July 2, a week from today, will mark the midway point of 2014. There will be exactly 183 days behind us and 182 more to go.
So, what has characterized the year so far? I think, undoubtedly, it has been a tale of companies joining forces in an increasingly competitive retail environment.
Let’s start by looking at some activity that began late last year.
In October, Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns Lord & Taylor along with a couple of Canadian chains, won shareholder approval for its purchase of Saks Inc. (Around this same time, another high-end department store chain, Neiman Marcus, also changed hands but it was not to merge with another retailer. The chain was sold to a different private equity firm.)
Then New Year’s Eve, and Day, came and went. I learned yet another valuable lesson about drinking too much champagne, a lesson I apparently enjoy relearning every couple of years.
January passed quietly. A few weeks into February, however, news broke that Signet Jewelers Ltd. planned to acquire Zale Corp. in a $1.4 billion deal. It was, as I later observed, the culmination of consolidation in the jewelry industry. These are the two biggest jewelry retailers in the United States, and their union will create a chain of more than 3,600 stores in three countries.