BJ’s Wholesale Club is in the spotlight, with a news report claiming that the Westborough, Mass.-based company might be up for sale, and that Amazon may be a bidder.
The question for retail industry insiders is: What would attract an industry disrupter like Seattle-based Amazon to a company that is ranked third among wholesale clubs, operates brick-and-mortar stores concentrated in the Northeast and has not been able to fully leverage the advantages of the wholesale club sector?
“I would be really surprised should that transaction occur,” says Jan Kniffen, CEO of J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises, an equity research and financial and management consulting
firm specializing in retail. He adds that BJ’s Wholesale Club did not go public because of concerns that it would not have been able to achieve a strong multiple as a public company.
On the surface, Amazon does not have anything meaningful in common with BJ’s Wholesale Club—or any other wholesale club operator—to support an acquisition. BJ’s Wholesale operates out of massive warehouse spaces easily spanning 100,000 sq. ft. It is not a traditional retailer, but it still depends on brick-and-mortar spaces to connect with customers, unlike Amazon.
Despite initial surprise about the report, however, Amazon has more in common with its brick-and-mortar competitors these days, and has adapted several operational tactics that draw similarities to that of Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco, and Sam’s Club of Walmart, headquartered in Bentonville, Ark.
Much of Amazon’s business is now driven by its membership service Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on 50 million items. It has that aspect of its operations in common with wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club. For its part, Sam’s Club…