FINANCE

Mattress Firm files for Chapter 11, closing up to 700 stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Declining sales, over-expansion and competition from online disruptors have finally caught up with Mattress Firm.

The nation’s largest mattress retailer has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it looks to “strengthen its balance sheet and optimize its store footprint.” Mattress Firm, which operates some 3,500 U.S. locations, plans to close up to 700 stores. An initial group of some 200 locations will close in the next few days, with decisions about additional closings to be made in the next few weeks. (A&G Realty Partners is assisting the retailer with its store closing and lease restructuring program.) Mattress Firm listed Simmons Manufacturing Co. and Serta Mattress Co., as its biggest creditors, with claims of $64.7 million and $25.5 million, respectively.

“Leading up to the holiday shopping season, we will exit up to 700 stores in certain markets where we have too many locations in close proximity to each other,” said Steve Stagner, executive chairman, president and CEO. “We intend to use the additional liquidity from these actions to improve our product offering, provide greater value to our customers, open new stores in new markets, and strategically expand in existing markets where we see the greatest opportunities to serve our customers.”

Houston-based Mattress Firm has been under increased pressure from ongoing disruption in the once-staid mattress category. Online “start-ups such as Casper, which is now expanding in brick and mortar, have been expanding their market share by offering generous return policies and free, bed-in-a-box deliveries. Amazon recently announced it would offer a bed-in-the-box mattress, and Walmart launched its own online premium mattress brand, Allswell, earlier this year.  Most recently, Serta Simmons Bedding — whose brands include Serta, Beautyrest, Simmons, and Tomorrow — merged with direct-to-consumer brand, Tuft & Needle.

“The past few years have been tough for Mattress Firm,” said Daniel Lowenthal, partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP and chair of the firm’s Business Reorganization and Creditors’ Rights Practice. “It had too many stores, faced competitive industry pressures, and also had a corporate parent that was rocked by an accounting scandal. But now its goal is to get in and out of bankruptcy fast and regroup with new financing.”

The retailer expects to complete a prepackaged restructuring within 45 to 60 days. It has secured commitments for about $250 million in debtor-in-possession financing to support its operations under bankruptcy and $525 million in financing to help its emergence from bankruptcy and to continue operations. The company said it has filed motions to support the continued payment of employee wages and health and welfare benefits, and to honor its customer policies and programs. It also has filed a motion for court authorization to pay suppliers and contractors for all goods and services provided prior to and after its Chapter 11 filing.

“We thank our suppliers and partners for their continued support, as well as the contractors we partner with to make deliveries across our markets, all of whom will continue to be paid in full in the normal course for products and services provided,” Stager said.

Mattress Firm was acquired by South African retail conglomerate Steinhoff International Holdings  for $3.8 billion in 2016. The company, which owns more than 40 retail brands, is involved in an accounting scandal that has damaged its stock price.

Sidley Austin LLP is serving as Mattress Firm’s legal counsel, AlixPartners LLP is serving as its financial advisor, and Guggenheim Securities is serving as its restructuring advisor.

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Costco Q4 profit surges; reports flaw in financial controls

BY Marianne Wilson

Costco Wholesale Corp.’s profit rose 13.5% in the fourth quarter, even as its online growth lost some steam.

Costco earned $1.04 billion, or $2.36 a share, in the quarter ended Sept.2, compared with $919 million, or $2.08 a share, in the year-ago period.

Net sales increased 5% to $43.41 billion. Analysts had expected sales of $44.27 billion for the quarter. Store traffic increased 4.9%.

Total same-store sales rose 9.2%; U.S. same-store sales were up 10.8%. E-commerce sales rose 26.3%. It was the smallest increase in a year amid increased competition for grocery sales from such rivals as Amazon.

Net income for the full year was $3.13 billion, or $7.09 per diluted share, compared to $2.68 billion, or $6.08 per diluted share, in the prior year, which had an additional week. Net sales for year rose 9.7% to $138.4 billion. E-commerce comp sales jumped 31.3%, reflecting the company’s increased investment in digital.

Costco ended its 2018 fiscal year with 762 warehouses, including 527 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 100 in Canada, 39 in Mexico, 28 in the United Kingdom, 26 in Japan, 15 in Korea, 13 in Taiwan, 10 in Australia, two in Spain, one in France and one in Iceland. Costco also operates e-commerce web sites in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Korea and Taiwan.

Costco cautioned it had uncovered weak internal controls that could have allowed someone to gain unauthorized access to its financial reporting systems. Costco said it was still reviewing its internal controls but the weakness identified related to “general information technology controls in the areas of user access and program change-management over certain information technology systems that support the company’s financial reporting processes,” it said.

“As of the date of this release, there have been no misstatements identified in the financial statements as a result of these deficiencies, and the company expects to timely file its Form 10-K,” and “remediation efforts have begun,” it said. Costco shares had ended the regular session.

Net income for the full year was $3.13 billion, or $7.09 per diluted share, compared to $2.68 billion, or $6.08 per diluted share, in the prior year, which had an additional week. Net sales for year rose 9.7% to $138.4 billion. E-commerce comp sales jumped 31.3%, reflecting the company’s increased investment in digital.

Costco ended its 2018 fiscal year with 762 warehouses,, including 527 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 100 in Canada, 39 in Mexico, 28 in the United Kingdom, 26 in Japan, 15 in Korea, 13 in Taiwan, 10 in Australia, two in Spain, one in France and one in Iceland. Costco also operates e-commerce web sites in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Korea and Taiwan.

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Interbrand: The most valuable global brand is…

BY Marianne Wilson

Five U.S. companies took the top spots in a ranking of the world’s top 100 brands based on their value.

For the sixth year running, Apple was ranked No. 1 in Interbrand’s 2018 Best Global Brands report, with a total brand value of $214.48 billion. Google ($155.8 billion), Amazon ($100.76 billion), Microsoft $92 (billion) and Coca-Cola ($66 billion) rounded out the top five. Now in its 19th year, the report’s 2018 theme is Activating Brave, and examines the role that brand strength plays in the bold transformation of the world’s leading businesses.

Apart from Amazon, only two U.S.-based retailers made the top 100: Starbucks, No. 57, and Tiffany, No. 83. Several European retailers made the cut: Zara (No. 25); Ikea (No. 27); H&M (No. 30); Hermes (No. 32); Gucci (No. 39); Burberry (No. 94); Prada (No. 95).

Amazon topped the list of the fastest-growing brands, with a 56% increase in brand value. It was followed by Netflix (45%), Gucci (30%), Salesforce.com (23%), and Louis Vuitton (23%).

Interbrand determines brand value according to three key criteria: the financial performance of the branded products or service; the role the brand plays in purchase decisions; and the brand’s competitive strength and its ability to create loyalty and, therefore, sustainable demand and profit into the future.

“A decade after the global financial crisis, the brands that are growing fastest are those that intuitively understand their customers and make brave iconic moves that delight and deliver in new ways,” said Charles Trevail, Global CEO, Interbrand.

More than half of the top 100 came from five sectors: automotive, technology, financial services, luxury, and fast-moving consumer goods.

For the complete Top 100 ranking and report, visit Bestglobalbrands.com.

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