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Leonard Green, CVC team up for BJ’s buyout bid

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK — Leonard Green & Partners and CVC Capital Partners said Friday they are making a joint buyout bid worth an undisclosed amount for BJ’s Wholesale Club.

The two private equity firms revealed their plans in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday. The bid price was not disclosed.

In February, BJ’s announced it was exploring a sale. In March, Leonard Green already is the chain’s larger shareholder, with a 9.3% stake.

BJ’s spokeswoman Cathy Maloney said the company wouldn’t comment on its process of exploring strategic offerings until the process has ended, the Associated Press reported.

BJ’s operates more than 190 warehouse clubs in 15 states.

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Retailers, manufacturers should leverage value of social media

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Such blog posts as the one from extreme couponer and Walgreens fan Christie Hardcastle announcing the shipment of a Walgreens Infant Care Booklet mailer to American Baby magazine subscribers are important as research shows that social media increasingly is becoming an effective way to communicate with consumers.

(THE NEWS: Blogger announces release of Walgreens Infant Care Booklet. For the full story, click here.)

"This Home Mailer also came with coupons for Nursery Water, Earth’s Best Baby food and more! So be on the lookout," Hardcastle wrote on her Wild for Wags site. Hardcastle also mentioned that mailers, such as the Walgreens Infant Care Booklet from American Baby magazine, are "just another reason to take advantage of free magazine offers."

The reason this is important is because recent research conducted in May by VeraQuest on behalf of marketing/public relations firm Robin Leedy & Associates found that friends are just as effective as TV in terms of their ability to influence an over-the-counter or a health-and-beauty product purchase.

Factoring in such social networking sites as Facebook, as well as blog reviews and the impact of social media, makes it even more significant. The survey of more than 1,500 U.S. adults found that blog reviews ranked as sources of greater influence among younger women (14% of women ages 30 to 39 years versus 6% overall).

Underscoring this notion is a "Women on the Web" report released by comScore, a provider of digital marketing intelligence. According to the June 2010 report, more women than men are social networking when online (16.3% of women versus 11.7% of men), and more women than men are spending their time online on blogs (0.9% of women versus 0.8% of men).

"Women across the world are driving some of the most mainstream aspects of the Internet experience today — the social Web, e-commerce, flash shopping and consumption of user-generated content via YouTube. They have spawned a whole new genre of Internet games and have driven much of the blogging and photo-sharing activity. Once women connect, they engage; once they engage, they embrace; once they embrace, they drive. And that¹s the future," the comScore report stated.

Clearly, social media is tipping the scale, and retailers and manufacturers would be wise to take note of this fact.

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Coming soon: More Walmart Market stores

BY Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is moving forward with what could be characterized as a rollout of its Neighborhood Market format nearly 13 years after the first unit opened in fall 1998. Just don’t call it a Neighborhood Market.

The company has rebranded the small-format food-and-drug combo store as Walmart Market, and as Bill Simon, president and CEO of the company’s U.S. stores division, made clear during an investor presentation yesterday, the financial returns are now comparable to those of the company’s supercenters. That has encouraged the company to move faster with expanding the based of 155 domestic Walmart Market stores.

“There are 180 that have been approved through our real estate committee,” Simon said during a presentation at the William Blair & Company Growth Stock Conference. “We expect to have about 300 of them by 2013. The number for next year is approaching 100 that we’ll be able to put in.”

Simon said the company also was encouraged to move fast because the smaller stores have a shorter development timeline than a supercenter, which means a significant number can be added more quickly.

The ramp-up in expansion has been a long time coming. When the first units opened in the late ’90s, the concept was viewed as a growth vehicle, and there was considerable conjecture around how quickly the concept could be expanded. However, the operating model was never quite right, and there were abundant supercenter projects in the pipeline. While Simon asserted that supercenters remain the company’s primary growth vehicle in the United States, the tipping point would appear to be at hand where within a few years ground-up new supercenters will become increasingly rare and small-store openings more commonplace.

Simon referenced providing more details on the Walmart Market expansion in October, which is when the company holds it annual investor conference and reveals its capital expenditures budget for the coming year along with details around square footage expansion and stores openings by format type. Simon broke with tradition a bit by revealing 2012 growth plans for the Walmart Market, but these days investors are clamoring for information on how the company expects to grow given the two-year slide in same-store sales. In addition to the significance of the expansion news, the timing of the disclosure is noteworthy as well. Just two weeks earlier, Walmart held its annual shareholders’ meeting, which was followed by a two-hour meeting with analysts where divisional presidents and CEOs and Wal-Mart Stores president and CEO Mike Duke gave brief presentations and fielded questions.

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