Ahold Delhaize’s Food Lion will buy 46 Bi-Lo and 16 Harvey’s supermarkets in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia from Southeastern Grocers, which will retire the Bi-Lo chain entirely. Southeastern says the move allows for greater investments in its Winn-Dixie, Harvey’s and Fresco y Mas chains. The actual changeover will take place early in 2021…

    With sales starting to rebound, Automotive News reports some manufacturers are scrambling to make up for lost production. Some General Motors plants will stay open this year instead of taking a July 4 break that was taken in typical years, and some Ford plants will take off one week instead of two. Automotive News adds that Fiat Chrysler hasn’t yet announced July plans…

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    Nordstrom has not made many investments in e-commerce for its off-price Nordstrom Rack banner, but that changed during the pandemic that shuttered its brick-and-mortar stores. The retailer beefed up its Rack e-commerce offerings in April when it started fulfilling orders from its stores, and those efforts are expected to grow as U.S. consumers continue to do more shopping online in the coming months...

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    There is always a lag in getting results from the furniture industry, so new data for March has just become available. The survey from Furniture Insights said new orders during the month were down 29% compared with March 2019, and off by 23% from February of this year.

    Apparently having resolved earlier problems getting parts, General Motors ramps up production today at three plants building pickup trucks, running three shifts at each plant…

    With COVID-19 having hit automakers hard, Tesla has lowered prices on most of its models. Its lowest-priced Model 3 now starts at $37,990. The move was a surprise to automotive analysts who had expected demand might exceed supply for the unique brand…

    Reuters reports Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors are updating their alliance with a new plan to create better cooperation to develop and produce vehicles, as all three are “reeling” from the pandemic and the ousting of former chairman Carlos Ghosn.

    Analysis from Barron’s found that eight malls in states that have allowed reopenings averaged a 75% drop in normal traffic during the first 11 days of May…

    It’s a tough Tuesday morning at Tuesday Morning, the latest retailer on the brink of bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal reports a filing may be imminent for the Dallas-based home goods retailer, which has a $42 million loan payment due today. The home goods off-price retailer has about 700 stores but shut down online sales seven years ago due to low response…

    Macy’s and sibling Bloomingdale’s have about 270 stores open for the weekend and expect to be almost fully open by the end of June. It will report quarterly sales on July 1 but estimates sales will be down as much as 45%.

    Target’s quarterly results showed mixed news: sales were great, a 0.9% same-store increase paired with a 141% increase in digital sales to produce a blended sales gain of 10.8%. But as other retailers that have kept stores open have seen, wages, store cleanings, and other new expenses added about a half-billion dollars to costs, and quarterly net income fell from $795 million last year to $284 million this year.

    Walmart same-store sales were up 10% in its fiscal quarter that ended April 30 and e-commerce sales were up 74%. March, of course, was the peak, with a 300% jump in pickup and delivery. With added expenses, however, the increase in profit was relatively modest going from $3.84 billion last year to $3.99 billion this year.

    Dillard’s fiscal quarter runs essentially from February through the beginning of May, so with more than six weeks of shutdown, the numbers were predictably dire. Total retail sales (excluding the company’s construction business) were down 47%. The chain started to reopen stores two weeks ago and expects to have 241 traditional stores and 29 clearance centers open by the end of this week…

    As had been expected, J.C. Penney became the largest retail bankruptcy so far this year. The 118-year-old chain says it has secured financing to keep it operating during bankruptcy, but many store closings are likely to be a part of the process. 

    The Detroit Free Press reports General Motors has set a target date of June 15 to be back to full production. But that could still change if customers aren’t there. The executive in charge of the company’s North American production warned, “We’re not going to override market demand”…

    Outdoor gear and apparel retailer REI is starting to re-open this week, beginning with its three locations in Montana. It also will offer curbside pickup at more than half of its 162 stores, including zero-contact bicycle services in select locations. As with just about all other retailers who are starting to open their doors again, operating hours will be shorter than before, and the number of customers in the store at any given time will be limited…

    Here’s a new entry into the business of delivering snacks and beverages direct to consumers: PepsiCo. The company is launching two websites, PantryShop.com and Snacks.com, where customers can order shipments of Pepsi brands including Quaker, Propel, Gatorade, Tropicana and all the Frito-Lay brands. Snacks.com offers free shipping on all orders over $15…

    Another retail bankruptcy: This time it’s Stage Stores, parent of Gordmans, Bealls, Goody’s, Peebles and Palais Royal. It expects to start selling off inventory with more than 500 stores open by the end of this week and all stores open by June 4. Meanwhile, Stage will be looking for a prospective buyer…

    Is the worst over for the restaurant business? Although Black Box Intelligence reports both sales and traffic were down 55% for the industry in April, it sees sequential improvement during the month. The last two weeks of March had seen a 67% drop in sales for the 50,000+ units surveyed, but that had eased to a more moderate 47% loss for the last two weeks of April.

    Costco sales for April were down for the first time in more than 10 years, taking hits both from lack of traffic in its stores and from cratering gas prices. Same-store sales (including digital sales attributed to stores) were down 0.5% excluding gas; when including gas, the comps were down 4.7%...

    Bloomin’ Brands, parent of Outback, Carrabba’s, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s, had a total of 23 restaurants fully open last Sunday and did 83% of normal business at those locations. It expects to have 336 locations open with limited seating capacity for Mother’s Day this week. For the week ended May 3, blended same-store sales were down 48%...

    Another bankruptcy filing: This time it’s Gold’s Gym, which has permanently closed 30 company-owned units, but will stay in business with 63 company-owned locations and more than 600 franchised locations. Its CEO says “we don’t have takeout service or curbside pickup, so it’s hard for us to keep revenue going”…

    If there’s one retail segment that should be reporting blowout Q1 results, it’s the supermarket business. After Albertson’s reported same-store sales growth of 47% for March and 21% for April, Publix announced same-store sales gains of 14.4% with total sales up 16.1%. It estimates about 10.3% of the gain is directly attributable to pantry shopping related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    It’s certainly no surprise that Amazon’s first-quarter sales were through the roof, up 26% to $75.5 billion. Profit, however, fell 29% to $2.5 billion, as the company needed to hire 175,000 new workers and dropped many items deemed non-essential to concentrate on more important items…

    Macy’s will reopen 68 of its more than 700 stores on Monday, with partial staffing and restrictions against becoming too crowded with customers at one time. CEO Jeff Gennett said he hopes to have all stores open within six weeks if the COVID-19 problems are stabilizing and local authorities permit…

    Best Buy is taking some steps toward returning to more normal conditions. While most of its stores have remained open for curbside pickup and doorstep delivery, it’s planning on allowing customers into stores by appointment, and also returning to allowing personnel into customers’ homes for repairs and installations. After each in-store appointment, it will sanitize the section of the store the customer visited…

    The restaurant business is slowly improving even before units are given the green light to fully reopen in some states. The McDonald’s Franchisee Survey conducted by Kalinowsky Equity Research found comps at Mickey D’s down 20%-25% for the second week in April, still bad but at least an improvement over the prior week’s drop of 25%- 30%.

    Although restaurants in Georgia were allowed to open their dining rooms this week using specified guidelines, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A is not going to do so, saying “We are going to take additional time to review our operations and ensure we have necessary precautions in place to protect our guests and team members before we reopen our dining rooms”…

    The president of the United Auto Workers says re-starting auto production in early May is “too soon and too risky,” throwing a major roadblock in plans of some automakers to restart production as early as next week. The Detroit Free Press reports General Motors is calling in some workers this week to get facilities ready to resume production…

    Target’s fiscal quarter runs February through May, but so far same-store sales are up more than 7% compared to just a 1.5% increase in the November-January quarter. There has been a decline at the chain’s 1,900 brick-and-mortar stores, but online sales have more than doubled.

    Chipotle Mexican Grill same-store sales were down 16% in March, despite an 80% jump in online orders. Profit fell 13% with costs rising for labor, delivery and supplies such as masks and hand sanitizers. The company is also paying $25 million to resolve charges based on the foodborne-illness problems it went through from 2015-2018…

    Coca-Cola’s organic sales were flat in the just completed fiscal quarter, but they have been down 25% globally since April 1. The soda giant benefitted from pantry loading as people started to hunker down, but away-from-home sales, about half of Coke’s revenue, have fallen dramatically since the COVID-19 problems started.

    About 22 million members of the U.S. workforce have filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, but some retail and e-commerce companies continue to add jobs as they struggle to keep up with demand. A roster of companies including Walmart, Amazon, Lowe’s, CVS and Ace Hardware aim to add 604,000 new employees.…

    Guidance from the federal government issued Friday says automotive sales and manufacturing should be considered essential businesses during the COVID-19 crisis and allowed to stay open. The final decisions, however, remain with the states as the recommendation “is advisory in nature (and) is not… considered a federal directive or standard”…

    Here’s some slightly better news, at least: J.D. Power says car sales for the first 12 days of April weren’t quite as bad as they had estimated. Sales were still down about 55%, but J.D. Power says that’s “much better than the previous worst-case scenario.” If numbers hold, the industry would produce about 597,000 deals for the month…

    Feuds between McDonald’s and its franchisees have happened on several occasions in recent years, and now the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating those tensions, according to The Wall Street Journal. McDonald’s is pressuring store owners to do more to protect employees after some have contracted the coronavirus and others have gone into quarantine.

    “Earnings season” starts this week as publicly-traded companies release quarterly results, many of which will be distorted by the pandemic impacting the last few weeks of the quarter. Major banks and financial institutions are usually the first to report numbers. Both JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo posted profits well below last year’s first quarter and both have set aside huge caches of money anticipating that a flood of credit card writeoffs will become necessary.

    The lines between supermarkets and restaurants have been blurring for several years, and we reported last week that some major restaurant chains such as Panera and Subway have started to offer ingredients from their supply chains direct to consumers.

    Michigan has extended its COVID-19 shutdown to April 30; if not extended later that would allow Fiat Chrysler to restart production on May 4 as it hopes. The home state of the Detroit 3 has also authorized online and remote sales during the current crisis…

    A survey conducted by the California New Car Dealers Association at the end of March found about 40% of dealers responding said that under current conditions, their business was sustainable for only one to three more months. About the same number of dealers reported March sales were down at least 80% compared to March 2019.

    If necessity is the mother of invention, the restaurant industry is being inventive. A number of chains are now acting as pseudo-supermarkets, hoping to add a fourth revenue stream to delivery, take-out and drive-thru. Panera Grocery has started up on the chain’s app and website, offering items from its supply chain such as milk, bread and produce.

    Allstate is going to cut auto insurance premiums by 15% for April and May due to less driving and fewer accidents happening during the coronavirus crisis, and GEICO and Progressive each are reported to be considering similar moves. Allstate’s data found driving is down 35% to 50% in most states.

    Automotive News reports there are an estimated 1.8 million vehicles that have expirations due on their leases from last month through July. With dealerships ordered closed in many states, dealers (and lessees) are struggling with how to conduct new transactions to replace those vehicles…

    The Wall Street Journal says a poll conducted last Thursday and Friday found that half of small businesses haven’t paid their full rent or mortgage payments for April due to the coronavirus pandemic…

    Kroger reported a 30% identical store sales gain for March as shoppers stocked up on food and personal care items. Its report also noted the chain has hired 32,700 new employees in the last two weeks. But despite the recent good news, the company admitted it’s difficult to know what will happen from now on.

    J.C. Penney has joined the ranks of major retailers that have furloughed the vast majority of employees. Generally, “furloughed” employees retain health care benefits, while terminated employees lose their coverage…

    Ford has backed off plans to reopen a plant in Mexico on Monday and others in the U.S. on April 14; those plants will remain closed indefinitely…

    The Detroit News reports the coronavirus pandemic is going to impact the rollouts of new car models that had been planned for later this year, especially in the electrification programs carmakers have been developing such as the Chevrolet Bolt EUV and the GMC Hummer RV. The paper says analysts expect Ford to push ahead with the rollout of the Mustang Mach-E SUV, but fear it may pull back on marketing dollars during these tough times.

    Tailored Brands, the parent of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A Bank, has “furloughed” all its store employees and plans to remain closed until at least May 4…

    Asbury Automotive is pulling out of a $1 billion deal to acquire the Park Place dealership group in Texas and its 10 stores of mostly luxury brands. Asbury did not state a specific reason for ending the deal and will pay $10 million in damages for backing out…

    Target says comparable sales, including physical stores and digital channels, are up more than 20 percent in March, with sales of household goods, food and beverages up more than 50 percent. But it may not translate to hefty profits — sales on higher-margin merchandise such as clothes are down and the costs of staffing the stores (and keeping them as safe as possible) are rising…