FINANCE

Ralphs pleads no contest to overcharging customers

BY CSA STAFF

Los Angeles — Ralphs Grocery Co. has pleaded no contest to overcharging customers for prepackaged and weighed products at stores in Los Angeles, according to a Thursday report by the Associated Press.

The grocery chain entered pleas before the case was scheduled to go to trial. The no contest plea was entered for 62 misdemeanor charges, including false advertising, mislabeling and selling items that weigh less than they should.

A sentencing date will be set Thursday.

City prosecutors alleged that undercover inspections at 14 stores found customers were being price-gouged.

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FINANCE

BJ’s Wholesale to explore sale of company

BY CSA STAFF

Natick, Mass. — BJ’s Wholesale Club confirmed on Thursday that it will potentially put it up for sale.

According to a report by the New York Times, the discounter said it will “explore and evaluate strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company,” confirming ongoing market rumors that BJ’s was a buyout candidate.

The report said that BJ’s has hired Morgan Stanley to run the sales process.

Private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners acquired a 9.5% stake in the retailer last July. In January, BJ’s announced it would close five underperforming stores.

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BJ’s Wholesale placed on sales block

BY CSA STAFF

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — After months of speculation, BJ’s Wholesale Club early Thursday morning confirmed the company has decided to explore and evaluate strategic alternatives. Coupled with that announcement was a positive sales story for the year.

BJ’s stock was up by more than $5 to $48.66 in early morning trading on Thursday. Over the last year, the company’s shares have risen about 30%, fueled in part by takeover speculation. Rumors that BJ’s may be a takeover target have circulated since the summer, when Leonard Green & Partners bought a 9.5% stake.

An independent committee of BJ’s has engaged Morgan Stanley as its financial adviser to assist in this process.

BJ’s also reported positive January sales results despite the number of cold-weather storms that recently have swept the country. Sales were up 6.5% to $779.8 million. Comparable sales also were up 2.7%, including a contribution from sales of gasoline of 2.4%.

Excluding the impact of gasoline, merchandise comparable-club sales increased by approximately 0.3%. Severe snow storms affecting the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions had a negative impact on merchandise comparable club sales of approximately 2.5%, the club retailer estimated.

BJ’s competitor Costco Wholesale reported net sales of $6.30 billion for the month of January, the four weeks ended Jan. 30, an increase of 12% from $5.62 billion during the similar period last year. Total U.S. same-store sales for the month were up 6%. Excluding fuel, U.S. comps rose 4%.

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