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  • INDUSTRY NEWS

    • On January 22, 2018, it was reported, more than a year after launching the pilot, Amazon has opened its highly anticipated Amazon Go store in Seattle to the public, open 7 a.m. 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. The 1,800 square foot store is "conveniently compact," according to the company. Shoppers there need an Amazon account, the free Amazon Go app and a recent-generation iPhone or Android smartphone. Once the app is open and the shopper is scanned, the phone can be put away. Customers simply walk out with products, which have been automatically deposited to their Amazon baskets and paid for with the form of payment registered to their account. While the store reportedly suffered bugs over the past year, including how to deal with multiple shoppers (including kids) on one account, they have apparently been smoothed out, according to IHL Group Vice President of Technology Jerry Sheldon, who shared his own visit there in recent weeks with Retail Dive. "It's absolutely fascinating it really operated smoothly," he said in an interview. "There were no glitches. The system functioned flawlessly, with no limitations placed upon any items I selected."
    • On January 17, 2018, it was reported, a group of Bon-Ton Stores bondholders have agreed, for now, not to exercise their rights against the retailer after the grace period ended on a $14 million interest payment that Bon-Ton failed to make in December, according to a Bon-Ton press release. The forbearance agreement effectively puts off default on the missed payment. The agreement lasts until Jan. 26, after which it can be automatically extended until Feb. 4 with the bondholders' consent. Bon-Ton said in the release it is "engaged in ongoing discussions with its debt holders in an effort to strengthen its capital structure to support the business." Multiple media outlets have reported that Bon-Ton has been in talks with its bondholders over a possible reorganization or debt restructuring. Bloomberg reported last week that some creditors were pressing the department store retailer to enter bankruptcy, and The Wall Street Journal called a bankruptcy filing "imminent" in a headline. On January 16, 2018, it was reported, Bon-Ton Stores' senior creditors "are pushing" the discount department store chain to file for bankruptcy, according to a Friday report from Bloomberg that cited unnamed sources. The Wall Street Journal also reported Friday that the retailer was negotiating with debt holders ahead of "an imminent bankruptcy filing." Bon-Ton did not immediately respond to Retail Dive's request for comment. A filing could come in January, though the retailer "hasn't made a decision and is still trying to avoid a court filing," sources told Bloomberg. Bloomberg wrote Friday that "it's not clear whether [Bon-Ton] would seek to liquidate or to reorganize." One option would be to combine some parts of Bon-Ton with another business, a move that would entail a bankruptcy at some point, the news service reported. Last month the retailer missed a $14 million interest payment due on Dec. 15, starting a 30-day grace period that ends next week. News and analysis service Debtwire reported on Dec. 20 that a group of Bon-Ton bondholders had engaged a financial adviser and legal counsel and were "set to ride out" the grace period, according to a story emailed to Retail Dive. The hires showed that the bondholders were pondering what a reorganization or debt restructuring would look like and were negotiating with Bon-Ton on details, according to Philip Emma, a retail analyst with Debtwire. "It should come as no surprise if the company filed for bankruptcy" given the news of the adviser hires, Emma said in an interview. From a "practical perspective," Bon-Ton's grace period on the missed interest payment ends 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Emma added.
    • On January 17, 2018, it was reported, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. named a new president and ceo for Walmart International. Judith McKenna, who has been with the company for 22 years, will succeed David Cheesewright when she steps into the role Feb. 1. Cheesewright plans to retire from a full-time position after nearly eight years at the helm of international. McKenna currently serves as executive vp and chief operating officer for Walmart U.S. In her new position she will report to Walmart president and ceo Doug McMillon. On January 16, 2018, it was reported, Walmart is reportedly cutting more than 1,000 corporate jobs, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. Pink slips are expected to be handed out by the end of the company's fiscal year on Jan. 31, the sources said. "We've been looking at our structure for some time as we explore ways to operate more effectively," a Walmart spokesman told Retail Dive. "We're not going to comment on rumors and speculation." The news comes just days after the company touted plans to boost starting hourly pay to $11 an hour, among other benefits, as well as an abrupt Twitter announcement on Thursday that the company is slated to close 63 Sam's Club stores. On January 12, 2018, Walmart said that Sam's Club, its club-based retail warehouse division, will close 63 stores and convert as many as 12 of them to e-commerce fulfillment centers. The move will leave Sam's Club with 597 stores. Those not converted will close "over the next few weeks," according to a company press release. Walmart is providing "support and resources" to employees affected by the move, including 60 days of pay and a bonus, also announced Thursday, that is part of a revamped hourly pay package, as well as severance to those eligible for it. The company will record a discrete charge of approximately 14 cents per share related to the move, mostly in its fourth quarter, the company said, adding that further details will be shared, as appropriate, when the company releases quarterly results on Feb. 20.
    • On January 16, 2018, Blue Sage Capital, an Austin, Texas-based private investment firm, announced its recently completed majority investment in Americo Manufacturing Co. Headquartered in Acworth, Ga., with additional facilities in Cartersville, Ga., and Los Angeles, Calif., Americo is a globally-recognized, leading manufacturer of floor maintenance pads as well as one of the top manufacturers of commercial and retail floor matting products in the U.S. Americo produces a diverse range of high-loft, nonwoven products, which include floor maintenance pads as well as specialty fabrics used in a variety of industries. Aside from nonwovens, Americo also designs and manufactures a complete line of vinyl-backed, walk-off floor mats for use in industrial, promotional, retail, custom and specialty market applications. Americo's CEO, Lenny Shutzberg, commented, "We are delighted to be partnering with Blue Sage as we continue to grow our business from the solid foundation established nearly 50 years ago. Blue Sage's expertise of investing in family-owned businesses, along with their vast strategic and financial resources, will provide us the ability to significantly increase the growth trajectory for our company." Americo's products are currently sold in all 50 states and in over 70 countries around the world. Jim McBride, cofounder and managing member of Blue Sage, stated, "Americo is the quintessential investment for Blue Sage Capital. We look for partnerships with market-leading, family-owned and managed businesses, which have demonstrated a long-term defensible competitive advantage and established significant barriers of entry in their respective industries. Americo has a proven business model and an extremely capable management team.