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  • INDUSTRY NEWS

    • On September 18, 2017, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced in a company blog post that the retailer is building a new corporate campus in Bentonville, AR to house headquarters employees spread around Northwest Arkansas. McMillon anticipates the project will take five to seven years to complete. The new campus will include "accommodations for a more digitally native workforce and space that encourages greater collaboration and speed," he said. Plans include amenities like improved parking, meal services, fitness, natural lighting and landscaping within the community's trail system, for easy walking and cycling access, according to the post. McMillon didn't mention the project's budget. McMillon called the existing office space of more than 20 buildings sprawled across Northwest Arkansas an inefficient "patchwork" of buildings that are expensive to maintain and inhibit effective teamwork. "[B]ecause they are so dispersed, they literally encourage us to work in silos and cause us to waste time and energy traveling between locations," he said.
    • On September 18, 2017, it was reported, Sears Canada's executive chairman is negotiating a potential private equity buyout for the retailer, which filed for creditor protection in Canada this summer, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal that cited unnamed sources. The acquisition could be worth $533 million in U.S. dollars and would cut the retailer's store footprint in half while keeping open 8,000 jobs. It would also allow for repayment on bankruptcy loans to Sears Canada. In August, reports surfaced that Executive Chairman Brandon Stranz was preparing a bid for the company. Employees were reportedly fuming this summer as managers took large bonuses while the retailer's pension payouts became uncertain and employees lost jobs through the restructuring process.
    • On September 15, 2017, it was reported, U.S. department store chain Bon-Ton Stores Inc. is hiring advisers to help it turn around its business and slash its debtload, as it struggles to cope with the sector's downturn, according to people familiar with the matter. The move underscores the woes of the bricks-and-mortar retail sector, which has been plagued by numerous bankruptcies this year as consumers increasingly move their spending to e-commerce companies such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O). Bon-Ton has tapped advisory firm AlixPartners LLP to provide operational advice on its turnaround efforts, and is also interviewing banks to appoint an advisor to review strategic options including debt restructuring, the sources said this week. The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. Bon-Ton and AlixPartners did not respond to requests for comment. Bon-Ton serves smaller communities in 26 states across the U.S. Northeast, Midwest and Great Plains under banners including Bon-Ton, Younkers and Bergner's. The York, Pennsylvania-based company has been suffering from years of losses, including a loss of $33.2 million for the quarter that ended July 29. Bon-Ton's debt totaled about $850 million as of July 29. A portion of the company's revolving credit facility expires next year. Bon-Ton's market capitalization is just $15 million. The department store operator's debt is trading well below its face value, indicating investor concerns over its ability to make a full repayment.
    • On September 15, 2017, it was reported, some suppliers to Toys "R" Us Inc. have scaled back shipments to the retailer as it struggles to refinance debt and avoid a potential bankruptcy filing, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The vendors are balking as Toys "R" Us continues talks with lenders over a new loan that would allow the company to stay open while it works out a recovery plan through bankruptcy proceedings, said the people, who asked not to be identified because discussions are private. The loan is being marketed by Lazard Ltd. to banks and existing creditors, said one of the people. Suppliers pulled back in part because the cost to insure their shipments to cash-strapped Toys "R" Us has become too expensive, said the people. Vendors often rank among creditors with the lowest priority for getting repaid if a company seeks court protection, and their decision on whether to continue shipping goods can play a large role in determining a retailer's fate. On September 07, 2017, it was reported, Toys R Us has hired law firm Kirkland & Ellis to advise it on options around restructuring the company's $400 million in debt due in 2018, options that could include a possible bankruptcy filing, CNBC reported citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation. CNBC pointed out that tackling the toy retailer's debt load could "give its major vendors such as Mattel and Hasbro clarity into the company's long-term viability to help ensure the toymakers continue to stock its shelves throughout the holidays." Toys R Us has said in regulatory filings that it has also hired the financial advisory firm Lazard to help the company address its debt and upcoming maturities. The retailer wouldn't confirm it had hired Kirkland & Ellis, though CNBC, Bloomberg, Reuters, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal all reported on it independently. In a statement, a Toys R Us spokesperson told Retail Dive, "As we previously discussed on our first quarter earnings call, Toys R Us is evaluating a range of alternatives to address our 2018 debt maturities, which may include the possibility of obtaining additional financing." The spokesperson added that executives will provide more information on these activities during the retailer's second quarter conference call on Sept. 26.