Already-distressed grocers like Bi-Lo Holdings and Fresh Market were already dealing with the threat of increased competition from Amazon when Hurricane Irma swept through and hammered them. Apollo Global Management reportedly has extended a 6% unsecured $50mm bridge loan to Fresh Market to help keep it afloat. Meanwhile Bi-Lo is advisored to the hilt and seems headed towards some kind of restructuring. Tops Friendly Markets also has secured debt trading at distressed levels. While Kroger announced somewhat flat guidance going forward, it acknowledged an expected fall in earnings as price wars heat up with Amazon and foreign encroachers like Aldi and Lidl; it also announced that it hired Goldman Sachs to explore a sale of its convenience store business. While the stock traded up on the news, it is still down nearly 37% since the WholeFoods news. There will be winners and losers in this space and it seems increasingly likely to shake out quickly.
Blah, Blah, Private Equity = Death to Retail?
Courtesy of the New Yorker, some more Toys "R" Us history here. Mattel ($MAT) had to amend its credit agreement, reflecting significant leverage ratio uncertainty after the Toys "R" Us bankruptcy filing. Jakks Pacific Inc. ($JAKK) reported that it now expects a net loss in '17 and then, as if to pour salt on the wound, the ratings agencies unleashed a downgrade. Folks are getting increasingly nervous about the retail fallout amidst conflicting reports about store closures/openings. PETITION NOTE: lost in all the noise around Toys is that their new business plan calls for increased employee wages - implying a belief that Walmart's ($WMT) wage increases have helped Walmart provide a better "experience." PETITION NOTE II: It appears that the lenders firmly believe that comparisons between Toys "R" Us and (liquidated) Circuit City are misplaced. Toys is THE LAST LARGE free-standing toy seller. Circuit City was generally expendable given that, at the time, the space was considered saturated and uber-competitive. Now, Best Buy ($BBY - up ~26% YTD, which is down after cratering the other day) fills that void. Just like Barnes & Noble ($BKS - down ~37% YTD) fills the (physical) book void (well, at least until Amazon book stores sprout in force - already it's popping up in New York and LA). And Dick's Sporting Goods ($DKS - down ~50% YTD) now has significant sporting goods market share. We're not saying WE would invest on this "LAST" basis because we wouldn't be caught dead with DKS, BKS or BBY in the PETITION 401(K); but, we are saying that the lenders appear to be lending, at least in part, on that basis. And word is that the DIP is over-subscribed (and Reorg Researchcaptures how lenders are clamoring for inclusion). Meanwhile, the list of distressed retailers seems to grow by the day: note: Belk Inc., Fresh Market, Bi-Lo, 99 Cents Only Stores and more (blah blah, private equity). But, to put an exclamation point on this, see, "Private equity drove Toys "R" Us into bankruptcy, sure, but that isn't quite the same thing as destroying it."
So Travis Kalanick is out and those of you who actually cared can now switch your corporate accounts back to Uber from Lyft. Congrats. Starwoodspoints! Anyway, ICYMI, mere days after the Amazon/WholeFoods announcement, the CEOs of both Fresh Market and Bi-Lo were replaced. Clearly the Board of Directors at both felt like a shape up was needed for the bloody war to come.