Is Sur La Table too late for the home cooking craze?
Sur La Table found a buyer at a bankruptcy court auction and so will get a chance to take advantage of the resurgence in home cooking amid the pandemic.
The luxury kitchen goods retailer, founded in 1972, filed for bankruptcy on July 9 with plans to liquidate 51 of its 120 locations and find a buyer.
In court documents, CEO Jason Goldberger said that, while pandemic-forced store closures exacerbated liquidation constraints, the retailer had been in “financial distress” before the pandemic and saw a “meaningful revenue decline for the past five years.”
Like many peers, Sur La Table struggled against “the shifting of sales from traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to online retailers, a marked decline in at-home cooking, and changing consumer preferences,” he said.
A bright spot was in-store cooking classes. Over 650,000 people took the retailer’s classes in 2019, representing growth of 19 percent. Sur La Table also has a “lucrative online business” with a store footprint “disproportionate to market demands,” Mr. Goldberger said. In fiscal 2018, retail accounted for about 67 percent of sales; e-commerce, 23 percent; and cooking classes, 10 percent.
The buyer, Marquee Brands, owns a number of luxury brands, including Ben Sherman, BCBG and Destination Maturity. The $89-million acquisition is expected to complement its Home and Culinary portfolio that includes the Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse brands.
Marquee Brands agreed to acquire at least 50 leases and will continue the cooking classes, describing them as “a pioneer in experiential retail and unprecedented customer loyalty.” It is now offering online classes for $29 each.
Online growth will also be a priority. As part of the acquisition, Marquee Brands partnered with CSC Generation, a business founded by serial entrepreneur Justin Yoshimura with a mission of helping brands become “digitally native.” CSC’s recent acquisitions include online furniture and appliance seller DirectBuy and home furnishings retailer Z Gallerie.
In a statement, Carolyn D’Angelo, president of Marquee Brands’ Home Division, said Sur La Table’s “storied legacy along with its multi-channel platform featuring experiential brick and mortar stores, a thriving e-commerce business, and unparalleled education offerings presented an incredibly compelling opportunity. We believe a revitalized Sur La Table will thrive in a post-COVID-19 retail environment.”
- Marquee Brands Acquires Sur La Table – Further Expanding as a Leader in the Home and Culinary Industries – Marquee Brands/PRNewswire
- Declaration Of Jason Goldberger In Support Of Debtors’ Chapter 11 Petitions And First Day Motions – Sur La Table/New Jersey Bankruptcy Court
- CSC Generation, Marquee Brands Top Fortress in Sur La Table Bankruptcy Auction – The Wall Street Journal
- Sur La Table to Restructure Its Retail Footprint and Complete a Going-Concern Sale via Voluntary Chapter 11 Process – Sur La Table/Business Wire
- Sur La Table files for bankruptcy protection, plans to close nearly half of its stores. Here’s the list. – USA Today
- Jason Goldberger is cooking up digital growth as the new CEO of Sur La Table – Seattle Business Journal
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Sur La Table primed to take advantage of current market realities as-is or does it need to reposition itself? Where do you see Sur La Table’s strengths and weaknesses amid the current COVID-19 restrictions and afterwards?