👄Retail Partnerships Blossom Everywhere (Long Limiting Lease Exposure)👄

SmileDirectClub Expands its Reach with CVS Health Corp. Partnership

In “Retail Partnerships Abound (Long Survival Instincts),” we noted how Birchbox had entered into a partnership with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. ($WBA) and CVS Health Corp ($CVS) with Glamsquad. We concluded:

People need drugs. People need food. So why not go where the customers are rather than try to generate independent traffic through your own brick-and-mortar location? Use someone else’s lease rather than incurring the liability. This all makes sense. And so there’s every reason to believe that this trend will continue — particularly where a company brings real brand cache to bear.

This week CVS announced another partnership: SmileDirectClub will be bringing its teeth-straightening services to hundreds of locations over the next two years. Per CNBC:

CVS is trying to keep up with its changing customers. People are shopping online more, especially on sites like Amazon, hurting CVS and other drugstores’ sales of everyday items like vitamins and toilet paper. CVS thinks focusing on health and beauty products and services will be a way to draw people in.

This is a trend that we very much expect to continue. Is it beyond question that, ultimately, we’ll start seeing “health courts” much like we see “food courts?” We can see it now: a murderers’ row of previously direct-to-consumer retailers like Warby Parker, Ro, Hims and SmileDirectClub all in one place so that you can cover your health and wellness needs all in one fell swoop.

Amazon's Disruptive Force...

...Is Industry & Asset-Class Agnostic

Scott Galloway likes to say that Amazon simply needs to make a simple product announcement and the market capitalization of an entire sector - of dozens of companies - can take a collective multi-billion dollar hit. On a seemingly weekly basis, his point plays out. Upon the announcement of the Whole Foods transaction, all of the major grocers got trounced. Upon news of Amazon building out its delivery infrastructure, United Parcel Service Inc. ($UPS) and FedEx Corporation ($FDX) got hammered. Upon news that Amazon was getting into meal kits, Blue Apron's ($APRN) stock plummeted. This week it was the pharma companies that got battered on the news that Amazon has been approved for wholesale pharmacy licenses in at least 12 states. It was a bloodbath. CVS Health ($CVS) ⬇️ . Walgreens Boots Alliance ($NAS) ⬇️ . Cardinal Health ($CAH) ⬇️ . Amerisource Bergen ($ABC) ⬇️ . Boom. (PETITION NOTE: obviously impervious - for now - are the ad duopolists, Alphabet Inc. ($GOOGL) and Facebook Inc. ($FB), both of which, despite news that Amazon did $1.12b in ad revenue this quarter, had massive bumps on Friday).* Luckily there isn't an ETF tracking doorman and home security services because if there were, that, too, would be down this week

What Galloway has never noted - to our knowledge, anyway - is the effect that Amazon's announcements have on the leveraged loan and bond markets. Remember that Sycamore Partners' purchase of Staples from earlier this year? You know...that measly $6.9b leveraged buyout? Yeah, well, that buyout was financed on the back of $1b of 8.5% unsecured notes (issued at par) and a $2.9b term loan.Ah...leverage. Anyway, investors who expected that the value of that paper would remain at par for longer than, say, 2 months, received an unpleasant surprise this week when Amazon announced its "Business Prime Shipping" segment. According to LCD News, the term loan and the notes traded down "sharply" on the news - each dropping several points. Looks like the "Amazon Effect" is biting investors in a variety of asset classes.

One last point: this is awesome. Maybe the future of malls really is inversely correlated to the future of (livable) warehouses. 

*Nevermind that Amazon's operating income declined 40% due to a 35% rise in operating expenses. Why, you ask, are operating expenses up? How else could Amazon be poised to have half of e-commerce sales this year?