Winn-Dixie Does the Expected, Files for Chapter 11

Discussion
Feb 22, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It was really never a question of if but when Winn-Dixie would seek to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Now that the question has been answered — Winn-Dixie Stores filed yesterday evening in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York — the next question is, what will happen next?

According to a release posted on the Winn-Dixie Web site, the company has not shut any of its 920 currently operating stores in the Southeast and the Bahamas and, as far as shoppers are concerned, it will continue to be business as usual.

The chain has secured $800 million in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing from Wachovia Bank to help it with its cash flow needs during the reorganization period.

Peter Lynch, president and chief executive officer of Winn-Dixie, said in a released statement: “We intend to use this reorganization process to take the actions necessary to position Winn-Dixie for future success. This includes achieving significant cost reductions, improving the merchandising and customer service in all locations and generating a sense of excitement in the stores. We deeply regret any adverse impact the Chapter 11 filing may have on our associates, vendors, shareholders and business partners.”

Among its immediate plans, Winn-Dixie intends to seek the termination of leases it holds for 150 store locations and two warehouses the chain had previously closed. It also plans to sell-off all non-core assets such as any manufacturing plants it owns.

Mr. Lynch said the company intends to “focus on increasing sales quickly and cost-effectively across the chain by improving the execution of merchandising and sales-focused initiatives, reinvigorating the company’s store associates, and restoring a sales-driven culture across the organization.”

Winn-Dixie intends to achieve this by enhancing its “perishables offerings and other product merchandising, as well as implementing store sales competitions and other initiatives to motivate associates to drive sales,” said Mr. Lynch.

Moderator’s Comment: What will happen with Winn-Dixie now that it has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11? If it were up to you to decide, what
would the Winn-Dixie reorganization and survival plan look like?

George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Winn-Dixie Does the Expected, Files for Chapter 11"


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Rene Mary
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Rene Mary
16 years 4 days ago
For the most part, I have always been a loyal Winn-Dixie shopper. Yes, many of the stores are old. Yes, customer service is not the greatest. (They try but there are just not enough employees in the store to effectively assist customers.) Yes, the quality of their produce needs improvement. But these are all tolerable to the average shopper if not taken to excess. Winn-Dixie still has the greatest meat department of any supermarket I have ever shopped. Winn-Dixie is also a good hometown basic grocery store, and I really like this quality. However, as I see it, Winn-Dixie has developed one major problem that is completely unacceptable and is the same as standing outside holding up a sign saying, “We don’t want you to shop here.” That problem is the out of stocks! Walk into any Winn-Dixie (at least in the Charlotte Warehouse market which is NC and SC), pick up the current ad and try to buy the items you see featured. The advertised sales are great, but by the time the ad… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
16 years 4 days ago

Painful to say, but if it were up to me and if it were my money, I’d carefully but deliberately liquidate.

David Livingston
Guest
16 years 4 days ago
Winn-Dixie stores have looked like a bankrupt company for the past several years. Sales per square foot at most stores has dropped to Kmart-esque levels. The stores have been dummied up with private label soda pop and paper towels. Service departments have been removed. In-store banks pulled out a few years ago. These are 1985-looking stores in 2005. Somewhere along the line, Winn-Dixie fell behind and was not able to keep up. I really don’t see Winn-Dixie surviving. The few stores that are performing adequately are not clustered together. Still, there are some units that are doing ok. Some of these stores are the only supermarket in town. Perhaps a third of the stores can continue operating as supermarkets, but not as Winn Dixie. Rarely do bankrupt supermarket chains survive. Poor morale, high credit terms, scared vendors, and just saying you are bankrupt further scares customers off. Winn-Dixie has had 20 years to try to catch up; being bankrupt will just make it worse. If Winn-Dixie survives, it will be the biggest comeback since Lazarus.
Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
16 years 4 days ago

Winn-Dixie is an example of a chain that has been just good enough to survive for a long time. It has rested and relied on its past laurels for about as long as it can, unfortunately. I have been accused of being an eternal optimist but I don’t see a very bright or long future for this chain. I feel sorry for all the loyal employees but the their consumers will at most suffer the inconvenience of driving a little further to shop. Most people will not miss Winn-Dixie or the way it ran its business for so many years.

Ron Margulis
Guest
16 years 4 days ago

There was an interesting point raised in the NY Times article on the filing — Sam Walton was a member of the Winn-Dixie Board of Directors for five years in the early 1980s. Shortly after leaving the board, he launched the Wal-Mart Supercenter. Retailing, in general, and Winn-Dixie, specifically, has never been the same.

Winn-Dixie needs a complete overhaul, and even that may not be enough. The company simply hasn’t developed and executed a plan that creates a reason for consumers to continue shopping their stores. Given that their pricing strategy hasn’t worked, the executives need to look at product assortment and customer service for that reason. Unfortunately, they are also losing the product war against the likes of Publix, and customer service has never been a strong suit either. They have some prime real estate, so maybe this is a play by one of the REITs a la Sears-Kmart. Or perhaps a move to a large convenience concept that brings in a bank, dry cleaner, pharmacy, etc. in a small indoor mall.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
16 years 4 days ago

I think the entire industry thinks very highly of Mr. Lynch — and rightly so. But the inevitable question is whether this is too little too late.

At one time, I would have said that the mere thought of Winn-Dixie shutting its doors was ridiculous. After all, this has been one of the icons of supermarket retailing for decades. However, being an icon is no longer a guarantee of success, as we all know, and little has been done to turn W-D around.

It might be a good buy for someone with capital and patience. Might even be an overseas buyer or two who might be looking for an opportunity in the U.S. Stranger things have happened.

Mark Burr
Guest
16 years 4 days ago
I think Ron hits on the most important point in their future. That is – what is the reason for their existence? Consumers want a compelling reason. Without it, the alternatives are abundant. Their challenge is great in creating a vision for the future, as being just good enough isn’t good enough any more. Wal-Mart is just good enough in all the other measurable areas, but they have price. Publix creates reason by environment, service, experience, and their price is fair enough for the value of all other areas to compel the consumer to make their choice. About this same time last year, another regional in their area faced the same point, that was Kash n’ Karry. They announced a new direction, and that was ‘Sweetbay.’ At least in their case, it was an attempt to create differentiation (got to find a new word for that) and a reason. In Winn-Dixie’s announcement, there is little more than “will try and do better.” That unfortunately is not a reason. Its the same with Kmart, who yet… Read more »
W. Frank Dell II
Guest
16 years 4 days ago

I recently returned from a trip to Florida. While there, I asked the locals and snow birds where they shopped. None ever mentioned shopping at Winn-Dixie. This is simply another example of management being successful many years ago and not changing with the time. Publix has done more damage to Winn-Dixie than Wal-Mart. I predict Winn-Dixie will go the way of Schwegmann’s and others. When you are a chain in a rapidly growing market, and your sales increase does not keep up with either the market growth or inflation, you are in trouble. Winn-Dixie simply saw sales increases and was happy not ever looking outside headquarters. The sad fact is that all the Fleming people that went to Winn-Dixie will lose again.

David Livingston
Guest
16 years 4 days ago
I think one thing a lot of people might not realize is just how low the volumes are at many of the Winn-Dixies. These stores are not just a little behind Publix or Wal-Mart with regards to sales per square foot. Most Winn-Dixie stores are only operating at about 40% of what a typical Publix or Wal-Mart gets with regards to sales per square foot. As for Winn-Dixie becoming a REIT, like Kmart — keep in mind the high real estate value on Kmart is only a theory. So far, the only legitimate money came from a handful of sales to Home Depot. The rest came from Sears, which is Kmart, so it was just the right pocket going to the left pocket. Winn-Dixie has no pockets. I was told today that one large vendor ordered all trucks heading to Winn-Dixie over the weekend to turn around and come home. Another told me they made a special trip to Florida on Saturday to cash checks from Winn-Dixie. How do they expect to continue to operate… Read more »
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