction comes from Fitch Ratings, which also expects a slow rate of improvement through the summer from a current 80%-90% decline in sales, and only if stores start to open mid-May or early June. Sales decline is expected to continue into 2021 and to dip 8%-10% from 2019 levels. . . . more

Friday, April 10, 2020

Staples remains open but refuses to pay April rent

Chain Store Age
Retail landlords nationwide are up in arms over Staples' refusal to pay rent in April, even though most of its stores remain open.

According to a report from Axios, several landlords complained that Sycamore Partners, the owner of the office products chain, was taking advantage of the pandemic situation despite the fact that the private equity took a $1 billion dividend from Staples last year.. . . more

Majority of Americans think stores should reopen by end of May

Chain Store Age
A new survey has some hopeful findings for retailers with shuttered stores even as it shows an increased level of consumer concern about COVID-19.

Amid signals that coronavirus infections may be plateauing in hot spots like New York, a new study by digital product testing and decision-making platform.

First Insight found that 60% of U.S. consumers feel that stores should reopen by the end of May 2020. Fielded on April 3, the study found increasing optimism among consumers living in several hotspots outside of New York, millennials and men, who were most likely to believe stores should be open weeks earlier -- at the end of April or early May. . . . more

With Stores Closed, Can E-Commerce Make Up for Lost Sales?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced discretionary retailers to temporarily shutter stores around the U.S. to help stop the spread of the virus. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and to make up for lost in-person sales, retail chains have been trying to push consumers to shop online through unprecedented sales and promotions.

However, many cautious consumers aren’t biting during the crisis. Most aren’t looking to buy fashion apparel or accessories, and instead, are spending money on groceries and other necessities. . . . more

Walmart hires 100,000 to meet surging demand, as toilet paper and sewing machines fly off the shelves

Walmart said it’s seen a surge in demand for hair color, beard trimmers and sewing machines as Americans stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic — and it’s still working hard to keep up with a spike in toilet paper sales.

The big-box retailer has hired more than 100,000 new workers over the past three weeks to help it keep shelves stocked and fulfill online orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, Dan Bartlett, told CNBC’s Courtney Reagan. . . . more

US shopping mall owners face financial reckoning

Boston Business Journal
Some of America’s biggest mall owners are facing a financial reckoning as retailers from Urban Outfitters to Calvin Klein stop paying rent in the coronavirus shutdown.

Capital markets are signalling that some retail landlords are heading for debt restructurings as their properties remain closed for weeks while they grapple with multibillion-dollar liabilities.

Corporate bonds in both CBL & Associates and Washington Prime, which alone have interests in a combined 125m sq ft of retail and mall space, are trading at distressed levels, having sold off heavily in recent weeks. A smaller mall owner, Pennsylvania Reit, said it was applying for relief funds under Washington’s coronavirus support package.. . . more

'All the Dominos Fall': Business debts are threatening a cascade of loss

Boston Business Journal
April 1 arrived last week, and with it, a huge amount of uncertainty regarding how commercial tenants and landlords are handling rent payments amid the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered businesses across the globe.

Many landlords are loath to discuss whether they’re asking tenants to pay in full. Several of Boston’s biggest property owners and managers wouldn't respond to questions about the situation. On the other side, tenants have reported mixed reactions from landlords. Some businesses are being offered 50% off rent for the next three months, others are receiving full deferral of rent for the next three months, and still others are seeing rent forgiven for now, but having it tacked onto the end of a lease term.. . . more

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Nordstrom warns financial situation could become distressed because of coronavirus-related store closures

Nordstrom said its financial situation could become distressed if its stores stay dark for much longer because of COVID-19.

The retailer’s assessment of this crisis is one that many are likely dealing with, as businesses that sell nonessential goods such as apparel, shoes and luggage have reached an almost complete standstill. . . . more

COVID-19: The ultimate stress test for retailers

Retail Dive
Retailers who do not factor COVID-19 into their operations are facing an existential crisis.

Pandemics are an extreme version of business disruption. The new coronavirus strain is the latest reminder that companies need to plan and prepare for the unexpected in order to be resilient and flexible as a course of doing business.. . . more

Retail sales could remain down by double digits through 2021, Fitch says

Retail Dive
Against a backdrop of mass store closures and stay-at-home orders for much of the U.S., Fitch Ratings estimates discretionary retail spending to decline by up to 50% for the first half of 2020, according to an emailed report.

With a consumer downturn increasingly likely, Fitch estimates sales to remain in decline during the second-half of 2020, and for sales next year to be down as much as 10% from 2019 levels.. . . more

Faneuil Hall landlord reverses stance on April rent

Boston Business Journal
Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., the operator of Boston’s famed Faneuil Hall, has reportedly given its retail merchants a reprieve on April rent following a conversation with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, despite having told those retailers in recent days that it still expected payments despite the temporary shutdown of most businesses last month.

A day after a Boston Globe column said the New York-based company would not budge on charging retailers for the month, Walsh said he spoke with Ben Ashkenazy — whose net worth Forbes values at $3.5 billion — on Wednesday, and “asked him to provide immediate relief to the Faneuil Hall Merchants.”. . . more

Starbucks Sees 6 Months of Pain, Based on Its China Experience

Yahoo Finance
Starbucks Corp. said that a sharp slowdown from the coronavirus pandemic will worsen before getting better, with financial impact extending as far as September.

The company based its assessment on the tentative recovery in the Chinese market, Starbucks’ most important along with the U.S. The coffee chain went through social distancing and mandatory closures in the Asian nation earlier in the year, giving the company an early glimpse at how the situation would play out in the U.S. and elsewhere. . . . more

Costco's March same-store sales jump as coronavirus triggers surge in buying

Costco Wholesale Corp reported a 9.6% jump in March comparable sales, as customers stocked up on essentials to weather coronavirus-led lockdowns.

U.S. comparable sales rose 10.7% for five weeks ended April 5, while e-commerce sales surged 48.3%, Costco said in a statement.. . . more

Coronavirus Has Shut Stores, and Retailers Are Running Out of Time

The Wall Street Journal
Retailers have furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers, cut executive pay and stopped paying rent, all to conserve cash. For the most indebted retailers, particularly those already struggling before the crisis began, those measures may not be enough.

Neiman Marcus Group Inc. and J.C. Penney Co., both of which have looming debt payments, have been reaching out to creditors in the hopes of buying more time, according to people familiar with the situation. Representatives for Neiman Marcus and Penney declined to comment.. . . more

Mass. grocery stores ordered to limit occupancy to 40 percent during coronavirus outbreak

All Massachusetts grocery stores have been ordered to limit capacity to 40 percent until further notice in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Stores with a maximum occupancy of 25 people or less are exempt from the order.

Grocery staff will be required to monitor the number of customers who are entering and exiting stores. The maximum occupant count includes customers and employees. . . . more

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The consumer after COVID-19

Retail Dive
In the past several weeks, retailers haven't seen much of their customers.

Retailers and consumers alike remain focused on cutting short the impact of COVID-19, the disease that has swept the globe. At the moment in most locales, when people do venture out it's only for essential items from the few stores that are open, and these days their faces are often covered. Otherwise, shopping is accomplished online. ​

The extreme lockdown of today will be eased at some point, though it's not yet clear when. Perhaps even more uncertain is what the frame of mind of their erstwhile customers will be.. . . more

Pier 1 weighs bid that would close most — but not all — of its stores

Chain Store Age
Pier 1 Imports, which filed for bankruptcy protection in February, is expected to receive a revised purchase offer that would keep open less than 100 of the retailer’s 900-plus locations, reported Bloomberg.

The bid is from CSC Generation, whose DirectBuy subsidiary acquired the assets of Z Gallerie in a bankruptcy auction last summer. It comes as Pier 1’s bankruptcy court process has been put on hold while its stores are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.. . . more

Panera Bread is selling groceries as restaurant sales plummet

Panera Bread is selling groceries as housebound consumers eat fewer meals from restaurants.

Customers are able to order breads, bagels, milk, yogurt, cream cheese and fresh produce as part of an initiative that began Monday.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many restaurants to shutter their dining rooms temporarily. Restaurant transactions plunged 42% during the week ended March 29 compared with a year ago, according to the NPD Group. . . . more

Why are some mattress stores still open amid coronavirus pandemic?

USA Today
Would you lie down on a bed that someone else has tested during the coronavirus pandemic?

Some Americans apparently are doing just that, because certain mattress stores, including locations of the nation's largest mattress retailer, are still open during the COVID-19 crisis.

No. 1 seller Mattress Firm, which has more than 2,500 stores throughout the country, confirmed that some of its locations are still open and said it's taking necessary precautions to protects its employees and customers. . . . more

TJX to furlough thousands of workers due to coronavirus outbreak

Framingham-based TJX is furloughing the majority of its hourly workers in its stores and distribution centers in the U.S. and Canada after Sunday.

TJX is the parent company of stores such as TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, HomeSense and Sierra Trading Post. It has a global workforce of 286,000, mostly in the U.S. That’s more than double Macy’s workforce.. . . more

AMC Theatres Bankruptcy Rumors Grow, But That Move Wouldn’t Be The End Of The Chain Or The Biz

In the wake of a S&P Global report that forecasted AMC Entertainment’s depletion of cash by mid-summer and its potential inability to re-open by June, media reports have already written the chain’s obituary.

While distribution and rival exhibition sources wouldn’t be shocked if AMC files Chapter 11 in the near future, that’s not necessarily a scarlet letter for the biggest theater chain in the world. Rather it’s the best thing that could happen for AMC which is saddled with $4.9 billion debt and currently valued at $327.3M. Last Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that lenders for the Leawood, KS-based chain have hired law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP for advice on expected restructuring negotiations. . . . more

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Stalled by coronavirus pandemic, American Dream rethinks its future and retail becomes an afterthought

It is becoming even harder to call American Dream a megamall.

Instead, the roughly 3 million-square-foot development that sits alongside a bustling highway in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is morphing into more of an ultimate amusement park. More like Disneyland if it fit under one roof. With shifts in strategy over time, retail is becoming even more of an afterthought, while entertainment takes center stage.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic hitting the U.S., American Dream was slated to be a mix of 55% entertainment-related tenants and 45% retailers, when it was completely finished. Now, the project will be roughly 70% entertainment and 30% retail, according to its developer, Triple Five Group. . . . more

How Covid-19 could change fashion and retail, according to experts

Nobody really knows what the world will look like on the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic. The only certainty is that it’s bound to be different. The crisis has already ushered the global economy into a recession, and seems poised to leave its mark on how consumers live, how they spend their money, and even how they dress.

Fashion, in fact, is one of the businesses most vulnerable to disruption from the outbreak since it relies so heavily on discretionary spending. Experts may not always agree on exactly how the pandemic will change different aspects of the industry. But the consensus is that it will, with many large-scale shifts that were already underway accelerating in the upheaval.. . . more

Walmart limits store traffic to 5 customers per 1K square feet

Retail Dive
Walmart has joined Target in limiting customer traffic in its stores.

In a corporate post on Friday, the retail giant said that effective Saturday it would not allow more than five customers per 1,000 square feet in its stores at any time, which would represent about 20% of its store capacity.
To do that, Walmart staff will set up a queue at the door. Once stores reach capacity, customers will be allowed in on a "1-out-1-in" basis. In many stores, Walmart will use floor markers to create one-way movement as part of its effort to encourage social distancing.. . . more

Customer Growth Partners analyzes impact of COVID-19 on retail sectors

Chain Store Age
Since March 1, the entire retail sector has undergone a huge sea change, with several major sectors seeing severe declines in business, even before virtually all specialty apparel and department stores closed the week of March 15, along with many other specialty stores. The apparel & accessories and department stores have been most challenged, across almost all formats and all price-points.

Meanwhile, a few sectors actually enjoyed a modest increase in trade over the year-earlier period (March 1-31)—notably the big-box discounters, smaller discounters and essential hardlines retailers that have not closed, as well as food and drug stores. . . . more

Pier 1 Joins Retailers Citing Court Ruling to Skip Rent

Retailers have a new tool to use in the scuffle between landlords and tenants: a court ruling that could help them withhold rent.

Pier 1 Imports Inc. is the latest retailer to seize on the precedent, asking a judge to let it skip rent payments amid the coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered stores across the U.S. The judge overseeing Pier 1’s case signed an order approving the retailer’s request on Monday. . . . more

REI keeps stores shut and furloughs many of its workers for 90 days

Seattle Times
REI said it would keep its 162 retail locations shuttered and furlough many of its roughly 14,000 employees without pay for 90 days as the coronavirus pandemic continues to paralyze much of the bricks-and-mortar retail sector.

CEO Eric Artz, who announced the decision in a blog post Monday, said he and the Kent-based company’s board would forgo their own compensation for six months; senior executives will take a 20% pay cut and forgo any 2020 bonuses. Furloughed employees will continue to receive health benefits during the 90-day period, the company said. . . . more

Walgreens to open 15 drive-thru testing sites for the coronavirus across 7 states

Walgreens said Tuesday that it plans to open 15 drive-thru testing locations for the coronavirus across seven states, starting later this week.

The sites will be in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas, the drugstore chain said in a news release. They will use Abbott Laboratories’ rapid COVID-19 test. . . . more

The Coronavirus Landlord-Tenant Playbook, Revealed
The coronavirus is already taking a heavy toll on many real estate sectors. Millions of jobs and the future of thousands of businesses hinge on the outcome of negotiations between landlords and tenants in the wake of the March quarter day. 

For retail, leisure and serviced office tenants, the last few weeks of the coronavirus lockdown are just the beginning of what could be many months of problems paying the rent. . . . more

Monday, April 6, 2020

Coronavirus effect: Bankruptcies won’t save retail this time

For retailers, facing an apocalypse isn’t anything new. What’s new is the fact that everyone else is too.

Retail has for years faced the challenges of slowing foot traffic, changing shopping patterns and online competitors that has caused an industry upheaval some analysts have deemed the “retail apocalypse.”

But as the coronavirus pandemic has ground U.S. business to a halt, the pain has spread far and wide to upstart retail brands, landlords, lenders and suppliers. With everyone in duress, landlords and creditors with the ability to pull the trigger that could put a retailer into bankruptcy have become gun shy.. . . more

To pay or not to pay: Retailers are making tough decisions on rent and other bills

Retail Dive
Last week, Urban Outfitters said publicly what many retailers are discussing in private: that it won't be paying rent. In the middle of a list of financial measures Urban said it was taking while its stores are closed, the apparel seller included the suspension of rent payments.​

The retailer followed the Cheesecake Factory in doing so. The restaurant chain said in a regulatory filing that it would not be paying rent on its leases for the month of April.. . . more

CVS Ramps Up Drive-Through Coronavirus Testing Sites With Faster Kits

New York Times
CVS Health Corp said that it will launch two new drive-through COVID-19 testing sites in Georgia and Rhode Island on Monday using new, faster tests than had previously been available, with up to four more locations to follow.

The company said both drive-through testing sites will use testing equipment made by Abbott Laboratories that can deliver results within minutes. It expects to be able to perform around 1,000 tests per day at each site. . . . more

Closed on Easter: Grocery stores including Trader Joe's, BJ's Wholesale Club will be closed because of COVID-19

USA Today
More retailers will be closed for Easter than in past years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the long list of companies that have temporarily shuttered stores due to COVID-19, some grocery stores that have traditionally kept their doors open on the holiday will be closed to give employees a day off.. . . more

Four predictions for post-pandemic retail success

Chain Store Age
The harsh lessons learned during the coronavirus (COVID-19) may be exactly what will help retailers to survive — and thrive — post-pandemic.

Currently, retail chains industry-wide continue to shore up capital by reducing operating hours, temporarily closing stores, and furloughing employees, among other measures. In fact, there were almost 62,000 temporary store closures by major retailers in the United States as of March 27, according to Coresight Research.. . . more