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Growth Strategy: Mergers & Acquisitions

BY CSA STAFF

By Stephen Wyss

As retailers eye avenues for growth in 2012, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) will be a key area of interest and activity.

Our recent survey of 100 retail CFOs found that 52% believe most M&A activity in 2012 will be on the strategic side. Opportunities for strategic buyouts — both domestic and international — are ripe, and with many retailers reporting better-than-expected 2011 holiday figures in the U.S. market, some companies may be well-positioned to move forward with acquisitions.

Many domestic retailers recognize that they are overstored in the United States, and the international market presents the best opportunity for growth. As a result, we expect to see a continued focus on international expansion, particularly in the Asian markets, with U.S.-based companies pursuing deal opportunities both foreign and domestic, and foreign companies looking to take advantage of opportunities in the U.S. market. Companies that hold the potential to increase consumer loyalty, improve or establish efficient distribution channels, and provide enhanced global reach will be vied-for acquisition targets.

Strength of brand: Strength of brand will be especially important to M&A deals this year, particularly for strategic buyers. While we saw a lot of private equity buyouts in 2011, and there are indicators that private equity will continue to be very interested in the retail sector, we anticipate an uptick in strategic deals in 2012 as strong retailers look for opportunities to expand market share and enter into new markets.

An ideal target will have an enthusiastic and loyal consumer following and present an opportunity for the acquirer to integrate and synergize existing brands with those that are acquired. While a strong brand identity can pose challenges for integration, retailers recognize the value of a loyal customer base in an economy where consumers are increasingly forced to make choices between brands and limit their spending.

With the U.S. market largely saturated, an attractive target for a strategic buyout will give retailers opportunities to distribute products in new markets, both domestically and internationally. Gaining an international distribution channel is a huge revenue opportunity for domestic retailers, but it’s not the only important channel for growth. Our survey found that more than one-quarter of CFOs (29%) say e-commerce and mobile commerce will be their primary objectives for growth, as these channels offer potential for broadening distribution at a comparatively low risk. Retailers with developed online and mobile infrastructure and advanced technologies will be attractive targets.

Logistics: The economic downturn pushed retailers to be extremely diligent about cutting costs and improving supply chain efficiencies. This continues to be a key strategy to preserve margins and will be a considerable factor in M&A deals.

Retailers will look for acquisition targets that can be easily incorporated into the company logistics infrastructure or that have strong existing logistics capabilities to meet and push forward internal efficiency goals. Thus, a strong target will have robust logistics capabilities and solid vendor and supplier relationships in markets where the acquirer sees a potential for growth.

Risks: Those who have been enjoying the fruits of international expansion will see challenges from the economy in 2012, and there remain substantial risks for those looking to grow internationally.

Some European retailers, such as Next, the U.K.’s second-largest clothing retailer, saw disappointing holiday sales. This global environment represents both an opportunity and a risk for retailers looking to expand internationally, as foreign companies may be more open to strategic deals but international markets remain mercurial.

In addition to unpredictable markets on a global scale, a significant risk for companies looking toward international expansion in 2012 will be valuation. While valuations in the marketplace have stabilized, retailers still face challenges as they aim to get good pricing for acquisitions in the face of a volatile global economy.

Overall, we can expect to see significant changes in the retail landscape during 2012, both domestically and internationally.

Stephen Wyss is a partner in the retail and consumer products practice at BDO USA, LLP.

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Focus on: Payment Security

BY Connie Robbins Gentry

A shift in consumer payment habits has had a noticeable impact on merchants that process a large volume of low-value transactions. Credit cards, historically associated with payment for higher-priced items that required financing, have become a preferred payment method for routine purchases that once were covered by pocket change.

It’s all about convenience — as evidenced from a December 2011 survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Only 6% of survey respondents said they planned to use credit cards less in 2012, but 62% said they planned to decrease credit card debt in 2012 — further substantiating the trend that credit cards continue to replace cash as daily currency.

Quick-serve restaurants, such as DavCo Restaurants — one of the largest Wendy’s franchisees with 152 locations in the Mid-Atlantic region, including the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., markets — is a classic example of a merchant that has seen a marked increase in the number of consumers paying with credit cards rather than cash.

Stacy Duncan, senior director of IT at Crofton, Md.-based DavCo Restaurants, confirmed that nearly half of the transactions in their restaurants are now paid by credit card, and in some locations the number is even higher, as much as 70% of all purchases.

While the expediency and convenience of credit card payment fundamentally supports the goal of fast food service, the trend created substantial regulatory challenges for DavCo.

“We’re classified as a Level 1 merchant, and the new PCI requirements forced us to change everything across our systems and processes in order to become PCI compliant,” Duncan reported. “We had very little security in place because our network had been started in 2001, back when we didn’t even know what we didn’t know.”

In October 2010, the Payment Card Industry published version 2.0 of the Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) and Payment Application DSS (PA-DSS), giving merchants until Dec. 31, 2011 to meet the new requirements.

DavCo tapped RedZone Technologies of Annapolis, Md., to help determine the best security solutions to meet their needs for PCI compliance and secure the network.

“RedZone helped us realize that the best way to approach PCI compliance was to reduce scope so we could segment our network and put processes in place,” Duncan explained. “There was no way to do this without adding a firewall so RedZone identified the providers that would allow us to achieve compliance in the simplest way and by buying a minimal amount of product.”

DavCo deployed paired Network Security Appliance firewalls, from SonicWALL of San Jose, Calif., at its headquarters and SonicWALL TZ 210 firewalls at the 152 Wendy’s locations, effectively segmenting POS transactions from corporate communications. The TZ 210 was the best choice for the restaurants because it provided the fastest multi-layered Unified Threat Management firewall in its class.

“Speed was a critical factor for us, and we had to have a solution that could handle the throughput without slowing transactions at the POS,” Duncan added. “The firewall had to add security without belaboring store orders — and SonicWALL is fast enough that no one even noticed it was there.”

The SonicWALL firewalls provide two-factor authentication and centralized global management across DavCo’s WAN. Features include high-speed intrusion prevention; file and content inspection; and application intelligence, control and visualization. Following the firewall implementations, DavCo became officially PCI compliant on Dec. 31.

Additionally, a universal management appliance enables DavCo to centrally monitor, manage and report activity; and the firewall deployed at headquarters delivered secure remote access across the enterprise, including easy-to-use, secure VPN access to files and applications on desktops, servers or intranets from remote endpoints. The system is compatible with Windows, Windows Mobile, Mac, Linux and Android devices.

Connie Robbins Gentry is a contributing editor to Chain Store Age.

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Video Surveillance: The Shift to HD

BY CSA STAFF

Video surveillance is undergoing a major change as analog systems are replaced with high-definition, high-megapixel cameras and NVRs (network video recorders). Chain Store Age spoke with Keith Marett, VP marketing and communications for Avigilon, a leader in high-definition (HD) and megapixel video surveillance systems, about the shift from analog to digital systems.

What are the latest trends in video surveillance?

The latest trends in video surveillance are the transition from analog to digital systems and mobile application support. We’re helping our customers with this transition by providing them with the highest-quality images so that they have the best evidence at their disposal. Mobile application support is another trend with high adoption. Having the ability to view live and recorded HD surveillance from any location over an iPhone, iPad or Android mobile device shortens response times when you’re in large areas like a retail environment.

How widely used is video surveillance in the retail environment?

Video surveillance in the retail environment is widely used, but the industry has been slow to adopt HD surveillance. This is largely due to the impact the recession had on the retail industry. But with the improvement of economic conditions, we’re seeing a lot of retailers investing in HD surveillance systems to help with loss prevention and provide better customer service.

Another factor playing into the slow adoption of HD surveillance in retail is existing infrastructure. Retailers typically have a significant investment in video surveillance. We can help retailers transition to HD with a full system installation or by providing components, such as software and encoders, that are compatible with existing analog cameras and systems. It’s a cost-effective way for retailers to get the benefits of HD while using their existing systems.

How does HD video surveillance help retailers?

It reduces theft and delivers better customer service. With an HD video surveillance system, retailers can proactively prevent internal and external theft to save lost revenue, but it can also help with non-security applications. Retailers can analyze traffic flow, staff efficiency, sales and time attendance, as well as employee conformance to company policies. They can even view stock levels on shelves and manage line-ups at checkouts.

What is the difference between an analog-based surveillance system and a high-definition surveillance solution?

The biggest difference retailers will notice is image quality. In the same way that most of us used to have analog televisions at home and now have switched over to high-definition TVs, the surveillance industry is going through the same transition. The image quality is far superior, so retailers can confidently use video to identify shoplifters and prevent potential lawsuits, in addition to a whole host of non-security applications.

Why is it so important for retailers that a system capture the highest-quality images possible and record them exactly as they occurred?

It’s important so that they can then be used in investigations and identify potential issues before they happen. As any local law enforcement will tell retailers, it is truly the best evidence. While image quality is obviously very important, the other factor that is essential for retailers is how easy it is for their staff to search and play back video. The ease of use of our system will enhance the productivity of security personnel and speed up investigation time.

How is Avigilon positioned in the marketplace?

Avigilon can help you protect and monitor diverse locations with the best image clarity, including retail environments. Our HD Network Video Management Software and megapixel cameras deliver superior image quality and maximum coverage. What’s unique is that Avigilon components work in an end-to-end solution or with their existing system to enhance their current capabilities. Retailers can customize their own powerful, scalable and cost-effective surveillance solutions so they get the best evidence possible.

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P.Banik says:
Apr-17-2013 08:25 am

This new twist is going to be more effective and we could look forward to having better surveillance facilities. HD technology has really changed our perception. In Tucson we enjoy a better viewing experience thanks to Dish network Tucson which brings us HD quality pictures.

P.Banik says:
Apr-17-2013 08:25 am

This new twist is going to be more effective and we could look forward to having better surveillance facilities. HD technology has really changed our perception. In Tucson we enjoy a better viewing experience thanks to Dish network Tucson which brings us HD quality pictures.

P.Banik says:
Apr-16-2013 08:20 am

Video surveillance is going to be more cutting edge than ever before with this new HD quality. For better safety of your home you should consider getting one surveillance camera, it is more essential than other living room gadgets.

P.Banik says:
Apr-16-2013 08:20 am

Video surveillance is going to be more cutting edge than ever before with this new HD quality. For better safety of your home you should consider getting one surveillance camera, it is more essential than other living room gadgets.

C.Bhattarai says:
Nov-07-2012 05:25 am

I agree that security cameras has really been improved and with you can see that evan a 3.2 MP IP Cameras gives you an HD recording...

C.Bhattarai says:
Nov-07-2012 05:25 am

I agree that security cameras has really been improved and with you can see that evan a 3.2 MP IP Cameras gives you an HD recording...

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