FINANCE

Measure to ban cashless stores advances in New Jersey

BY Marianne Wilson

Some lawmakers in New Jersey want to ban stores that refuse to accept cash.

A measure that would require all brick-and-mortar retailers to accept cash was unanimously approved by the N.J. Senate Commerce Committee and will now go before the full state Senate. The bill, which was overwhelming approved by the state Assembly in June, excludes retailers inside airports from the cash requirement, and also excludes sales made online and by telephone or mail. New York City and Philadelphia are also reportedly considering banning cashless stores.

Under the N.J. bill, businesses would receive a $2,500 fine for a first offense, and $5,000 for a second. Subsequent violations would fall under the consumer fraud act, which can carry penalties of up to $20,000.

Critics of stores that don’t accept cash say such businesses effectively discriminate against poor customers who might have credit cards or even bank accounts and older consumers who are wary about using credit cards or mobile commerce.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Amazon and some other major retailers have raised concerns about the legislation. Amazon operates a cashless Amazon Books store at Garden State Plaza mall, in Paramus, N.J.

Only one state — Massachusetts— has a law banning cashless stores.

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Done deal: TravelCenters exits C-store business

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

TravelCenters of America has officially sold its freestanding convenience stores.

The company has sold its Minit Mart convenience store business to EG Group, a privately held convenience store retailer based in the United Kingdom, for approximately $330.8 million. (The Minit Mart stores have been a part of TravelCenters’ portfolio for about five years.)

The deal includes 225 standalone convenience stores, one standalone restaurant, five parcels of land and certain related assets. The company initially announced the sale agreement in September.

The estimated net proceeds of $321.4 million after transaction related costs are expected to be used to reduce the company’s future rent and/or interest payment obligations, according to the company.

“This strategic divestment is a significant step in support of TA’s strategy to be a more focused leader in the travel center industry,” said Andrew J. Rebholz, TravelCenters’ CEO. “The sale of the convenience stores business will allow us to address the company’s leverage, focus more on our core travel centers business and thoughtfully pursue our growth programs.”

TravelCenters of America operates in 43 states and in Canada, and has standalone restaurants in 13 states.

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HBC expands Q3 loss, but Saks shines

BY CSA STAFF

Hudson’s Bay Co. reported a higher loss in its third quarter amid higher depreciation and amortization expenses and foreign exchange losses.

The department store giant’s net loss for the third quarter widened to C$124 million ($93.36 million) from C$116 million in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose to C$63 million from C$40 million, fueled by sales growth and improved gross margin and expense rates.

Revenue rose 5.6% to $2.187 billion. Overall same-store sales increased 2.9%, with total comparable digital sales increasing 8.0%. By brand, same-store sales increased 7.3% at Saks Fifth Ave., and 0.9% at DSG (Hudson’s Bay, Lord & Taylor and Home Outfitters). Comp sales at Saks Off 5th fell 2.3%

Helena Foulkes, HBC’s CEO, said the company was encouraged by the ongoing improvement of its business, with year-to-date Adjusted EBITDA of $151 million, up $106 million from the prior year.

“The bold strategic actions we are taking are beginning to pay off, and the recent closing of the European transaction will now allow us to concentrate on the North American business,” she said. “We are driving our retail performance with a firm emphasis on fixing the fundamentals and improving our omnichannel customer experience.”

Foukes added that HBC is making strategic decisions to focus its efforts on the areas with the greatest opportunities for growth. Last month, the company completed its deal to sell a controlling interest in its European retail operations to Karstadt in Germany. It also is forming a 50-50 partnership in its European real estate with Karstadt.

“Saks Fifth Avenue’s exceptional performance further solidifies its leading position within the luxury segment and we are continuing to drive the upside in the business,” Foulks said. Performance at Hudson’s Bay has been solid, and we believe that there is a tremendous opportunity to build on our strength in the market as Canada’s preeminent multi-category retailer. Improved sales trends and better profitability at our smallest businesses, Lord & Taylor and Saks Off 5th, are also encouraging as we start to reposition those businesses for the future.”

HBC’s efforts to improve its business have not gone far enough for some investors enough. Hedge fund Land & Buildings, which owned 5% of HBC in its last (July 2017) disclosure, recently called for the company to sell Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor and its 50% interest in the European joint venture to Signa, reported Reuters. The hedge fund said it may call for a special shareholder meeting to bring about changes to the company’s board.

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