OPERATIONS

Big Lots to shut down its wholesale business

BY Marianne Wilson

Columbus, Ohio — Big Lots will close down its wholesale operations — Big Lots Wholesale, Consolidated International and Wisconsin Toy — by the end of its current fiscal year as it concentrates its focus on its retail stores. The shuttering will result in the liquidation of the wholesale unit’s inventory.

Big Lots CEO and president David Campisi noted that the decision to exit the wholesale business was not one the company took lightly as it involved a number of dedicated associates. But he said “over the years, the wholesale business environment has changed, become increasingly more competitive, and the sales and margin growth opportunities are not what they once were.”

“We believe a narrower focus and investing in new ways to enhance our relationship with the customer will provide greater value for our shareholders over the longer term," Campisi said.

Big Lots said it expects to record a charge in its third quarter of $5 million to $8 million resulting from the closing.

Campisi said the company is evaluating all aspects of its current operations and potential new business opportunities.

“We have already identified and begun to execute towards several new initiatives such as the expansion of our cooler and freezer program, the introduction of furniture financing, and our desire to enter the digital, social, and omnichannel space,” he said. “These new initiatives also represent potential growth and development for our associates here in Columbus and in our field operations team."

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FINANCE

The Container Store makes public debut on New York Stock Exchange

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The Container Store on Friday, Nov. 1, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, under the ticker symbol “TCS.” Expectations were high: On Thursday, the retailer set its IPO price at $18 per share, higher than the originally-expected range of $14 to $16 per share.

The company is offering all 12.5 million shares of common stock, with an additional 1.9 million shares 30-day purchase option for the underwriters.

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News

Customer visits bolster Harris Teeter same-store sales

BY CSA STAFF

Grocer Harris Teeter credited its pricing and promotional strategies for driving unit sales and customer visits, which led to increased net and same-store sales for fiscal 2013.

For fiscal 2013, sales rose 3.8% to $4.71 billion from $4.54 billion in the year-ago period. Same-store sales for the year increased 2.23%.

Fourth quarter sales rose 4.5% to $1.19 billion from $1.14 billion in the year-ago period. The increase in sales was fueled by an increase in same-store sales and sales from new stores, partially offset by store closings. Same-store sales increased 1.49% for the quarter.

Net earnings for the year totaled $107.9 million, compared with net earnings of $82.5 million for fiscal 2012. Net earnings for fiscal 2013 were comprised of earnings from continuing operations of $109 million, or $2.21 per diluted share, and losses from discontinued operations of $1.1 million. The merger related and acquisition costs reduced earnings from continuing operations after tax in fiscal 2013 by $6.6 million, or 13 cents per diluted share.

Net earnings for the fourth quarter were $21.1 million, or 43 cents per diluted share. The merger related and acquisition costs reduced net earnings in the fourth quarter by $5.9 million, or 12 cents per diluted share, the company stated. Net earnings for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 totaled $22.8 million and were comprised of earnings from continuing operations of $23.7 million, or 48 cents per diluted share and losses from discontinued operations of $0.9 million.

“We are pleased with our results for fiscal 2013 and the opportunities ahead of us with the Kroger merger and our recent store acquisitions. On a comparable-store basis, we experienced increased unit sales compared to fiscal 2012 and our store brand penetration continues to improve. We believe these positive results are attributable to our continuing commitment to our customers to deliver outstanding values and excellent customer service,” stated Thomas W. Dickson, chairman and CEO.

On July 8, the company and Kroger entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Kroger will acquire all outstanding shares of the company for $49.38 per share in cash. The terms of the merger agreement were approved by the boards of both companies and has been approved by the company’s shareholders; however, it remains subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2013.

On Sept. 12, the company announced that its operating subsidiary, Harris Teeter, entered into an agreement with Greenbax Enterprises, and certain of its subsidiaries to purchase six Piggly Wiggly store locations and one future store location in the Charleston, S.C. area. The acquisition was completed with five of the locations being re-opened shortly after the acquisition date. The remaining two locations are expected to be opened during fiscal 2014.

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