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Essential food logistics

Blair Welch, co-founding partner of Slate Asset Management, was recently interviewed by Don Wilcox of RENX about the company’s recent acquisition of the Commercial Real Estate Business of New York-based Annaly Capital Management. As part of the deal, we also acquired $0.4 billion of grocery-anchored real estate assets across the US. These were purchased by Slate Grocery REIT (TSX: SGR.UN). What some of you maybe don’t know, though, is how we as a company view these kinds of assets as being essential food infrastructure, more so than as being retail assets. So here are a few excerpts from the article and quotes from Blair that explain why, in our view, this distinction matters.

“We started buying grocery-anchored real estate in a big way in the financial crisis and I think we always looked at grocery-anchored real estate as food logistics, rather than a retail play,” Welch explained. “In the pandemic it’s really proven the local food store, or the spoke in the hub, is just as valuable as the hub itself.”

Despite an increase in online grocery shopping (to about 10 per cent in the U.S.), people are still going to the stores. Or, at least, (are) getting their products from the local stores. Again, think “food logistics.”

“That (10 per cent bought online) means 90 per cent is done in store,” Welch observed. “Now, here’s the interesting thing. Over 90 per cent – probably closer to 95 per cent – of the online sales are done at the local store.

“So what we are saying is over 99 per cent of all the sales are done at the local stores, whether it is click and collect, or someone delivers. You are not changing the distribution pattern.”

Here are a few more words and a comparison to what Amazon is and has been doing when it comes to food logistics:

“If I’m Kroger or Walmart if I have to pay $10 (per square foot) for my warehouse what’s the difference if I’m paying $10 for my store? It’s the same cost, they just look at it as a distribution cost,” he said.

However, those stores are in the middle of most neighbourhoods. Exactly where Amazon wants to be.

“I think Amazon is an amazing company. I think their acquisition of Whole Foods and others is actually to get closer to the consumer. And the Whole Foods (acquisition) was just under 400 grocery stores in a market of 35,000 stores.

“If I am Walmart with 5,000 stores or Kroger with about the same under different banners, that infrastructure is extremely valuable.”

Slate will soon own more of it.

For the full article, click here.


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