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New Seasons Market LLC, which operates 26 stores under the New Seasons and New Leaf banners primarily in the Portland, Oregon, market but also in San Francisco and Seattle, said yesterday that it is being sold to Good Food Holdings, a subsidiary of Emart, which is part of The Shinsegae Group of South Korea.

Good Food Holdings was owned by Endeavour, which sold it to Emart less than a year ago; that sale brought Seattle's Metropolitan Market and Southern California's Bristol Farms/Lazy Acres under Emart ownership. New Seasons also was majority owned by Endeavour, but in a different fund.

Emart is a large hypermarket retail company in South Korea with about 200 stores; The Shinsegae Group is one of the leading global retailers, headquartered in Seoul.

“This partnership with Good Food Holdings ensures our longevity as a community cornerstone — one that continues to nourish our neighbors and staff, inspire environmental stewardship and champion the local food economy, as we have done since 2000,” said New Season and New Leaf CEO Forrest Hoffmaster.

The Seattle Times writes that the deal gives "E-mart a chain of stores focusing on affluent shoppers in cities and suburbs from San Diego to Seattle."

The Puget Sound Business Journal writes that the New Seasons Market on Mercer Island will be sold to Metropolitan Market , which will convert it to its own banner next year. A Ballard, Washington, store opened by New Seasons will be closed, and plans for a central Seattle store are being terminated.
“For nearly five decades, Metropolitan Market has proudly served as Seattle’s premier grocer and we look forward to partnering with the Mercer Island team and community to continue our food-forward approach,” said Ron Megahan, Metropolitan Market CEO.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Scott Moses of PJ SOLOMON is serving as exclusive financial advisor to New Seasons Market LLC on the transaction, which is expected to close next year.
KC's View:
I'm very happy for New Seasons, which, I think it is fair to say, has been in something of a holding pattern over the past few years. It was like they were waiting for Godot … except that they were just waiting for someone to come along to buy the company.

This may be the new reality for the majority of such companies. To remain financially viable … to offer value while remaining true to their values … to be able to invest in technology and innovation … to be able to attract and retain quality employees … to be able to compete effectively for the best sites … many such companies are going to have to seek out safe havens in the arms of much bigger companies. It may feel counter-intuitive … selling to a big company so they can remain independent in the ways that matter to their customers … but they may not have much of a choice,

This strikes me as a very promising arrangement for New Seasons - Emart has very deep pockets, and this will allow New Seasons to make necessary investments in stores and infrastructure that will make it more competitive. I love New Seasons, but I think the company can use ownership with a growth mindset.

I'm also thrilled for Kevin Davis, who has been at the helm of Bristol Farms for almost a quarter-century, and now also serves as a special advisor the Good Food Holdings board, responsible for its growth and acquisition strategy. First of all, Kevin is just a great guy. But I also vividly remember him telling me more than a decade ago that his dream was to create a coalition of independent grocery retailers that could learn from each other, take advantage of synergies where possible, and be independent and focused on community where appropriate. It was, he told me all those years ago, in his mind the best way for such retailers to survive in a highly competitive marketplace.

Kevin got that right … and it sounds like Good Food Holdings is making that vision a reality.

One other thing.

As noted above, my friend Scott Moses advised New Seasons in this deal, and it is worth sharing some of what Scott wrote yesterday about the move:

"New Seasons and New Leaf together operate 26 stores, mainly in the Portland and San Francisco Bay markets. The world’s first two grocers to earn B Corporation certifications, both brands are embedded in their communities, providing a progressive workplace, exceptional customer service and the highest-quality local food.  Additionally, both New Seasons and New Leaf are committed to supporting the regional food economy and give 10 percent of after-tax profit back to the local community to help solve social and economic problems."

Community is extremely important to Scott. Sure, he's an investment banker and this is what he does. But Scott also is a guy who feels the pain of independent grocers very deeply, wants to help companies find ways to survive and thrive even in the most dire circumstances, and is highly focused on a phrase he uses as his business mantra: "Advising the Families Who Feed America’s Families." He takes seriously the notion of helping threatened companies find ways to create value while remaining true to their values, and I really respect that.

I'd like to think that this is a good deal for pretty much everybody involved … and a harbinger of good things to come.