Throwback Moment: Price-Costco Store Opened in Westlake Village in August 1996

Let’s face it…the Westlake Village Costco is one of the most popular places to go in the Conejo Valley. Always teeming with shoppers and sample hunters, it seems the local community would be lost without this store.

Let’s go back in time to when it opened…

The store opened its doors as PriceCostco on Thursday, August 8, 1996 at 5700 Lindero Canyon Road. Price-Costco was formed in 1993 with the merger of Price Club (which opened its first location on July 12, 1976 in San Diego) and Costco (which opened is first warehouse in Seattle on September 15, 1983).

One of my life’s guilty pleasures…the $1.50 Costco Hot Dog  and Soda deal.

One of my life’s guilty pleasures…the $1.50 Costco Hot Dog and Soda deal.

Who remembers PriceCostco? The merger between the two companies took place in 1993. Price Club was being pursued by Walmart to merge with the Sam’s Club warehouse store chain. Price opted to merge with Costco instead. And wallah…PriceCostco was created. At the time, there were 206 locations. Today there are 766 worldwide.

The prior management team from Price Club, the Price brothers (who knew!), left the company in 1994 and in 1997, “Price” was dropped from the name and it became Costco.

According to a 1/4/96 VC Star article, PriceCostco purchased the 30 acre site at Lindero Canyon Road and Westlake Boulevard in Westlake Village for $9.3 million, with plans for a 136,000 sq ft Price Club .

Local residents were against the addition of the warehouse club to the community. City Council approved the project as it was allowed as part of a long-term commercial development agreement in place with owners of the property. However, the city stipulated approval was required for specifics like exterior color scheme, roofing materials in earth tone colors, etc.

Flashback to 2009: There were high hopes for a 2nd Conejo Valley Costco location in Newbury Park at the corner of Grande Vista Drive and Academy Drive. But according to a T.O. Acorn article on 1/29/09, Costco could not make the project economically feasible as it was “unable to finalize a lease for the site.”

It is clear that Costco prefers to own its own properties, not lease them. In Costco’s annual Form 10-K filing for the fiscal year ended 9/2/18, fully 80% of its 762 warehouses in the U.S. and globally were owned; the remaining 20% were leased.

Lowe’s and LA Fitness were able to work a deal with owners of the property in Newbury Park and the City of Thousand Oaks Planning Commission approved the project to build locations there at a meeting on 12/13/10. We will be seeing the premiere of these business in the first half of 2019.

Whole Foods and Amazon to Start Offering Lower Prices on Grocery Staples on August 28th

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Amazon and Whole Foods Market recently announced that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market will close on Monday, August 28, 2017, and the two companies will together pursue the vision of making Whole Foods Market’s high-quality, natural and organic food affordable for everyone.

Whole Foods Market, which will continue to operate under its own brand name, will offer lower prices starting Monday on a selection of best-selling grocery staples across its stores, with more to come.

Here’s what will be new in Whole Foods Market stores on Monday and what can be expected over time as the two companies integrate:

  • Starting Monday, Whole Foods Market will offer lower prices on a selection of best-selling staples across its stores, with much more to come. Customers will enjoy lower prices on products like Whole Trade bananas, organic avocados, organic large brown eggs, organic responsibly-farmed salmon and tilapia, organic baby kale and baby lettuce, animal-welfare-rated 85% lean ground beef, creamy and crunchy almond butter, organic Gala and Fuji apples, organic rotisserie chicken, 365 Everyday Value organic butter, and much more.
  • In the future, after certain technical integration work is complete, Amazon Prime will become Whole Foods Market’s customer rewards program, providing Prime members with special savings and other in-store benefits.
  • Whole Foods Market’s healthy and high-quality private label products—including 365 Everyday Value, Whole Foods Market, Whole Paws and Whole Catch—will be available through Amazon.com, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry and Prime Now.
  • Amazon Lockers will be available in select Whole Foods Market stores. Customers can have products shipped from Amazon.com to their local Whole Foods Market store for pick up or send returns back to Amazon during a trip to the store.

The Reality Behind Amgen Telling Trump That the Company Will Hire 1,600 Workers in 2017

First I saw it in Facebook posts, then in all the major newspapers. Trump's Press Secretary Tweets out that Amgen's CEO indicates Amgen will be adding 1,600 jobs. An L.A. Times story followed up with Amgen that the company plans to hire 1,600 people in the U.S. this year, including both "new skills" folks and to replace folks that have left the company through attrition. Is this really newsworthy?

Let's take a closer look.

The key word here is "attrition." Every company has attrition, also known as turnover. People quit, get laid off, terminated, etc.  What is Amgen's attrition rate? This is not publicly known information, although a State of California Employee Training Panel issued a report showing a turnover rate of 11% in September 2015.

Let's be conservative (not in the political sense) and cut that by about a third, down to a rate of 8%. Amgen has roughly 12,000 U.S. employees out of 19,000 total. At 12,000 employees and an attrition rate of 8%, Amgen would have to hire nearly 1,000 people in the U.S. in 2016 just to replace existing jobs.

That hypothetically leaves about 600 "new" positions, which is great, but not particularly significant for a company of 18,000 employees. Don't get me wrong...it's wonderful that our local pride and joy is hiring. But this is not particularly worthy of major newspaper coverage and a special "Tweet" by the White House Press Secretary.

Amgen trends in headcount compared to revenue generated per employee from 2006 to 2016. (Source: Derived from Amgen Annual Report and 10-K)

Amgen trends in headcount compared to revenue generated per employee from 2006 to 2016. (Source: Derived from Amgen Annual Report and 10-K)

As you can see in the chart above, the trend does not appear to be a friend of jobs. While revenue has grown at a compound annual growth rate south of 5% over 11 years, total headcount has dropped by 4% in the aggregate. This has made Amgen a much more efficient company, at the expense of jobs. But that is typical for a company of Amgen's size to continue delivering value to shareholders - look to cost cutting to offset stagnating revenue growth in order to drive the bottom line.

Most large public companies go through this cycle...grow, grow, grow...stagnate...restructure. In 2014, Amgen announced a restructuring plan involving 3,500 to 4,000 staff reductions and consolidation of facilities in Washington, Colorado and Thousand Oaks.

In any case, it is great to see Amgen hiring. There are currently over 500 jobs listed worldwide for our local Fortune 500 resident in the Conejo Valley. Visit careers.amgen.com to learn more.

And for links to over 300 local employers throughout the Conejo Valley, Greater Ventura County and surrounding areas, visit THIS PAGE.

And on one last marginally related note, here is a compilation of the first sentence of Amgen's annual "Letter to Shareholders" from its CEO over the last 10 years. Maybe it's time to hire a more interesting writer! :) Let's see what the 2016 letter looks like** when published this coming March at investors.amgen.com. Exceptional, landmark, extraordinary, momentous and _____________. What will it be? President Trump might use "tremendous," "incredible" or perhaps, "yuuuuuge!"

** UPDATE: Amgen changed it up a bit with "For Amgen, 2016 was a strong year..."

  • 2015 was a momentous year for Amgen.
  • 2014 was an extraordinary year for Amgen--
  • 2013 was a landmark year for Amgen.
  • 2012 was an exceptional year for Amgen.
  • We're proud of what Amgen accomplished in 2011 - a solid year
  • 2010 was a year of challenges met and promises delivered...
  • In 2009, Amgen...weathered the most challenging economic environment in our 30-year history.
  • 2008 was a good year for Amgen...
  • 2007 was not the year we expected.
  • I am pleased to report that Amgen delivered excellent performance in 2006.

Tesco Announces Sale of Fresh & Easy Stores to Yucaipa Today

After signaling it was looking at "strategic options" for its money-losing Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain early this year, Tesco today announced that it is selling a substantial part of its Fresh & Easy operations, including its Riverside distribution and production facilities, to private equity holding company, Yucaipa Companies LLC.

Tesco indicated the sale is expected to be completed within three months. Yucaipa is purchasing over 150 of Fresh & Easy's 200 stores and is anticipated to retain over 4,000 employees. Currently Fresh & Easy employs over 5,000 people, including 1,300 at its Riverside facility.

On a positive note, this means that they are retaining over 75% of the stores...on a negative note, 25% Fresh & Easy's stores will be closed and 20% of its labor base will be on the job market soon.

WHICH STORES!!?? Yes, this is what everyone wants to know right now, as evidenced on Fresh & Easy's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/freshandeasy. Tesco and Fresh & Easy have not announced which stores will be closed yet but indicated that "those stores not included in the transaction wil be closed over the coming weeks."

So stay tuned, Fresh & Easy fans. There are 10 Fresh & Easy stores in Ventura County and directly adjacent areas.

Yucaipa has quite a track record in the grocery store chain arena, having acquired and/or sold Food 4 Less, Boys Markets, Alpha Beta, Smitty's, Ralphs and Dominick's grocery store chains in the past.

British Retailer Tesco Indicates it Will Be Selling Its Fresh & Easy Stores

On January 31, 2013, Fresh & Easy parent company Tesco said it was looking at "strategic options" for its money-losing U.S. based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores.

We all pretty much knew where that was going...when you have a business segment that is losing $250 million a year, there was little doubt that Tesco would be leaving the U.S. market.

But that does not mean...yet, at least...that Tesco is shutting down Fresh & Easy. In a posting on the Fresh & Easy website today, the store indicated "As many of you have heard or read today, our parent company Tesco updated on the future of Fresh & Easy.  While we don’t yet know who our new owner will ultimately be, Tesco has already received interest from a number of parties including groups looking to purchase Fresh & Easy as an operating business.  We appreciate all the support and love we’ve received from our loyal customers and even though our parent company plans to leave the US, we’re pleased to confirm there are no plans to close any portion of Fresh & Easy."

So what Tesco and Fresh & Easy indicated today is that 1) Tesco is indeed exiting the U.S. market; 2) there are a number of potentially interest parties who may acquire the Fresh & Easy chain; and 3) there are no current plans to "close any portion of Fresh & Easy."

As part of today's announcement, Tesco said it is treating Fresh & Easy as a "discontinued operation" and as such, has written down the value of Fresh & Easy assets and future anticipated liabilities on its books...to the tune of £1.2 billion...which is approximately $1.8 billion in U.S. dollars. OUCH. The $1.8 billion loss includes roughly $257 million in operating losses, with the remainder the write-down in assets and estimate future lease costs.

That's gotta hurt a bit. Tesco is a British company but its stock also trades on Nasdaq under symbol TESO, which was down 3.3% today, over double what the S&P 500 was down today.

In any case, best of luck to the Fresh & Easy chain in finding a buyer and figuring out a way to generate a profit. There are 10 Fresh & Easy stores in Ventura County and directly adjacent areas.

Lastly, I heard what I found to be quite an odd Fresh & Easy commercial on the radio this morning that is posted below. Very unusual, kind of surprising use of the shortened "f&easy" - a bit risque if ya ask me :)

Outdoor Shopping Center "The Collection at Riverpark" in Oxnard is Coming Right Along!

The Collection at Riverpark is an outdoor shopping center located on the northeast side of the 101 freeway in Oxnard, between the Oxnard and Vineyard exits. If you're driving the 101 freeway through Oxnard/Ventura, you can't miss it!

The Collection is still work in process but when completed, the 650,000 sq ft center will include a combination of entertainment, retail, restaurants, various services, open space with fountains, parks and playgrounds and quality art. Parking is available on the streets as well as several parking lots.

Businesses open at The Collection as of February 2013 include a nicely appointed Target store, Century Theaters and recent additions Panera Bread, Five Guys Burgers, Color Me Mine Pottery Studio, Kabuki Sushi and Massage Envy. A Menchie's Frozen Yogurt is coming soon.

Opening in Spring 2013 is the hotly awaited REI Store (March 22nd!), Whole Foods, Gen Korean BBQ, Famous Dave's BBQ, Gandolfo's Delicatessen, Bank of America and Starbucks. A 12,000 sq ft Yard House eatery has been proposed for the center.

More recently, Shea announced that later this year, a 25,000 sq ft H&M store, ROC/Republic of Couture, Charming Charlie, ULTA Beauty and Sleep Number are coming to The Collection.

Future home of Whole Foods Market at The Collection at Riverpark

The Collection also has 58,000 sq ft of office space, including current tenants Lawyer's Title and Escrow, occupying 8,000 sq ft. The center is currently about 40% leased but with buildout completed and major tenants in place as anticipated next spring, Shea Properties expects that percentage to grow quickly.

Layout of The Collection as of December 2012

There is unique public art placed throughout the center, including metal sculptures, ceramic tile murals, fountains and more. Shea Properties has spent around $1 million on art, bringing in seven artists for 18 individual art installations. Artists include Frank Bauer with his ceramic tile murals and benches and tile sidewalk medallions, an

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British Retailer Tesco Looking at "Strategic Options" For Fresh & Easy Stores

An update from Fresh & Easy on January 31, 2013 (excerpt from F&E email):

We wanted to reach out to you to address numerous news and online reports about the future of our stores. 

Our parent company Tesco is conducting a strategic review of Fresh & Easy - they're looking at all options to find the best outcome for the neighborhood market that you - and we - have come to love. While we don't know exactly what that outcome will be, or if Tesco will continue to own the company, we're confident that Fresh & Easy can continue to be your favorite market.

We want to assure you: we don't have plans to close stores. We're still committed to providing delicious, wholesome and affordable food every day. We're still Fresh & Easy; open for business with everything that you enjoy about our store, with even more exciting things to come. That's why we're going to keep on fighting the good food fight.

Originally posted December 8, 2012:

On December 5th, British grocery retailer Tesco announced it is conducting a "strategic review" of its Fresh & Easy stores and is likely to exit the U.S. market. Tesco plans to report on its progress in this review in April 2003.

Fresh & Easy currently operates 200 stores located in Arizona, California and Nevada, including local Ventura County and adjacent area stores in Newbury Park, Oak Park, Moorpark, Camarillo, Simi Valley, Oxnard (2 stores), Ventura (2 stores) and Santa Barbara.

Tesco decided to launch the brand new supermarket chain in the U.S. in 2006, when the economy was still on a roll, before the big recession slammed us. Tesc

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