While many bricks-and-mortar retailers have struggled financially in recent years, one chain has filed the paperwork for an initial public offering it hopes to make in 2018. The Hudson Group, currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of the U.K.-based Dufry Group, filed a prospectus earlier this month with the Securities and Exchange Commission as part of Dufry’s strategy to get its North American business listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Hudson is the operator of stores in travel locations in both the U.S. and Canada; according to the SEC filing, it has 989 outlets. Total sales in 2016 were $1.69 billion, an increase of 20% from 2015, and net earnings jumped 172%, to $49.8 million. Growth has continued in 2017, with earnings 54% higher and sales 6% higher in the first nine months of 2017 than in the same period last year.
One of Hudson’s best-known brands is Hudson Booksellers, and, according to the prospectus, sales of literature and publications generated revenue of $192.5 million in 2016, up from $187.2 million in 2015. Although Hudson’s sales of literature rose 3% last year from 2015, it accounted for only 12% of revenue in 2016, down from 14% the prior year.
Hudson’s largest product category is beverages, confectionery, and food, which generated $572.3 million in sales last year, about 35% of total revenue. Perfumes and cosmetics was the second-largest segment, with sales of $226.3 million, representing about 14% of all revenue.
Part of Hudson’s sales increase was due to same-store sales growth: same-store sales were 3.9% higher in 2016 than in 2015, and were up 4.6% in the first nine months of 2017. In comparison, same-store sales at Barnes Noble fell 6.3% in fiscal 2017 from fiscal 2016.
One advantage Hudson has over traditional retailers is that foot traffic continues to increase. Ninety-five percent of Hudson’s revenue comes from its airport stores, and the company noted that the number of airline passengers increased at a compound annual growth rate of 3% between 2010 and 2016, and that it expected passenger numbers to rise at the same rate between 2017 and 2025.
Another favorable trend, at least from Hudson’s perspective, is an increase in passenger “dwell times” in terminals, which now average between 66 and 75 minutes, giving passengers ample opportunity to shop at its stores. To take advantage of the time passengers wait in terminals, Hudson said it is continually refining its marketing and merchandising, as well as adding technical upgrades that include mobile preordering applications and self-checkout capabilities.
Another growth initiative has been adding more stores. Between December 2014 and December 2016, Hudson’s store count rose from 733 to 948, due in part to acquisitions. The company said it will continue to seek out more acquisitions, and will also look to expand by moving into more nonairport locations—it opened six stores at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino in Las Vegas in June—and broadening its food and beverage offerings.
Hudson Net Sales by Product Category
Hudson Net Sales by Channel