Bloomberg Línea — As the main corporate crisis in Brazilian retail in 2023, Americanas assessed the setback of its physical operation since its bankruptcy protection on January 19th, after revealing a fraud of around R$20 billion ($3.9 billion) in its accounting.
The retailer reported the closure of 88 stores between January and August, ending that period with 1,794 units. The downsizing continued in September, with the discontinuation of nine more points of sale until September 17th. In total, 97 units have been closed since the beginning of the year.
The reduction in its physical operation is documented in the monthly report on the judicial recovery, sent to the CVM (Comissão de Valores Mobiliários) on this Sunday, which indicated a reduction of 6.3 million active customers in the first eight months of the year.
In August, when it closed 25 points of sale, the number of customers totaled 42.8 million, down from 49.1 million at the end of December. In January, Americanas had 48.2 million customers and 1,880 stores.
The company does not disclose the names of the closed units or their total count. On August 23rd, Bloomberg Línea requested comment on the end of operations of Imaginarium, a store specializing in geek and retro decoration items owned by the group, in three shopping centers in São Paulo (Jardim Pamplona, SP Market, and Morumbi Town). The report confirmed the closure of the stores at these locations.
A month later, last Friday (29th), the company had still not officially confirmed the information. The weekly report indicated that between August 21st and 27th, the group discontinued five points of sale without disclosing the brand names.
For example, the Imaginarium store on the ground floor of Jardim Pamplona Shopping closed its doors on the night of the 22nd. The unit was located next to Puket, a children’s pajama store, another brand that Americanas put up for sale after the judicial recovery, along with Imaginarium, to raise funds and help pay creditors.
Assets for Sale Founded in 1991, Imaginarium once had 220 exclusive stores, over 600 licensed store points, e-commerce, a marketplace, and an international office.
In 2021, the brand partnered with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, resulting in a collaboration to sell exclusive products for Harry Potter fans.
Imaginarium is part of Uni.co Group, a specialized retail franchise platform, which also includes Puket, Casa MinD, and Love Brands, and became part of Americanas in 2021.
In March, when it announced the first restructuring plan, Americanas stated that it could sell assets to raise money and pay part of its debt to creditors. In May, it detailed hiring Citibank to seek potential buyers for assets such as Uni.co Group and Natural da Terra, a horticultural network.
A source familiar with the process told Bloomberg Línea that the challenging moment in Brazilian retail, with squeezed margins due to inflation and high interest rates discourages other players from making attractive offers for assets that do not have a unique differentiator justifying competitive proposals. In other words, no one would be willing to pay a high price for brands like Imaginarium and Puket operating in segments already saturated with small retailers.
Employee Layoffs The reduction in physical structure has resulted in payroll cuts. As of September 17th, Americanas had 34,369 employees under CLT (signed work contracts). This represents a 20.3% reduction in the workforce since January when it claimed to have 43,123 employees.
The report released this Sunday shows that many employees have asked to leave the company, which is still seeking to reach an agreement with its creditors. In the week between September 11th and 17th, 169 employees resigned, an increase from the previous week (140).
Disclosure of Americanas’ Financial Statements The retailer has been postponing the release of its quarterly financial reports until it reaches an agreement with the country’s major banks. Only after this step can the company convene a creditors’ assembly to vote on its recovery plan and begin to turn the page on the crisis.
Since there was accounting fraud and recognition of unpaid debt to suppliers and financial institutions, the previous balance sheets must be corrected.
The schedule provided in the new report indicates that the next financial result for 2022 will be released on October 30th. The balance sheets for the first, second, and third quarters of last year are scheduled to be released on December 29th.
Last Friday (29th), the company’s shares closed sharply up by 21.79% on B3, with investors encouraged by the temporary legal truce between the group and Bradesco (BBDC4) regarding the discussion of guarantees in the judicial recovery process, as well as the conclusion of the parliamentary inquiry created in Congress to investigate the case, which ended without pointing out possible culprits.
At the beginning of the year, the major CEOs of the banking market expected an agreement on the receivables by the end of the first semester, but other non-financial creditors and debenture holders continued to raise questions, and the bank executives avoided providing new forecasts for the end of the saga.
The double-digit appreciation in the stock price represented a partial recovery following a series of significant declines due to investor risk aversion to the retail sector and the legal impasse between the retailer and its creditors. For the year, Americanas’ shares have accumulated a 90% decline.