Highlighting improvements in its specialty food offering made under five years of private ownership—and seeking to pay down heavy debts incurred while doing so—The Fresh Market filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 16.
This is not the first IPO rodeo for the Greensboro, N.C.-based, Apollo-backed grocer, which operates 159 stores in 22 states. It was publicly traded from 2010 to 2016, at which point it went private by Apollo Global Management, along with an investment from its founder, Ray Berry, and his family.
The initial SEC filing seeks to raise up to $100 million, but industry analysts estimate the deal could raise up to $250 million. The company intends to be listed on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol “TFM.”
Seeking to provide a more intimate, personalized shopping experience with exceptional service, The Fresh Market describes itself as the destination for those looking to discover “the best,” including convenient, restaurant-quality meals, hand-picked produce, premium baked goods, fresh-cut flowers, custom-cut meats and carefully curated offerings for holidays and special occasions, the company said.
“This is a rare and powerful combination, which has worked since inception, and we believe, as shown by our results in fiscal 2020 and our results for fiscal 2021 to date, positions us well for strong performance,” said The Fresh Market President and CEO Jason Potter in the S-1 registration statement filing with the SEC.
The Fresh Market’s 2020 sales totaled $8.9 billion, with net earnings of $26.9 million. In the first quarter of fiscal 2021, comparable store sales growth was 7.3% (compared to 12.9% in the first quarter of fiscal 2020).
In the filing, Potter also addresses The Fresh Market’s strategy once returning to a private company in 2016, and it’s clear the grocer has been eying an IPO comeback for some time.
“Since that time, we have implemented several key strategic initiatives designed to overcome challenges we faced at and after this going private transaction,” said Potter. “These initiatives included a merchandising refocus on our core premium fresh food; introduction of new curated meal offerings; competitive prices on frequently shopped items such as bananas, avocados, milk, lemons and butter; improved in-store execution; and investments in omnichannel capabilities and technology.”
The company said it pursued these initiatives with the goal of The Fresh Market becoming shoppers’ first choice across three trips, including fresh food, food for special occasions, and curated meal offerings for the home.
“The cornerstone of our strategy to gain share in these eating occasions is to serve our guests the best tasting food the world has to offer, with a culture of service and excellence that our dedicated team members uphold,” he explained. “Our core product offering of high-quality fresh food, hard-to-find ingredients and specialty foods, local items and curated meal offerings is resonating with our guests, both old and new. We believe The Fresh Market is positioned to capture the secular trend of consumer preference for higher quality, fresh food.”
The Fresh Market believes a return to the public markets would also allow “significant flexibility in funding [its] strategy,” including the ability to pay down the company’s debt, which totaled $934 million as of Jan. 31.
“While our recent performance is partly attributable to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe the initiatives noted above, as well as broader changes in the food-at-home and food-away-from-home markets, also contributed significantly and will continue to spur our performance,” Potter added.
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