RE the rent situation on 47th Street: though the Co-Op owes $90,000 per month to Certified on that space, it is not clear whether the Co-Op has been able to keep up on those payments, or some portion thereof. And, if there is back-rent due, where is it sitting on the balance sheet? I've noted that there is $960,000 lumped into "other current liabilities" as of the end of FY 2006. Maybe this contains some of the back rent that the Co-Op hasn't been able to pay. However, I doubt the FY 2006 numbers have captured an accurate picture of how much the Co-Op owes its landlords based on President Poueymirou's comments at the annual meeting. He pointed out that the Co-Op's main creditors in that year were vendors (which likely includes Certified). In FY 2007, he contends the mix of creditors has changed (even though the absolute level of debt hasn't shifted materially) such that half is owed to vendors and the other half is owed to landlords (Certified and the University?).
Then, there is the on-going lease commitment on 47th Street that the Co-Op is locked into through FY 2023. That's another 16 years of $1 million in annual rent. There is absolutely no evidence of this liability on the balance sheet because the financial statements only require the Co-Op to recognize a single year's rent expense in each fiscal year.
Yes, it does seem to me that there's a viable business in the 55th Street store. But, whether the new general manager can revive that business and churn out enough profits to satisfy the Co-Op's creditors in a timely manner remains to be seen. In situations of financial distress, time is really the name of the game. The entity will try to bargain for enough time to shed the sink holes and polish up the remaining healthy businesses.
Based on Treasurer Lowenthal's financial report at the annual meeting, it looks like even the 55th Street store has trailed industry benchmarks for the last few years. For example, revenue growth from that store has essentially been flat from FY 2003 through FY 2007. (This was shown in bar chart form, so I don't have actual figures yet).
Just for perspective, supermarket sales typically grow in line with GDP -- unless there have been some changes in the local trading area, like an increase in population. So, we would expect the Co-Op's sales to grow about 2% a year, and we'd throw in another 1% in food inflation (though we expect food inflation to be higher this calendar year thanks to higher feed prices and a worldwide surge in demand for dairy). So, in the absence of any big change in population or nearby competitors, we should be seeing the 55th Street store rack up sales growth in the neighborhood of 3% annually. At the very least, I would have expected to see some modest bump in 55th Street sales in FY 2005 when the 47th Street store closed and shoppers would have shifted to the original location.
We've heard from Neo, the Peapod Guy, that Peapod's business in Hyde Park has increased significantly. So, I would surmise that Peapod is grabbing more share of the Hyde Park stomach.
Elizabeth raises some really good questions about why Certified would put up with this situation or why it hasn't forced the Co-Op into bankruptcy. From what I can tell, there are a lot of intertwining relationships between the two entities. The Co-Op owns some of Certified's common stock, but it also owes Certified over $1 million in notes payable (long-term debt) at the end of FY 2005. Please keep in mind that this LT debt is separate from the $1 million in annual rent the Co-Op owes Certified on 47th Street.
It is sort of a neat little cycle: The Co-Op sells Certified's products, and then sends most of its profits back to Certified in the form of rent, repayment on debt, and payment for inventory.
Certified may have come to the conclusion that it is better off working out some sort of more lenient repayment plan with the Co-Op, than kicking it to the ground.
Then there is also a brothers-in-arms dynamic because Certified itself is a co-operative organization (which is why the Co-Op owns shares). Certified may be willing to cut the Co-Op some more slack in the name of solidarity, even if it takes longer to receive payment.
If it makes people feel any better, I'm lost with the Co-Op's murky financials. And I pick apart financial statements to diagnose companies for a living. This is some of the worst disclosure I've ever run across. The Co-Op is not a privately-held entity where financial conditions can be kept quiet -- it is accountable to its 22,000 members who have an ownership stake in the business.