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Sun Capital sees significant expansion ahead for latest acquisition

BY Mike Troy

Private equity firm Sun Capital Partners plans to accelerate growth of Furniture Factory Outlet following its acquisition of the 36 store chain.

Based in Fort Smith, Ark., Furniture Factory Outlet (FFO Home) operates 36 stores in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Sun Capital said it acquired the company, billed as a value-oriented home furnishings retailer, from Alpine Investors and believes significant expansion opportunities exist. The company also manufactures bedding under the Comfort Coil and Natural Elements brands.

In explaining Furniture Factory Outlet’s value propositions, Sun Capital said: “the retailer offers superior value products priced below the competition, and distinguishes itself by eschewing the showroom distribution model and allowing consumers to purchase products immediately from on-site inventory.”

According to Marc Leder, Sun Capital’s Co-CEO: “(Furniture Factory Outlet) has established itself as an outstanding value-oriented retailer, and we’re excited about the opportunity to leverage our strong retail sector expertise to help the business accelerate its growth plans. We share management’s belief that market success begins with offering a superior customer experience, and we’re committed to further enhancing this key hallmark of the FFO Home brand.”

“We see significant expansion opportunities for this business,” said Sun Capital senior managing director M. Steven Liff. “At Sun Capital, we can quickly bring to bear both financial and operational resources in order to rapidly capitalize on market growth opportunities. We look forward to collaborating with the FFO Home management team to help the business reach its full potential.”

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Whole Foods reveals more 365 locations

BY CSA STAFF

While Whole Foods continues to work on the performance of its flagship stores, the company disclosed new locations and expressed confidence in its 365 format even though the first unit is scheduled to open until May.

New revelations about 365, Whole Foods lower priced, no frills, smaller footprint format, were made in conjunction with the release of financial results for the company’s first quarter ended Jan.16. Same stores sales declined 1.8% during the period and the company also disclosed that comps deteriorate further during the first three weeks of the second quarter, declining 2.8%.

Despite the top line challenges, the nation’s leading natural and organic grocer produced solid profits, offered fresh insights into plans for the new 365 format and indicated the concept could allow it to exceed earlier guidance which envisioned the company operating 1,200 stores throughout the U.S.

“We delivered record sales of $4.8 billion this quarter and are pleased with the progress we have made on our nine-point plan outlined in November,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. “We improved our cost structure, stepped up our value efforts, and are excited to announce today the national launch of digital coupons within our mobile app. We believe we will deliver strong returns to shareholders over the long term as we improve our price perception, better communicate our higher quality standards and differentiation, and continue to fundamentally evolve our business.”

Perhaps the greatest evolution of the company’s business will come in the form of the new 365 format set to debut in Los Angeles suburb of Silver Lake in May. That opening will be followed by two additional openings in 2016: Lake Oswego, Ore., in July and Bellevue, Wash., in August. The company also said it signed leases for five other 365 stores, averaging about 30,000-sq.-ft., located in Claremont, Concord and Los Alamitos, Calif., Gainesville, Fla., and the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park, Ill.

“The company sees potential for 1,200 Whole Foods Market stores in the United States, with the new 365 format expanding the growth opportunity beyond 1,200 stores,” Whole Food said in a statement.
Whole Foods first quarter net income declined to $157 million from $167 million while share repurchase activity enabled the company to maintain earnings per share of 46 cents that were comparable to the prior year.

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Shoppers see beam of hope for mobile loyalty

BY Dan Berthiaume

A number of major retail chains are leveraging a mobile app that allows scanners to read barcodes on smartphones.

Shoppers at retailers including CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Nectar, Rite Aid, Toys “R” Us, Best Buy, PetSmart, Staples, Safeway, and Giant Eagle are using the Mobeam 4.0 Beep’nGo app for Samsung Android mobile devices. The app, which can integrate with existing payment apps, allows customers to use barcode-based loyalty cards, gift cards and coupons on their smartphone at checkout scanners.

Mobeam’s light-based beaming technology enables POS laser scanners to read barcodes on Android mobile devices. Scanner interaction makes it easier for payment apps to carry barcode-based cards, tickets, vouchers and coupons.

Design improvements in the latest 4.0 iteration include location-based card reminders for faster checkout and an enhanced “Add Card” setup process, as well as separate destinations for cards and offers under the new menu drawer. Other new features include personalized offers, an upgraded search and navigation system, and offer discovery enhancements.

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