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Rethinking the Middle

BY CSA STAFF

By Michael Dart, Todd Hooper and Jay Agarwal

Although it isn’t as sexy as luxury or as dramatic as discount, the space somewhere in between is heating up.

In fact, recent deal activity suggests that retailers that cater to both low- and high-income segments — those serving “the middle” — have tremendous potential.

Buyers have been paying robust multiples — between nine and 11 times EBITDA in 2011 and year-to-date 2012 — for some of the middle’s best-known brands, like Sycamore Partners’ purchase of Talbots, Ascena’s acquisition of Charming Shoppes, Golfsmith’s sale to an investor group, and the sale of Cost Plus to Bed Bath & Beyond.

But other mid-tier retailers like Gap, Ann Taylor and Abercrombie & Fitch are trading at attractive valuations — between four and six times EBITDA — which represent a significant discount compared to recent trends and to premium and value retailers trading between seven and 11 times EBITDA.

It’s easy to see the reason for the renewed interest. Middle retailers cater to most Americans, and are well-positioned as lower- and middle-income consumers start to trade up again.

Many middle brands have considerable cachet and, with the right strategies and initiatives, significant growth potential. Middle retailers can also make smart financial sense, as they often have less fashion risk than some of their lower- and higher-end counterparts.

So how can the middle transform from blah to ah-ha? We suggest three strategies:

1. Optimize for omnichannel
Many middle retailers have been sluggish to adapt to a changing retail environment. But in a private setting, they have greater freedom to make necessary changes — starting with their store fleet. Many retailers could close 25%-30% of their worst-performing stores and open 10%-15% new stores in better locations or under different brands.

Take American Eagle. Faced with losses of $24 million on $40 million in sales of its 77kids brand, American Eagle recently announced plans to close all 77kids stores. The retailer is also reviewing each American Eagle store’s performance and will close underperformers while doubling outlet locations and opening more stores abroad.

2. Rekindle the brand’s former glory
Many mid-tier brands have considerable history, but are ripe for repositioning.

Consider Foot Locker. With its stock price hovering near $10 in 2009, the retailer embarked on an ambitious turnaround campaign. Because apparel is more profitable than footwear, stores were reorganized to feature color-coordinated outfits up front, with more clothing in the back to pull shoppers through the store. The retailer has also added over 500 associates to its stores, hoping its customer service can be a valuable asset versus e-commerce competitors. Foot Locker has also aggressively pursued deals with vendors — half of its products are exclusive.

The changes have paid off. The retailer is on track to achieve double-digit profit growth by the end of 2012, and will open 80 new locations in 2013, but will also close 74 underperformers.

3. Leverage operational efficiencies
Combining two similar middle retailers in the same portfolio and implementing a shared services platform can provide tremendous cost synergy opportunities and drive favorable post-deal economics.

For example, think of the cost-saving opportunities realized by combining some of the backend functions of Ascena and Charming Shoppes, Bed Bath & Beyond and Cost Plus or Wolverine Worldwide and Collective Brands’ Performance + Lifestyle Group.

As recent deal activity has shown, private investors may be best suited to oversee the types of changes necessary to ensure middle retailers’ sustained success. The middle clearly deserves a closer look.

Michael Dart, Todd Hooper and Jay Agarwal are retail strategists in Kurt Salmon’s Private Equity and Strategy Practice. They can be reached at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].


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REAL ESTATE

GGP and PepsiCo pilot interactive vending machines

BY Staff Writer

PepsiCo is rolling out its Pepsi Interactive Vending machine pilot program — allowing consumers to buy, gift and play games with PepsiCo beverages – at five General Growth Properties’ malls.

Columbiana Centre (Columbia, S.C.), Clackamas Town Center (Happy Valley, Ore.), Oglethorpe Mall (Savannah, Ga.), Oakwood Mall (Eau Claire, Wis.) and Park City Center (Lancaster, Pa.) will feature the interactive vending equipment with full touch-screen technology.

Besides dispensing beverages, users can gift a 20-oz. bottled beverage to a friend by entering the recipient’s name and email along with a personalized message. The gift is delivered with a system code and instructions to redeem it at any Pepsi Interactive Vending machine. Recipients can keep the gift, thank their friend by sending back a gift and pay it forward by giving the gift to someone else directly from the machine.

Game play is another key component, letting users compete in an on-screen random chance game that’s been customized for GGP shoppers. With the purchase of any beverage at the machine, consumers are eligible to play for a chance to win a free 20-oz. bottled beverage that can be redeemed immediately or at a later date at any Pepsi Interactive Vending machine.

Nutritional information for the products sold in the Interactive Vending machine, as well as current PepsiCo beverages TV commercials and other video promotions are available for on-demand viewing at each unit. Users can also charge their mobile devices by plugging into specially designed AC power outlets and USB ports directly from the machine.

“Pepsi’s Interactive Vending machine is the next generation of the Social Vending prototype launched last year and is part of a broader global platform of equipment innovation we’re developing to engage consumers,” said Mikel Durham, global growth officer, PepsiCo Foodservice.

Further rollout and technology enhancement of Pepsi’s Interactive Vending machine is currently being considered and tested, according to GGP.


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REAL ESTATE

Inland Diversified acquires City Center at White Plains through JV

BY Katherine Boccaccio

White Plains, N.Y. — Oak Brook, Ill.-based Inland Diversified Real Estate Trust announced the acquisition of a majority interest in City Center at White Plains, a four-story, 381,905-sq.-ft. mixed-use shopping center and apartment property in White Plains, N.Y.

The property was acquired in a joint venture between a subsidiary of Inland Diversified and affiliates of real estate developer Cappelli Group. The joint venture valued the property at approximately $166.4 million.

The retail portion of the property is anchored by ShopRite Supermarkets, Nordstrom Rack, New York Sports Club and Barnes & Noble. Other tenants include a 15-screen National Amusements movie theater, Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee’s, Atlanta Bread Company, Temptation Asian Fusion, Cold Stone Creamery and Greenpoint Bank. Toys “R” Us is scheduled to open in March. The property is shadow-anchored by a 154,241-sq.-ft. Target P-Fresh store, located in the basement of the four-story building, which was not acquired.

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