business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  Yahoo Finance reports that when "Popeyes launched its first-ever chicken sandwich Aug. 12, 2019," it "had no idea it was about to change the fast food chicken sandwich game in America … After a Twitter feud between rivals Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s (WEN), the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich went viral and sold out in stores in just two short weeks."

It was a bottom line success:  "The popular chicken sandwich drove same-store sales of 34% during the fourth quarter at Popeyes … Popeyes' jaw-dropping fourth quarter comes on the heels of a pretty impressive third quarter when the chicken chain reported same-store sales growth of 9.7%."

•  MarketWatch reports that "Simon Property Group Inc. said Monday it has agreed to acquire mall real-estate investment trust Taubman Centers Inc. in an all-cash deal valued at about $3.6 billion … Under the terms of the deal, Simon will acquire an 80% interest in Taubman Realty Group Limited Partnership, which owns Taubman Centers. The Taubman family will sell about a third of its stake in the company at the transaction price and remain owner of the remaining 20% of shares."

The story notes that "the move comes at a time when malls are facing steep pressure from e-commerce, which has caused foot traffic to decline sharply and many are looking at new ways to draw in shoppers — and tenants. As retailers shutter stores to save costs, malls are finding themselves without the anchor tenants of the past such as Sears, and are looking to add entertainment outlets, health clubs and grocers and even dentists."

It would seem that the folks at Simon believe in the future of the mall …. I had the chance to interview Patrick Flanagan, Simon's senior vice president of digital marketing and strategy, for the Retail Tomorrow podcast, and he suggested that a) it can be a bull market for malls, and b) malls are in so many ways going to be different from what they have been in the past.  This is areal challenge for companies like Simon, which cannot just be landlords anymore.  Obviously, Simon believes it is up to the challenge.

•  QSR reports that "Dunkin’—as part of the push for NextGen remodeling—will shell out roughly $60 million for 'state-of-the-art, high-volume' brewing equipment for domestic locations, with matching investments from franchisees, it said. The brewers will allow the brand to expand the variety of drip coffee blends, increase operational efficiencies, reduce waste, and enhance the quality and consistency across the system. This is on top of the new espresso machines installed in 2018 and the new iced coffee brewers in 2019.

"The brand ended 2019 with 525 NextGen stores, a redesign including an eight-headed tap system, modern décor, front-counter bakery, efficient coffee line, and enhanced pick-up area. The company expects to end 2020 with 1,400."

•  The International Housewares Association announced that because of concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, the International Sourcing Expo - which was to be part of its annual Chicago show March 14-17 - will not open this year.

The decision was made" to protect the health, safety and well-being of the industry from concerns about exposure to the virus," said Derek Miller, IHA president.