Industry News & Expert Views

Sycamore Partners Offers to Buy JCPenney in $1.75 Billion Deal

By Sheridan Fifer

Sycamore Partners made headlines when it agreed to buy Victoria's Secret, and then backed out of the deal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the private equity firm has made a $1.75 billion offer for bankrupt JCPenney. Sycamore owns Belk, a department store chain, and has shared plans to possibly merge the two, using JCPenney as a "lifeboat." Sycamore isn't the only bidder for the bankrupt retailer, but its bid is the biggest so far. 

While the deal is still subject to approval from the court as well as from JCPenney’s lenders, creditors and board, Sycamore has been in the lead since bids were due on July 22, sources said.

Read the full story at the New York Post.

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Walmart Announces Corporate Layoffs

By Sheridan Fifer

As Walmart attempts to merge its online and store businesses, an unknown number of corporate jobs are getting the axe. According to Bloomberg, the layoffs number in the hundreds, but Walmart refused to give an exact number, saying it would release more details after associates were notified. The layoffs come at a time when Walmart's sales and labor costs are both rising, due in part to the impact of the coronavirus. 

The layoffs were first reported by Bloomberg. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report said Walmart has laid off hundreds of corporate employees across store planning, logistics and real estate units.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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A Struggling Walgreens Is Replacing Its CEO

By Sheridan Fifer

Walgreens announced on Monday that Stefano Pessina, the company's largest shareholder and chief executive officer, will step down. He will take on the role of executive chairman once a new CEO is found. 

Pessina was named CEO in 2015. Since then, the pharmacy group's value has been reduced by more than half as weak performances and strong competition took their toll. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has further added to the woes of the company, which had to resort to store closures, job cuts and suspension of share repurchases at Boots.

Read the full story at Reuters.

 

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Major Retailers Stop Just Short of Enforcing Mask Policies

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot, Walgreens, and other major retailers are clarifying their stance on face masks in stores. While face coverings are technically required, these retailers say they will not prevent customers who refuse to wear masks from shopping in their stores. The concern is that especially reluctant and possibly very angry shoppers who refuse to comply with the rule could provoke a violent confrontation with employees trying to enforce the requirement. 

"With every requirement there are exceptions that have been established to avoid escalating the situation and putting our associates in harm's way," a Walmart representative said. "Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation in the stores."

Read the full story at CNN Business.

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Retail Hazard Pay Is Disappearing

By Sheridan Fifer

When the coronavirus hit the United States, many retailers whose stores were allowed to stay open implemented hazard pay to encourage employees to continue coming to work in spite of  the risk. Now those pay raises are expiring. While retailers are under pressure to continue hazard pay for front-line workers, high unemployment rates mean there is little incentive to do so. But some experts warn that there could be long-term damage done to companies who end hazard pay before the danger is really past, even though they may save money in the short-term. 

Employers "may get away with that in a context of 11% unemployment," but it is "both unfair now and destructive in the medium term," Lawrence Mishel, former president of the Economic Policy Institute, said. Employees should be "compensated for risk." Eventually, "unemployment will fall and better employers will expand."

Read the full story at CNN Business.

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Aldi Will Open More Than 70 New Stores by the End of the Year

By Sheridan Fifer

Aldi has a plan to become the nation's third-largest grocer with 2,500 stores by the year 2022. This would put the German discount chain behind just two American grocers: Walmart and Kroger. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are spending more on groceries while at the same time seeking ways to save money. Aldi has long appealed to this kind of shopper. Aldi U.S. CEO Jason Hart says the grocer is well on its way to attaining its goals, with 2,000 stores already open across 36 states. 

“This pandemic has reinforced how much consumers rely on us for their grocery needs, and we’re pleased to be able to support communities across the country with the lowest possible prices,” he said.

Read the full story at CNBC.

 

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Lawsuit Claims Whole Foods Retaliated Against Employees for Wearing Black Lives Matter Masks

By Sheridan Fifer

Fourteen Whole Foods employees are suing the retailer for allegedly discriminating and retaliating against them for wearing Black Lives Matter masks. Whole Foods' dress code prohibits employees from displaying logos or messages not related to the retailer, but these workers maintain that this rule was not strictly enforced until they began wearing Black Lives Matter masks. 

Whole Foods said it can't comment on pending litigation, but denied that any employees have been terminated for wearing Black Lives Matter gear. 

Read the full story at Business Insider.

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Walmart Will Rely on Health Ambassadors to Enforce Face Mask Policy

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart is the largest retailer to implement a nationwide face mask policy in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Target, Kohl's, CVS, and others have also announced that shoppers must wear masks inside their stores. But Walmart is tackling the problem of enforcement head on with designated Health Ambassadors. These Health Ambassadors will receive special training to enforce the face mask policy while keeping confrontations with customers at a minimum. 

“Our Health Ambassadors are receiving special de-escalation training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers,” Walmart spokeswoman Rebecca Thomason said in a statement to The Post.

Read the full story at the New York Post.

 

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