DEALS

Gainesville center sold for $2.8 million

BY Al Urbanski

University Towne Center in Gainesville, Florida, has been sold at auction to Pacific West Land for $2.8 million. Crossman & Company negotiated the deal on behalf of the seller, a south Florida special servicer.

The 18,496-sq.-ft. center is close to the University of Florida campus and to Butler’s sprawling retail complex, which is itself expanding with a town center called The Neighborhoods at Butler.

A flurry of retail activity in this crossroads town in north-central Florida includes Celebration Pointe, a mixed-use project which last week hosted the opening of an 82,000-sq.-ft Bass Pro Shop that attracted approximately 50,000 people over a four-day period, according to project developer RaCo.

University Towne Center is currently only 65% leased. Tenants include Earth Fare, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Wharf Express.


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FINANCE

Food-stamp cuts contribute to Dollar General’s woes in Q3

BY Marianne Wilson

Reductions in food-stamp benefits and falling grocery prices took a toll on Dollar General Corp.’s third-quarter performance which came in below expectations and included an unexpected drop in same-store sales.

The company reported a profit of $235 million, or $0.84 per diluted share, in the quarter, compared to net income of $253 million, or $0.86 per diluted share, in the year ago period. Its profit included a charge of about 5 cents per share for store relocation costs and disaster-related expenses.

Net sales edged up 0.5% to $5.32 billion, compared to $5.07 billion last year.

Same-store sales decreased 0.1%, primarily due to a decline in traffic partially offset by an increase in average transaction amount. Same-store sales were driven by positive results in the consumables category offset by negative results in the seasonal, apparel and home products categories

“The challenging retail environment that we experienced in the 2016 second quarter continued into the third quarter, contributing to weakness in our same-store sales and our financial performance,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO. “In the 2016 third quarter, we invested in gross margin with the goal of driving traffic and sales over time. Many of these actions are gaining traction with our core customers, and we are encouraged by the early results. As expected, the full benefit on our same-store sales will not be immediate.”

Vasos said the chain was challenged by average unit retail price deflation and reductions in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits in the third quarter as compared to the same period last year. Among the states that implemented SNAP changes this year were Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, all of which have a high concentration of Dollar General stores.

“We continue to believe that our business model is strong given our value proposition to our consumers,” Vasos said. “We are investing in accelerated new store growth with excellent returns, as well as the infrastructure to support this growth, while continuing to return cash to shareholders."

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FINANCE

Another apparel retailer sounds cautious note on holiday

BY Marianne Wilson

Express reported a drop in third-quarter profit and slashed its full-year adjusted earnings outlook, warning that the holiday season will "remain challenging."

In recent days, an array of apparel retailers have expressed caution about the holiday selling season, including Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters.

Express earned $11.6 million, 15 cents per share, for the quarter ended Oct. 29, down from $26.3 million, or 31 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue declined 7% to $506.1 million from $546.6 million, but topped Wall Street's view. E-commerce sales rose 15% to $96.3 million. Same-store (including e-commerce sales) decreased 8.5%.

“Our third quarter performance was highlighted by sales and earnings in line with our guidance and progress made addressing the areas noted for improvement during our second quarter call,” said David Kornberg, president and CEO. “Notably, while mall traffic challenges continued to impact our store performance, we achieved a double digit increase in e-commerce sales. We expect the holiday season to remain challenging as mall traffic and a highly promotional retail environment continue to be headwinds.”

Going forward, Express sees fourth-quarter earnings in a range of 26 cents to 30 cents per share, with sales at stores open at least a year down by low double digits. Analysts had expected earnings of 54 cents per share.

For the year, the retailer now anticipates full-year adjusted earnings between 78 cents and 82 cents per share. Its prior guidance was for earnings in a range of $1 and $1.14 per share.

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