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Refreshing Retail - Issue #15

June 2024
Mike Jordan, Big V Property Group Director of Research

Retail Sales Weaker Than Expected For May

  • Overall sales were up 2.3% vs. last year
  • Excluding autos, sales declined -0.1% vs April
  • Lower than expected fuel prices contributed to the softer numbers
  • Sporting Goods, Books, and Hobby retailers pivoted to a 2.8% increase after losing share for several quarters
  • Though weak consumer spending can signal pressures in the economy, some analysts hope this will lead to a cut in interest rates by the Federal Reserve
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Source: Retail Dive, Chain Store Age, RetailStat
Alamo Drafthouse, one of the pioneers of the luxury cinema craze, has been sold to Sony Pictures Entertainment. It is the first deal of its kind since the federal government relaxed its rules on film studios owning theaters. All 35 Alamo locations will stay open, and the current management of Alamo will remain in place. Sony hopes to utilize Alamo’s locations to expand the offerings of its Crunchyroll anime division. In other Alamo news, the chain’s Dallas-Ft Worth area locations recently closed following the bankruptcy of a franchisee, however the brand hopes to reopen those theaters as corporately owned in the near future.
Dollar Tree is looking to sell or spinoff its Family Dollar brand as it explores strategic alternatives for the struggling banner. The Virginia based company purchased Family Dollar for $8.5 billion in 2015, but the merger hasn’t borne fruit as anticipated and is unlikely to sell for a price close to what Dollar Tree paid. In the interim, the company has announced plans to close 970 Family Dollar stores, even as the flagship Dollar Tree brand grows with the recent acquisition and conversion of 170 former 99 Cents Only store locations in the Southwest.
Dry Goods, the young women’s fashion brand founded by Midwestern department store chain Von Maur in 2010 has announced plans to open 5 new stores in the coming months. The new locations will be in New Jersey, Delaware, Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and will give the brand 84 total stores.
Phoenix Retail, a new joint venture between mall owners Simon Property Group, Brookfield Properties, and Centennial; along with private equity firm WHP Global has agreed to buy Express and Bonobos out of bankruptcy in order to keep up to 450 stores open, rather than liquidating. Simon and Brookfield previously teamed up to buy a number of other bankrupt retailers such as JCPenney, Forever 21, and Brooks Brothers. This is the first joint venture to include both Centennial and WHP.
Jack in the Box, the California based fast food chain has announced plans to expand its presence in the Southeast with franchise agreements for 15 new restaurants in Georgia and another 15 in Florida. However, Atlanta burger fans will have to wait as the company plans to focus its initial foray into the Peach State around Macon, Savannah, and August.
Target has announced plans to cut prices across 5,000 popular items in its grocery, household, health, and beauty categories. The price cuts will include both national brands and private labels such as Good & Gather. The move is similar to other recent announcements from Walmart and McDonald’s who are trying to lure back shoppers amid a weak consumer spending cycle.
Kohl’s is expanding its role as a processor for online returns with The Return Drop, which will now begin accepting merchandise bought from the websites of such brands as Levi’s, Carhartt, and Hanes in addition to the accepting returns for Amazon and Kohl’s website purchases. Shoppers will receive a QR code authorizing the return at Kohl’s from the brand’s websites. No boxes or shipping materials are required.
Lowe’s has announced the promotion of Jennifer Wilson to Chief Marketing Officer from her most recent position of SVP of Brand Marketing. Wilson has been with Lowe’s since 2006. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s have seen sales dip in recent quarters, though they have maintained guidance for 2024.
Petco announced a C-suite shakeup with the appointment of a new Chief Stores Officer, James Roth, who joins the pet retailer from Abercrombie & Fitch. The company also announced the departure of executives Justin Tichy (COO) and Amy College (Chief Merchant). Tichy’s role will be eliminated, while the company looks to find a new Chief Merchant.
Kim Kardashian’s Skims shapewear brand has opened its first permanent brick & mortar store and announced plans for 4 more stores to open by the end of the year. The first store is in Washington DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, with additional locations planned for Austin, Atlanta, Houston, and South Florida (Aventura, near Ft Lauderdale).
Kim Kardashian’s Skims shapewear brand has opened its first permanent brick & mortar store and announced plans for 4 more stores to open by the end of the year. The first store is in Washington DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, with additional locations planned for Austin, Atlanta, Houston, and South Florida (Aventura, near Ft Lauderdale).
Torrid announced plans to reorient its store fleet even further away from malls. CEO Lisa Harper said the company aims to have at least 50% of its locations off-mall in the coming years, up from 35% today. Noting that nearly half of their 658 store leases are coming due in the next 2 years, the time is right to give the brand maximum flexibility over its location strategy.

Toy sales aren’t just a kid’s game anymore. According to a recent report by Circana, shoppers over the age of 18 (buying for themselves) accounted for more toy sales than any other age group. Overall, toy sales are 38% greater than they were before the pandemic and adults now contribute over $1.5 billion on a quarterly basis, with nearly half of all adults having purchased a toy for themselves in the last 12 months. Find out more in this article from Retail Dive’s Kaarin Vembar >>

Asian grocery chains were once only found in the ethnic enclaves of major cities, however as more Americans expand their pallets and immigration from Asian countries has grown to become the fastest growing ethnic group in the US, Asian grocery stores are increasingly part of the fabric of mainstream suburban retail. Even Kroger and Walmart are seeing a boost from this trend as Asian foods within their stores have grown 4X more than overall sales. Find out more about this emerging retail phenomenon from The New York Times’ Priya Krishna >>

Video of the month: Walmart recently announced that it is going to require more of its corporate workforce to live and work in its hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas forcing many to relocate from regional offices in big cities such as Dallas and Atlanta (the company is keeping tech-focused satellite offices in New Jersey and California open). With a new multi-acre corporate campus under development, along with significant investments from nearby University of Arkansas in Fayetteville; the town of Bentonville is projected to grow 3.5X by 2050 to a population of over 200,000. Many newcomers are surprised by the quality of life and diverse population that calls Bentonville home, meaning this once sleepy corner of the South won’t be a secret much longer. Learn more in this video from CNBC >>

This summer marks the second year my neighborhood is hosting “Meetup on Main”, a weekly event series that brings together food trucks, family activities, music, and more to a 3 block stretch of Main Street that has seen better days. For as long as we’ve lived here in Skokie, this stretch of road has been blighted by vacant storefronts and crumbling concrete. It’s a rare sight in our town of nearly 68,000 people which is also home to one of the top 3 malls in Chicagoland with luxury retail and upscale restaurants. Our downtown has seen several new apartment towers spring up along with its own resurgence in business development. Our community has great schools and often makes the list of the best Chicago suburbs for families seeking ethnic diversity, cultural amenities, and walkable streets.

Now Main Street’s best days may be ahead of it after all. Because of these citizen-organized meetups, the village government has taken notice of the potential to reinvigorate the commercial prospects on the east side of town. Economic development consultants have been brought in to draw up a long term plan that includes townhouses, condos, and refreshed retail spaces. A local coffee truck will be opening its first brick & mortar location in the coming months along with a grab & go sandwich shop operated by a local catering company. More businesses and services will be announced soon with a focus on local arts and “maker” spaces.

What I think is so interesting and important about these plans is that it took local residents pointing out that we all want to spend our time and money right here in our neighborhood. The meetups have only grown in size from last year to this year and this caused our village government to sit up and take notice to finally address the revival Main Street and hopefully keep more people in Skokie while attracting new families to town.

As shopping center owners, we often purchase assets in places we don’t live. We lease these centers from remote locations and our relationships to the community are tenuous at best. While the nature of large scale shopping centers means there will always be a greater focus on national and regional chains and a demand for higher rents, as an industry we could all probably do a better job of finding out what makes each community unique and scaling our plans to make each asset at least somewhat tailored to local interests.

Listen to the Song of the Month

A few summers ago, Kate Bush’s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” imprinted itself onto the consciousness of a new generation via its prominent placement on Stranger Things. Kate has long been recognized as one of the most singular and visionary musical artists of the last 50 years, but it took her recent resurgence to finally see her inducted into the Rock & Hall of Fame in 2023. Dig a little deeper into the landmark Hounds of Love album and you may just decide your favorite song is “Cloudbusting” written about the eccentric experiments conducted by psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich in the 1940s to harness the power of thunderstorms. The video for the song is a masterpiece of visual storytelling and stars the legendary Canadian actor Donald Sutherland (who sadly passed away this week at age 88) as Wilhelm Reich, and Bush playing his son Peter. Listen and watch here >>

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