RETAIL LEADERS ON THE MOVE
The retail executive reshuffling season kicked off if grand fashion with a major move by Tractor Supply Company to name Macy’s president Hal Lawton, 45, as president, CEO and member of the board. Fast-growing Tractor Supply, operator of 1,814 stores, said Lawton would begin Jan. 13, and fill a position previously held by Greg Sandfort, 64, who is retiring after a lengthy career, including 12 years at Tractor Supply. Lawton spent a little more than two years at Macy’s, two years as an SVP at eBay and prior to that 10 years in various roles at Home Depot.
Fabian Garcia was named president of Unilever North America following the retirement of 30 year veteran Amanda Sourry. Garcia joins Unilever from Revlon on Jan. 1. Another key executive move involved the appointment Conny Braams to the role of chief digital and marketing officer. She previously served as EVP of Unilever Middle Europe.
“Conny Braams is one of our most successful and talented leaders, as well as a highly effective driver of change,” said Unilever CEO Alan Jope. “Her experience will be critical to the transformation of Unilever into a future-fit, fully digitized organization at the leading edge of consumer marketing.”
James Scully is filling in as interim CEO in addition to his role as chairman at apparel retailer J.Jill after Linda Heasley’s departure was announced. The operator of 280 stores reported a third quarter loss and a 7% same store sales decline. An 8% to 10% comp decline is forecast for the fourth quarter.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
The great Northwest beckons C&S Wholesale
Independent grocers in the Northwest have a new enabler of growth following C&S Wholesale Grocers announcement that it is expanding operations with a new warehouse in Troutdale, Oregon. The company said the state-of-the-art warehouse will open by the summer of 2020 but did not indicate its size. The company also recently opened a facility in Houston. “Earlier in the year, we started evolving our C&S Commercial Excellence organization to enable growth by becoming our customers’ partner of choice,” said Joe Cavaliere, C&S’ chief commercial officer. “Our expansion into this key geographic area is another milestone in our evolution.”
Same store sales at At Home, Big Lots, Michaels and Ulta
It’s never a good sign when a rapidly expanding retailer reports weak or declining same store sales growth. Comps are supposed to increase when store locations mature. That’s not the case with At Home, an operator of 213 large format stores that has roughly doubled its store count since going public in August 2016. Despite a very young store base, At Home posted a 0.8% first quarter comp decline, a 0.4 second quarter decline, and recently had its worst showing of the year with a 2% third quarter decline. Bad weather was blamed for weakness earlier in the year, but lately the reasons offered include poor holiday décor sales, a late Thanksgiving and a highly promotional holiday environment.
With 1,274 stores, Michaels Stores is the nation’s leading arts and crafts retailer, but its third quarter same store sales still declined 2.2%, gross margins slumped to 36.1% from 37.6% and profits declined to $60.1 million from $79.8 million, even when adjusted for several non-recurring expenses. The company is expecting a 2% to 3% fourth quarter comp decrease and cited the shortened holiday season as one of the reasons.
Big Lots said its third quarter sales increased 1.6% to $1,149 billion, same store sales were essentially flat and it lost $7 million, excluding a $136.6 million gain on the sale of a distribution center in southern California. Those aren’t great numbers, but analysts were expecting a lot worse so Big Lots shares surged more than 31% on Friday to close at $25.21.
Ulta Beauty remains one of the nation’s fastest-growing retailers and disruptive force in beauty care retailing. It opened 31 stores in the third quarter, bringing the full year opening total to 78 units and its total store count to 1,241. Sales increased 7.9% to nearly $1.7 billion and comps increased 3.2% on top of a prior year increase of 7.8%.