SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
|☒||ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
For the fiscal year ended December 26, 2020
|☐||TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
|For the transition period from to |
Commission File Number: 001-35588
FRANCHISE GROUP, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
|(State or other jurisdiction of|
incorporation or organization)
2387 Liberty Way
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant's telephone number, including area code: (757) 493-8855
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol(s)||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share||FRG||NASDAQ Global Market|
|7.50% Series A Cumulative Preferred Stock, par value $0.01 per share and liquidation preference of $25.00 per share||FRGAP||NASDAQ Global Market|
Securities to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes o No ý
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15 (d) of the Act. Yes o No ý
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ý No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ý No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," "smaller reporting company," and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer ||☐||Accelerated filer||☒||Non-accelerated filer ||☐||Smaller reporting company||☒|
Emerging growth company ☐
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). YES ☐ No ý
The aggregate market value of the shares of common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant computed based on the last reported sale price of $22.91 on June 27, 2020 was $278,870,280.
The number of shares of the registrant's common stock outstanding as of March 4, 2021 was 40,094,915.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement for the 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III hereof.
Table of Contents
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 26, 2020 (this "Annual Report") contains forward-looking statements concerning our business, operations, and financial performance and condition as well as our plans, objectives, and expectations for our business operations and financial performance and condition. Any statements contained herein that are not of historical facts may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. You can identify these statements by words such as "aim," "anticipate," "assume," "believe," "could," "due," "estimate," "expect," "goal," "intend," "may," "objective," "plan," "predict," "potential," "positioned," "should," "target," "will," "would," and other similar expressions that are predictions of or indicate future events and future trends. These forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts, and projections about our business and the industry in which we operate and our management's beliefs and assumptions. They are not guarantees of future performance or development and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that are in some cases beyond our control. Additionally, other factors may cause actual results to differ materially from historical results or from any results expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Factors that may cause such differences include, but are not limited to, the risks described under "Item 1A-Risk Factors," including:
•the uncertainty of the future impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health measures on our business and results of operations, including uncertainties surrounding the physical and financial health of our customers, the ability of government assistance programs available to individuals, households and businesses to support consumer spending, levels of foot traffic in our stores, changes in customer demand for our products and services, possible disruptions in our supply chain or sources of supply, potential future temporary store closures due to government mandates and whether we will have the governmental approvals, personnel and sources of supply to be able to keep our stores open;
•our plans and expectations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased expenses for potential higher wages and bonuses paid to associates and the cost of personal protective equipment and additional cleaning supplies and protocols for the safety of our associates, and expected delays in new store openings and cost reduction initiatives (including the Company’s ability to effectively obtain lease concessions with landlords);
•the effect of steps the Company takes in response to COVID-19, the severity and duration of the pandemic, new variants of COVID-19 that have emerged, and the speed and efficacy of vaccine and treatment developments, the pace of recovery when the pandemic subsides and the heightened impact it has on many of the risks described herein and in our other filings with the SEC;
•potential regulatory actions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic;
•the impact of COVID-19 and the related government mitigation efforts on our business and our financial results;
•the possibility that any of the anticipated benefits of the Buddy’s Acquisition, Sears Outlet Acquisition, Vitamin Shoppe Acquisition, American Freight Acquisition, FFO Acquisition or PSP Acquisition (as all such terms are defined below) will not be realized or will not be realized within the expected time period, the businesses of the Company and the Buddy’s segment, the Vitamin Shoppe segment or American Freight segment may not be integrated successfully or such integration may be more difficult, time-consuming or costly than expected, revenues following the Buddy’s Acquisition, Sears Outlet Acquisition, Vitamin Shoppe Acquisition or American Freight Acquisition may be lower than expected or completing the PSP Acquisition on the expected timeframe may be more difficult, time-consuming or costly than expected;
•our inability to grow on a sustainable basis;
•changes in operating costs, including employee compensation and benefits;
•the seasonality of certain of the Company's business segments;
•departures of key executives or directors;
•our ability to attract additional talent to our senior management team;
•our ability to maintain an active trading market for our common stock on The Nasdaq Global Market (“Nasdaq”)
•our inability to secure reliable sources of the tax settlement products we make available to our customers;
•government regulation and oversight over our products and services;
•our ability to comply with the terms of our settlement with the Department of Justice (the "DOJ") and the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS");
•government initiatives that simplify tax return preparation, improve the timing and efficiency of processing tax returns, limit payments to tax preparers, or decrease the number of tax returns filed or the size of the refunds;
•government initiatives to prepopulate income tax returns;
•the effect of regulation of the products and services that we offer, including changes in laws and regulations and the costs and administrative burdens associated with complying with such laws and regulations;
•the possible characterization of refund transfers as a form of loan or extension of credit;
•changes in the tax settlement products offered to our customers that make our services less attractive to customers or more costly to us;
•our ability to maintain relationships with our third-party product and service providers;
•our ability to offer merchandise and services that our customers demand;
•our ability to successfully manage our inventory levels and implement initiatives to improve inventory management and other capabilities;
•competitive conditions in the retail industry and tax preparation market;
•the performance of our products within the prevailing retail industry;
•worldwide economic conditions and business uncertainty, the availability of consumer and commercial credit, change in consumer confidence, tastes, preferences and spending, and changes in vendor relationships;
•the risk that natural disasters, public health crises, political uprisings, uncertainty or unrest, or other catastrophic events could adversely affect our operations and financial results, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on manufacturing operations and our supply chain, customer traffic and our operations in general;
•disruption of manufacturing, warehouse or distribution facilities or information systems;
•the continued reduction of our competitors promotional pricing on new-in-box appliances, potentially adversely impacting our sales of out-of-box appliances and associated margin;
•any potential non-compliance, fraud or other misconduct by our franchisees or employees;
•our ability and the ability of our franchisees to comply with legal and regulatory requirements;
•failures by our franchisees and their employees to comply with their contractual obligations to us and with laws and regulations, to the extent these failures affect our reputation or subject us to legal risk;
•the ability of our franchisees to open new territories and operate them successfully;
•the availability of suitable store locations at appropriate lease terms;
•the ability of our franchisees to generate sufficient revenue to repay their indebtedness to us;
•our ability to manage Company-owned offices;
•our exposure to litigation and any governmental investigations;
•our ability and our franchisees' ability to protect customers' personal information, including from a cyber-security incident;
•the impact of identity-theft concerns on customer attitudes toward our services;
•our ability to access the credit markets and satisfy our covenants to lenders;
•challenges in deploying accurate tax software in a timely way each tax season;
•delays in the commencement of the tax season attributable to Congressional action affecting tax matters and the resulting inability of federal and state tax agencies to accept tax returns on a timely basis or other changes that have the effect of delaying the tax refund cycle;
•the effect of federal and state legislation that affects the demand for paid tax preparation, such as the Affordable Care Act and potential immigration reform;
•our reliance on technology systems and electronic communications;
•our ability to effectively deploy software in a timely manner and with all the features our customers require;
•the impact of any acquisitions or dispositions, including our ability to integrate acquisitions and capitalize on their anticipated synergies; and
•other factors, including the risk factors discussed in this Annual Report.
Potential investors and other readers are urged to consider these factors carefully in evaluating the forward-looking statements and are cautioned not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this Annual Report. Unless required by law, we do not intend to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect new information or future events or otherwise. A potential investor or other vendor should, however, review the factors and risks we describe in the reports we will file from time to time with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") after the date of this Annual Report.
Item 1. Business.
We are an owner and operator of franchised and franchisable businesses that continually looks to grow our portfolio of brands while utilizing our operating and capital allocation philosophies to generate strong cash flows. We have a diversified and growing portfolio of highly recognized brands that compete in the U.S. and Canada. Our asset-light business model is designed to generate consistent, recurring revenue and strong operating margins and requires limited maintenance capital expenditures. As a multi-brand operator, we continually look to diversify and grow our portfolio of brands either through acquisition or organic brand development. Our acquisition strategy typically targets businesses that are highly cash flow generative with compelling unit economics that can be scaled by adding franchise and company owned units, or that can be restructured to enhance performance and value to Franchise Group. We strive to create value for our stockholders by generating free cash flow and capital-efficient growth across economic cycles.
Our business lines include American Freight, The Vitamin Shoppe ("Vitamin Shoppe"), Liberty Tax Service ("Liberty Tax"), and Buddy’s Home Furnishings ("Buddy's"). As of the year ended December 26, 2020, on a combined basis, we operated 4,023 locations predominantly located in the U.S. and Canada, consisting of 2,743 franchised locations and 1,280 company run locations. Each of our companies has its own management team with significant experience in its respective industry. Additionally, we offer each of our brands a shared services platform that allows us to drive economies of scale and efficiencies. We believe our platform enables our portfolio of brands to be stronger together than they are apart.
We believe our financial performance and business model have been resilient across economic cycles and recently during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, our franchised business model is designed to generate consistent, recurring revenue and predictable free cash flow in order to insulate us from the operating cost variability of our franchised locations. The operating costs of franchised locations are borne by the franchisees themselves.
We believe our success is driven in large part by our mutually beneficial relationships with our individual franchisees. Our franchise programs are designed to promote consistency and we are selective in granting franchises. We are focused on partnering with franchisees who have the commitment, capability and capitalization to grow our brands. Franchisees can range in size from individuals owning just one location to publicly-traded companies.
While the specific terms of our franchise agreements vary between brands, we utilize both store-level franchise and master franchise programs. Under both types of franchise programs, franchisees supply capital by purchasing or leasing the land, building, equipment, signs, inventory and supplies. Store-level franchise agreements typically require payment to us of certain upfront fees such as initial fees paid upon opening a store, fees paid to renew the term of the franchise agreement and fees paid in the event the franchise agreement is transferred to another franchisee. Franchisees also pay monthly continuing fees based on a percentage of their store sales and are required to spend a certain amount to advertise and promote the brand. Under master franchise arrangements, we enter into agreements that allow master franchisees to operate stores as well as sub-franchise stores within certain geographic territories. Master franchisees are typically responsible for overseeing development within their territories and performing certain other administrative duties with regard to the oversight of sub-franchisees. In exchange, master franchisees retain a certain percentage of fees payable by the sub-franchisees under their franchise agreements and typically pay lower fees for the stores they operate.
We seek to maintain healthy relationships with our franchisees and their representatives. We invest a significant amount of time working with the franchisee community on key aspects of the business, including products, equipment, operational improvements, standards and management techniques.
Our Vitamin Shoppe segment is an omni-channel specialty retailer of vitamins, minerals, herbs, specialty supplements, sports nutrition and other health and wellness products. We market approximately 700 nationally recognized brands as well as our own brands, which include The Vitamin Shoppe®, BodyTech®, True Athlete®, plnt®, ProBioCare®, Fitfactor Weight Management System® and Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe®. We believe we offer one of the largest varieties of products among vitamin, mineral and supplement retailers, and we continue to refine our assortment with approximately 6,800 stock keeping units ("SKUs") offered in our typical store and approximately 7,200 additional SKUs available through e-commerce. Our broad product offering enables us to provide our customers with a depth of selection of products that may not be readily available at other specialty retailers or mass merchants, such as discount stores, supermarkets, drug stores and wholesale clubs. We believe our product offering and emphasis on product knowledge and customer service helps us meet the needs of our target customer and serves as a foundation for enhancing strong customer loyalty. We continue to focus on improving the customer experience through the roll-out of initiatives including increasing customer engagement and personalization, redesigning the omni-channel experience (including in stores as well as through the internet and mobile devices), growing our private brands and improving
the effectiveness of pricing and promotions. At December 26, 2020, Vitamin Shoppe operated 719 stores in the U.S. under The Vitamin Shoppe and Super Supplements banners and is headquartered in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Our American Freight segment is a retail chain offering in-store and online access to furniture, mattresses, new and out-of-box home appliances and home accessories at discount prices. American Freight buys direct from manufacturers and sells direct in warehouse-style stores. By cutting out the middleman and keeping its overhead costs low, American Freight can offer quality products at low prices. American Freight provides customers with multiple payment options providing access to high-quality products and brand name appliances that may otherwise remain aspirational to some of its customers.
American Freight also serves as a liquidation channel for major appliance vendors. American Freight operates specialty distribution centers that test every out-of-carton appliance before it is offered for sale to customers. Customers typically are covered by the original manufacturer's warranty and are offered the opportunity to purchase a full suite of extended-service plans and services. At December 26, 2020, American Freight operated 318 stores in 40 states and Puerto Rico, of which 6 locations are operated by franchisees. American Freight is headquartered in Delaware, Ohio.
Our Liberty Tax segment is one of the leading providers of tax preparation services in the United States and Canada. Our tax preparation services and related tax settlement products are offered through approximately 2,490 franchised locations and approximately 204 Company-owned offices. The majority of our offices are operated under the Liberty Tax Service brand. We also provide an online digital Do-It-Yourself tax program in the U.S. In addition to tax preparation services, we offer related financial products to our tax customers. The services and products are designed to provide streamlined tax preparation services for taxpayers who, for reasons of complexity, convenience, or the need for prompt tax refunds, seek assisted tax preparation services.
Liberty Tax expends considerable effort to ensure that our franchisees are able to offer a complete range of tax settlement products to our customers, and to provide our customers choices in these products. We offer these products because we believe that a substantial portion of our prospective customers place significant value on the ability to monetize their expected income tax refund quicker than filing their tax return without utilizing the services of a paid tax preparer. We offer two types of tax settlement products - refund transfer products and refund-based loans to fulfill this customer need. The percentage of our customers in our U.S. offices receiving our refund transfer products was 46% for the 2020 tax season. During the 2020 tax season, we and our franchisees accounted for 1.6 million tax returns filed through our retail offices, and 0.1 million through our online tax programs.
Our Buddy's segment is a specialty retailer of high quality, name brand consumer electronic, residential furniture, appliances and household accessories through rent-to-own agreements. The rental transaction allows our customers the opportunity to benefit from the use of high-quality products under flexible rental purchase agreements without long-term obligations. At December 26, 2020, Buddy’s operated 292 locations in the United States and Guam, of which 247 locations are operated by franchisees. Buddy's is headquartered in Orlando, Florida.
Each of our brands competes in the U.S. with many well-established companies on the basis of product choice, quality, affordability, service and location. Vitamin Shoppe competes in the highly competitive U.S. nutritional supplements retail industry. Competition is based primarily on quality, product assortment, price, customer service, convenience, marketing support and availability of new products. American Freight primarily competes with discount retailers of furniture and mattresses and with big box retailers and locally-owned appliance retailers that sell new-in-box and liquidations of their out-of-box or as-is appliances. Liberty Tax competes with tens of thousands of paid tax return preparers, including national, regional and local tax return preparation companies, regional and national accounting firms, financial service institutions that prepare tax returns as part of their businesses and online preparation services. Buddy’s competes with other national, regional and local rent-to-own businesses, including online only competitors, as well as with rental stores that do not offer their customers a purchase option.
Our strategy is to focus on the operation and acquisition of franchise and franchisable businesses. We strive to assemble a mix of businesses that we believe provide us balance and overall economic resiliency, while also benefiting from the scale of a single franchising platform.
As a multi-brand operator, we continually look to diversify and grow our portfolio of brands either through acquisition or organic brand development. Our acquisition strategy typically targets businesses that are highly cash flow generative with compelling unit economics that can be scaled by adding franchise and company owned units, or that can be restructured to enhance performance and value to Franchise Group.
We have established a corporate platform that enables us to deploy capital to acquire assets that may have few natural buyers but become more valuable as part of our Company. Across all businesses, we look to create operating efficiencies in order to drive incremental free cash flow while allowing the management teams of each brand to focus on growing their businesses. Furthermore, our aggregated platform of multiple brands and increased scale provides cost of capital advantages relative to financing each business alone.
We believe our portfolio of brands will allow us to offer franchisees a variety of platforms that will allow them to diversify their investment portfolio in a local area, optimize their geographic penetration and grow their businesses. We believe our investors will benefit from sustainable franchise royalties and opportunistic franchise sales. Furthermore, we expect our refranchising strategy to create significant cash inflows to opportunistically de-lever and acquire additional brands.
On December 27, 2020, we completed the acquisition of Furniture Factory Ultimate Holding, L.P. (“FFO”), a regional retailer of furniture and mattresses, for an all cash purchase price of $13.8 million (the "FFO Acquisition"). In connection with the FFO Acquisition, we acquired 31 operating locations which we intend to rebrand to our American Freight brand during the first quarter of 2021.
On January 15, 2021, we completed a public offering of approximately 3.3 million shares of our 7.50% Series A Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, par value $0.01 per share and liquidation preference of $25.00 per share ("Series A Preferred Stock") with net cash proceeds to the Company of approximately $79.7 million, after deducting underwriting discounts, an advisory fee and estimated offering expenses totaling approximately $3.2 million.
On January 25, 2021, we entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Pet Supplies Plus (“PSP”), a leading omnichannel retail chain and franchisor of pet supplies and services, in an all cash transaction valued at approximately $700.0 million from affiliates of Sentinel Capital Partners (the "PSP Acquisition"). Additionally, we estimate that the net present value of the tax benefits related to the PSP acquisition are expected to be approximately $100.0 million. In connection with the signing of the definitive acquisition agreement, we entered into commitments with our lenders for $1.3 billion in new term loan credit facilities to refinance our existing term loan and provide PSP acquisition financing. The PSP Acquisition closed on March 10, 2021.
On February 21, 2021, we entered into a definitive agreement with NextPoint Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition corporation incorporated under the laws of the Province of British Columbia ("Purchaser") to sell our Liberty Tax segment for a total preliminary purchase price of at least $243.0 million, consisting of approximately $182.0 million in cash and an equity interest in the Purchaser worth an estimated $61 million at the time of signing. In connection with the transaction, we are expecting to enter into a transition service agreement with the Purchaser, pursuant to which each party will provide certain transition services to each other. We expect the transaction to close in the second quarter of 2021.
Impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected, and likely will continue to affect, our financial condition and results of operations for the foreseeable future. In most states, during 2020, our businesses were deemed essential and, therefore, the majority of our stores remained open during the pandemic. The highest number of temporary store closures we experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic was approximately 240 stores during the second quarter of 2020. As of December 26, 2020, and March 5, 2021, none of our stores were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, we cannot predict whether our stores will remain open if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and states and localities issue new restrictions.
While too early to fully quantify, we have not experienced a significant negative impact on our sales and profitability due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the COVID-19 pandemic could negatively impact our business and financial results by weakening demand for our products and services, interfering with our ability and our franchisees’ ability to operate store locations, disrupting our supply chain or affecting our ability to raise capital from financial institutions. As events are rapidly changing, we are unable to accurately predict the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on our results of operations due to uncertainties including, but not limited to, the duration of shutdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions, the severity of the disease, the duration of the outbreak and the public’s response to the outbreak; however, we are actively managing our business to respond to the impact.
Change of Year-End
On October 1, 2019, our Board of Directors approved a change in our fiscal year-end from April 30th to the Saturday closest to December 31st of each year. The decision to change the fiscal year-end was related to our recent acquisitions to more
closely align our operations and internal controls with that of our subsidiaries. We refer to our financial results for the period from May 1, 2019 through December 28, 2019, as the "Transition Period" in this report.
Human Capital Resources
As of December 26, 2020, we employed 4,758 full-time and 3,325 part-time employees. Part-time employees work an average of fewer than 30 hours per work. The number of part-time employees fluctuates based on seasonal needs.
The success of our business relies on our ability to attract and retain talented employees. To attract and retain talent, we strive to create an inclusive, diverse and supportive workplace, with opportunities for our employees to develop and grow in their careers, supported by competitive compensation, benefits and health and wellness programs.
We are focused on creating a corporate culture of integrity and respect, with the goal of working together to drive our business to be innovative and competitive. We operate in a performance-based environment where results matter and financial discipline is enforced. We strive to create a highly collaborative culture in which employees feel that their input is sought after and valued. At the same time, we believe in holding individuals accountable and endeavor to create a culture in which employees do what they say they are going to do. We believe that our culture is a long-term competitive advantage for us, fuels our ability to execute our business strategy and is a critical component of our employee talent strategy.
Diversity and Inclusion
We believe that a diverse workforce is critical to our success. Our goal is to cultivate an inclusive environment where human differences are valued, respected, supported and amplified. We have taken actions to recruit, retain, develop and advance a diverse and talented workforce. We are an equal opportunity employer. We respect diversity and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, age, sex, gender, gender identity or expression (including transgender status), sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, physical or mental disability, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local laws. Our management is dedicated to ensuring the fulfillment of this policy with respect to hiring, placement, promotion, transfer, demotion, layoff, separation, recruitment, pay and equity, access to facilities and programs, training and general treatment during employment.
Health Safety and Wellness
We are committed to the health, safety and wellness of our employees. We provide our employees and their families with access to a variety of health and wellness programs, including programs that support their physical and mental health.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we implemented changes that we consider to be in the best interests of our employees, customers, business partners and communities in which we operate. We implemented changes from all federal, state and local government mandates and regulations, including providing all of our employees personal protective equipment if they chose to work on-site, adding extensive cleaning regiments to our stores and distribution centers, and encouraging the majority of our corporate employees to work from home. Additionally, for any employee that participates in our health insurance programs, we waived all premiums if they were furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Compensation and Benefits
We provide competitive compensation and benefit programs for our employees. In addition to competitive salaries, these programs include, among other items, bonuses, stock awards, a 401(k) plan, health and wellness programs, health savings and flexible spending accounts, paid time off, paid parental leave, flexible work schedules and employee assistance programs.
Our Annual Report, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and all amendments to those reports filed with or furnished to the SEC are available, free of charge, through our website at www.franchisegrp.com as soon as reasonably practicable after such reports are electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. The SEC maintains a website at www.sec.gov containing reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers who file electronically with the SEC.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
In addition to the other information contained in this Annual Report, the following risk factors should be considered carefully in evaluating our business. The Risk Factor Summary that follows should be read in conjunction with the detailed description of risk factors below. If any of the risks or uncertainties described below were to occur, our business, financial condition, and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. Additional risks not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also impair our business and operations. When considering any investment in our securities, investors should consider the following risk factors, as well as the information contained under the caption “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements,” in analyzing our present and future business performance.
Risks Related to Our Business, including risks related to:
•the COVID-19 pandemic;
•the integration of our recent acquisitions;
•our indebtedness and our ability to incur more indebtedness;
•our ability to generate sufficient cash to service our indebtedness;
•the terms of the agreements governing our indebtedness and their restriction of our current and future operations and operating flexibility;
•interest rate risk exposure from our floating rate debt financing;
•changes in the method of determining the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”), or the replacement of LIBOR with an alternative reference rate;
•the substantial ownership stake of certain of our stockholders;
•potential difficulties associated with our rapid growth and expansion;
•the potential sale of one or more of our business segments;
•our operation in highly competitive industries;
•our failure to maintain sound business and contractual relationships with our franchisees;
•our significant lease obligations;
•our failure to achieve and maintain effective internal controls;
Risks Related to Our Segments, including risks related to:
•our Liberty Tax segment’s tax return preparation compliance program and our franchisees’ non-compliance, fraud and other misconduct and related enforcement action;
•the inability or unwillingness of our financial product service providers to enable our Liberty Tax segment to offer refund transfer products;
•unfavorable publicity or consumer perception of our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s products and any similar products distributed by other companies;
•our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s sale of food, dietary supplement and topical products containing cannabidiol;
•disruptions at our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s warehouse and distribution facilities or at our contract manufacturers’ manufacturing facilities;
•increases in the price or shortages of supply in connection with our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s products;
•product recalls, withdrawals or seizures;
•consumer spending factors affecting the success of our Buddy’s, American Freight and Vitamin Shoppe segments;
•the ability of our Buddy’s, American Freight and Vitamin Shoppe segments to compete effectively with the growing e-commerce sector;
•the ability of our Buddy’s, American Freight and Vitamin Shoppe segments to successfully manage their inventory levels;
•the growth and effective operations of our Company-owned locations and franchises and the franchise operations;
•our franchisees’ failure to open locations in new territories or successfully operate their new locations;
•our potential to be held responsible by third parties, regulators, or courts for the action of, or failure to act, by our franchisees and the exposure to possible fines or other liabilities and bad publicity;
•disputes with our franchisees;
•the effectiveness of our marketing and advertising programs and franchisee support of these programs;
Risks Related to Legal and Regulatory Matters, including risks related to:
•adverse outcomes related to litigation or regulatory actions;
•our failure to protect or failure to comply with laws and regulations related to our customers’ personal information;
•our or our franchisees’ failure to comply with marketing and advertising laws, including with regard to direct marketing;
•compliance with governmental regulations or newly enacted laws;
•product liability claims;
•our involvement in federal securities class-action lawsuits and derivative complaints;
General Risk Factors, including risks related to:
•our failure to protect our intellectual property rights;
•our reliance on technology systems and electronic communications;
•negative publicity, costly government enforcement actions or private litigation and increased costs as a result of our inability to secure our customers’ personal and confidential information, or other private data relating to our associates, suppliers or our business;
•our failure to retain key senior management personnel or attract and retain highly skilled and other key personnel;
•our ability to attract and retain qualified employees;
•the exclusive forum provisions in our Certificate of Incorporation;
•the volatility of our stock price;
•our ability to continue to pay dividends in the future; and
•antitakeover provisions in our charter documents.
Risks Related to Our Business
Our results of operations and financial condition have been, and will likely continue to be, adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and, depending on future developments, may be materially adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had and will likely continue to have an impact on our operations and financial performance. The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our business, results of operations and financial condition is uncertain and cannot be predicted. There can be no assurance that any of our efforts to address the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be effective. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, we may continue to experience adverse impacts to our business as a result of any economic recession or depression that has occurred or may occur in the future. For instance, changes in the behavior of customers, businesses and their employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including social distancing practices, even after formal restrictions have been lifted, are unknown. Furthermore, the financial condition of our customers and vendors may be adversely impacted, which may result in a decrease in the demand for our products, the inability and our franchisees’ ability to operate store locations or a disruption our supply chain. Any of these events may, in turn, have a material adverse impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We have incurred significant transaction and acquisition-related costs and expect to incur integration-related costs in connection with the Buddy’s Acquisition, the Sears Outlet Acquisition, the Vitamin Shoppe Acquisition, the American Freight Acquisition, the FFO Acquisition (collectively, the “Acquisitions”).
We have incurred a number of non-recurring costs associated with the Acquisitions and will incur integration-related costs in combining areas of the companies. The substantial majority of non-recurring expenses were comprised of transaction costs related to the Acquisitions. We also expect to incur transaction fees and costs related to formulating and implementing integration plans, including facilities and systems consolidation costs and employment-related costs. We continue to assess the magnitude of these costs, and additional unanticipated costs may be incurred in connection with the integration of the two companies’ businesses. Although we expect that the elimination of duplicative costs, as well as the realization of other
efficiencies related to the integration of the businesses, should allow us to offset integration-related costs over time, this net benefit may not be achieved in the near term, or at all.
Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial condition, limit our ability to raise additional capital to fund our operations and prevent us from fulfilling our obligations under our debt agreements.
We have substantial indebtedness, which could adversely affect our ability to fulfill our obligations and have a negative impact on our financing options and liquidity position.
Our high level of debt could have significant consequences for us, including the following:
•limiting our ability to obtain additional financing in the future for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions or other general corporate purposes;
•requiring a substantial portion of our cash flows to be dedicated to debt service payments instead of other purposes, thereby reducing the amount of cash flows available for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions and other general corporate purposes;
•limiting our ability to refinance our indebtedness on terms acceptable to us or at all;
•increasing the cost of future borrowings and, accordingly, our cost of capital;
•limiting our flexibility in planning for and reacting to changes in the markets in which we compete and to changing business and economic conditions;
•imposing restrictive covenants on our operations;
•placing us at a competitive disadvantage to competitors carrying less debt; and
•making us more vulnerable to economic downturns and adverse developments in our business, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and limiting our ability to withstand competitive pressures.
We may not be able to generate sufficient cash to service our indebtedness and may be forced to take other actions to satisfy our indebtedness, which may not be successful.
Cash flows from operations are the principal source of funding for us. Our ability to make scheduled payments on or to refinance our debt obligations depends on our financial condition and operating performance, which are subject to prevailing economic and competitive conditions and to certain financial, business, legislative, regulatory and other factors beyond our control, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the availability of financing in the international banking and capital markets. We may be unable to maintain a level of cash flows from operating activities sufficient to permit us to fund our day-to-day operations or to pay the principal, premium, if any, and interest on our indebtedness.
If our cash flows and capital resources are insufficient to fund our debt service obligations and other cash requirements, we could face substantial liquidity problems and could be forced to reduce or delay investments and capital expenditures or to sell assets or operations, seek additional debt or equity capital or restructure or refinance our indebtedness. We may not be able to effect any such alternative measures, if necessary, on commercially reasonable terms or at all and, even if successful, such alternative actions may not allow us to meet our scheduled debt service obligations. The agreements that govern our indebtedness may restrict us from accomplishing any of these alternatives on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Additionally, the agreements that govern our indebtedness may restrict (a) our ability to dispose of assets and use the proceeds from any such dispositions and (b) our ability to raise debt capital to be used to repay our indebtedness when it becomes due. We may not be able to consummate those dispositions or to obtain proceeds in an amount sufficient to meet any debt service obligations then due. Any refinancing of our indebtedness could be at higher interest rates and may require us to comply with more onerous covenants, which could further restrict our business operations and limit our financial flexibility. Any issuances of additional capital stock would be dilutive to existing stockholders.
Our inability to generate sufficient cash flows to satisfy our debt obligations, or to refinance our indebtedness on commercially reasonable terms or at all, would materially and adversely affect our business, financial position and results of operations and our ability to satisfy our obligations.
In addition, any failure to make payments of interest and principal on our outstanding indebtedness on a timely basis would likely result in a reduction of our credit rating, which could harm our ability to incur additional indebtedness.
If we cannot make scheduled payments on our debt, we will be in default and, as a result, lenders under our existing and future indebtedness could declare (or some of the following could occur automatically) all outstanding principal and interest to be due and payable, the lenders under our credit facilities could terminate their commitments to loan money, our secured
lenders could foreclose against the assets securing such borrowings and we could be forced into bankruptcy or liquidation, in each case, which could result in any of the holders of our indebtedness and/or our stockholders losing their investments.
Despite current and anticipated indebtedness levels, we may still be able to incur substantially more debt.
If we were to incur substantial additional indebtedness in the future, it could further exacerbate the risks described above. Although the agreements that govern our indebtedness restrict the incurrence of additional indebtedness, these restrictions are and will be subject to a number of qualifications and exceptions and any additional indebtedness incurred in compliance with these restrictions could be substantial. These restrictions also will not prevent us from incurring obligations that do not constitute indebtedness (which may include, among others, trade payables and other expenses incurred in the ordinary course of business). Further, pursuant to our credit facilities and subject to the limitations set forth therein, we may have the option to increase our commitments under our credit facilities thereunder. Such increases would be secured indebtedness. If new debt is added to our current debt levels, the related risks that we now face could intensify.
The terms of the agreements governing our indebtedness may restrict our current and future operations and operating flexibility, particularly our ability to respond to changes in the economy or our industry or to pursue our business strategies, and could adversely affect our capital resources, financial condition and liquidity.
The agreements that govern our indebtedness contain a number of restrictive covenants that impose significant operating and financial restrictions on us and limit our ability to engage in acts that may be in our long-term best interests, including, among other things, restrictions on our ability to:
•incur, assume or guarantee additional indebtedness;
•declare or pay dividends or make other distributions with respect to, or purchase or otherwise acquire or retire for value, equity interests;
•make any principal payment on, or redeem or repurchase, certain indebtedness;
•make loans, advances or other investments;
•sell or otherwise dispose of assets, including capital stock of subsidiaries;
•enter into sale and lease-back transactions;
•consolidate or merge with or into, or sell all or substantially all of our assets to, another person;
•enter into transactions with affiliates;
•materially change the nature of our business;
•enter into agreements that restrict the ability of certain subsidiaries to make dividends or other payments; and
•service our indebtedness if covenants under our credit facilities are not satisfied.
Our credit facilities also contain covenants that may limit our ability to service our other indebtedness. As a result of these restrictions, we may be limited in how we conduct our business, unable to raise additional debt or equity financing to operate during general economic or business downturns, or unable to compete effectively, take advantage of new business opportunities or grow in accordance with our plans.
The terms of any future indebtedness we may incur could include more restrictive covenants. We cannot assure you that we will be able to maintain compliance with such covenants in the future and, if we fail to do so, that we will be able to obtain waivers from the holders of such indebtedness and/or amend the covenants. A breach of the covenants under the agreements governing our indebtedness could result in an event of default under the applicable indebtedness, which, if not cured or waived, could result in us having to repay such indebtedness before its due date. Such an event of default may result in the acceleration of any other debt to which a cross-acceleration or cross-default provision applies. In addition, such an event of default may permit the lenders in our credit facilities to terminate all commitments to extend further credit thereunder. In the event the repayment of any of our indebtedness is accelerated, we cannot assure you that we will have sufficient assets to repay such indebtedness. If we are forced to refinance such indebtedness on less favorable terms or if we experience difficulty in refinancing such indebtedness, our results of operations or financial condition could be materially affected. Furthermore, if we are unable to repay the amounts due and payable under the agreements governing our secured indebtedness, the lenders or holders of such indebtedness may be able to proceed against the collateral granted to them to secure such indebtedness.
Our floating rate debt financing exposes us to interest rate risk.
We may borrow amounts under our credit facilities or otherwise that bear interest at rates that vary with prevailing market interest rates. If such market interest rates increase, our debt service obligations on the variable rate indebtedness will increase even though the amount borrowed may remain the same, and our profit and cash flows, including cash available for servicing
our indebtedness, will correspondingly decrease. In the future, we may enter into interest rate swaps that involve the exchange of floating for fixed rate interest payments in order to reduce interest rate volatility. However, it is possible that we will not maintain interest rate swaps with respect to any of our variable rate indebtedness. Alternatively, any swaps we enter into may not fully or effectively mitigate our interest rate risk.
Changes in the method of determining the London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR"), or the replacement of LIBOR with an alternative reference rate, may adversely affect interest rates on our outstanding indebtedness dependent on LIBOR.
We may borrow amounts under our credit facilities or otherwise that bear interest at variable interest rates that use LIBOR as a reference rate. In July 2017, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority announced that it intends to stop compelling banks to submit rates for the calculation of LIBOR after 2021. It remains unclear if, how and in what form LIBOR may continue to exist after that date. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has begun publishing a Secured Overnight Funding Rate ("SOFR"), which is intended to replace U.S. dollar LIBOR. These reforms may cause LIBOR to perform differently than in the past or to disappear entirely. The consequences of these developments with respect to LIBOR cannot be entirely predicted but may result in an increase in the interest cost of our indebtedness that uses (or in the absence of the changes to or disappearance of LIBOR, would have used) LIBOR as a reference rate. In the event that LIBOR is no longer available as a reference rate or ceases to adequately and fairly reflect the cost to our lenders of making and maintaining loans, our credit facilities permit the lenders to suspend maintaining loans that use LIBOR as a reference rate. In its place, loans may bear interest based on an alternate base rate, as set forth in our credit facilities, which may increase our interest expenses. Further, we may need to renegotiate our outstanding indebtedness (whether pursuant to the LIBOR replacement provisions set forth in our credit facilities or otherwise), including to adopt a new reference rate in place of LIBOR, such as SOFR, and to adopt a new interest rate margin with respect to such alternative reference rate, or we may need to incur other indebtedness, and the phase-out of LIBOR may negatively impact the terms of such indebtedness. In addition, the overall financial market may be disrupted as a result of the phase-out or replacement of LIBOR. Disruption in the financial market could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Certain stockholders have a substantial ownership stake, and their interests could conflict with the interests of our other stockholders.
As of February 1, 2021, Vintage Capital Management, LLC (“Vintage”) and B. Riley Financial, Inc. (“B. Riley”) and certain of its affiliates (collectively, the “Principal Stockholders”) currently own shares of our common stock representing approximately 19.0% and 11.3%, respectively, of our outstanding common stock. As a result of substantial ownership of our stock, and Vintage's participation on the Board, the Principal Stockholders currently have the ability to influence certain actions requiring stockholder approval, including increasing or decreasing the authorized share capital, the election of directors, declaration of dividends, the appointment of management, and other policy decisions. The interests of the Principal Stockholders may be different from the interests of our other stockholders. While any future transaction with the Principal Stockholders or other significant stockholders could benefit us, the interests of the Principal Stockholders could at times conflict with the interests of other stockholders. Conflicts of interest may also arise between us and the Principal Stockholders or their affiliates, which may result in the conclusion of transactions on terms not determined by market forces. Any such conflicts of interest could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations, and the trading price of our common stock. Moreover, the concentration of ownership may delay, deter or prevent acts that would be favored by other stockholders or deprive our stockholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their shares of our common stock as part of a sale of us. Similarly, this concentration of stock ownership may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock because investors may perceive disadvantages in owning equity in a company with concentrated ownership.
Because of the significant changes to our business initiatives and strategies, including as a result of our Acquisitions we are susceptible to the potential difficulties associated with rapid growth and expansion and we may not achieve the same level of growth in revenues and profits as we had in prior years.
Our future viability, profitability, and growth will depend upon our ability to successfully operate and continue to expand our operations in the United States and abroad. We have grown rapidly since we began making the Acquisitions in July 2019. Our management believes that our future success depends in part on our ability to manage the rapid growth and integration that we have experienced from current and future acquisitions, and the demands from increased responsibility on management personnel within the businesses we acquired and at the corporate level. Our ability to continue to grow our business will be subject to a number of risks and uncertainties and will depend in large part on:
•our ability to manage increased responsibilities for our executive level personnel and administrative burdens;
•our risk of litigation and other unanticipated liabilities;
•adding new customers and retaining existing customers;
•innovating new products and services to meet the needs of our customers;
•finding new opportunities in our existing and new markets;
•remaining competitive in the tax return preparation, specialty retailing, consumable durable goods and retail industries;
•attracting and retaining capable franchisees and area developers (ADs);
•delivering on our products and services in sufficient volumes and in a timely manner;
•hiring, training, and retaining skilled managers and employees; and
•expanding and improving the efficiency of our operations and systems and managing related organizational challenges.
There can be no assurance that any of our efforts will prove successful or that we will continue to achieve growth in revenues and profits. Our operating results could be adversely affected if we do not successfully manage our ability to grow and these potential risks and uncertainties. Our historical and pro forma financial information is not necessarily indicative of the results that may be realized in the future. In addition, due to the timing of the Acquisitions, there is very limited comparative information on our combined business.
We may seek to continue to expand through acquisitions of and investments in other businesses. These acquisition activities may be unsuccessful or divert management’s attention.
We may consider strategic and complementary acquisitions of and investments in other franchise-centric businesses. In pursuing these opportunities, we will likely be competing with third parties that may have substantially greater financial resources than us. Acquisitions or investments in brands, businesses, properties or assets, as well as third-party alliances are subject to risks that could affect our business, including risks related to: (i) issuing shares of stock that could dilute the interests of our existing stockholders, (ii) spending cash and incurring debt, (iii) assuming contingent liabilities, or (iv) creating additional expenses.
We may not be able to identify opportunities or complete transactions on commercially reasonable terms or at all or we may not actually realize any anticipated benefits from such acquisitions or investments. Similarly, we may not be able to obtain financing for acquisitions or investments on attractive terms or at all, or the ability to obtain financing may be restricted by the terms of our indebtedness. In addition, the success of any acquisition or investment also will depend, in part, on our ability to integrate the acquisition or investment with our existing operations. Finally, any potential acquisitions or investments could demand significant attention from management that would otherwise be available for business operations, which could harm our business.
We may seek to sell one of our business segments which may adversely affect our results of operations, personnel, reputation and financial position.
As a company that manages a portfolio of retail and franchised brands, we continue to evaluate opportunities to restructure our business in an effort to optimize shareholder value, which could potentially include the divestiture of certain business segments. Divestitures involve numerous risks, such as: (i) the acceptance of a less than favorable sales price, (ii) the potential loss of key employees, (iii) adverse reactions by customers, suppliers, or parties transacting business with the divested business segment or us, (iv) potential litigation or any administrative proceedings arising from the divestiture, (v) negative impacts on stock analyst ratings, and (vi) our inability to retain certain intellectual property rights. Such divestitures could result in significant costs to us which could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. We cannot provide assurance that such a sale of a business segment will be successful or will not harm our business, results of operations, financial condition, or stock price.
We operate in highly competitive industries and our revenues or profits could be harmed if we are unable to compete effectively.
The retail, tax preparation and rent-to-own industries in which we operate are subject to intense competition. Our principal competitors are other similar operators with well-established and recognized brands. We also compete against smaller retailers and “mom and pop” operations. If we are unable to compete successfully, our revenues or profits may decline. Certain of our competitors may have significantly greater financial, technical and marketing resources than we do, and may be able to adapt to changes in consumer preferences more quickly, devote greater resources to the marketing and sale of their products or services, or generate greater brand recognition. In addition, our competitors may be more effective and efficient in introducing new products and services. Furthermore, if we fail to meet supply and demand or fail to provide our customers with an attractive omni-channel experience, our business and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Failure to maintain sound business and contractual relationships with our franchisees may have a material adverse effect on our business and our consolidated financial position, results of operations, and cash flows.
Our financial success depends in significant part on our ability to maintain sound business relationships with our franchisees. The support of our franchisees is also critical for the success of our marketing programs and any new strategic initiatives we seek to undertake. Deterioration in our relationships with our franchisees or the failure of our franchisees to support our marketing programs and strategic initiatives could have a material adverse effect on our business and our consolidated financial position, results of operations, and cash flows. In addition, the failure of our franchisees to timely renew their franchise agreements could have a material adverse effect on our business and our ability to enforce the franchisees contractual obligations.
We have significant lease obligations, which may require us to continue paying rent for store locations that we no longer operate.
We have Company-owned operations of which the majority are operated in leased locations, specifically in our Vitamin Shoppe segment. We are subject to risks associated with our current and future real estate leases. Our costs could increase because of changes in the real estate markets and supply or demand for real estate sites. We generally cannot cancel our leases, so if we decide to close or relocate a location, we may nonetheless be committed to perform our obligations under the applicable lease including paying the base rent for the remaining lease term. As each lease expires, we may fail to negotiate renewals, either on commercially acceptable terms or any terms at all and may not be able to find replacement locations that will provide for the same success as current store locations.
Our failure to achieve and maintain effective internal controls could have a material adverse effect on our business and stock price.
Effective internal controls are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports. If we cannot provide reliable financial reports, our brands and operating results could be harmed. All internal control systems, no matter how well designed, have inherent limitations. Therefore, even those systems determined to be effective can provide only reasonable assurance with respect to financial statement preparation and presentation. While we continue to evaluate and improve our internal controls, we cannot be certain that these measures will ensure that we implement and maintain adequate controls over our financial processes and reporting in the future. Any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or difficulties encountered in their implementation, could harm our operating results or cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. If we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal controls, as such standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to ensure that we can conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Failure to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment could cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could have a material adverse effect on our stock price.
As we have grown our business through the Acquisitions, our disclosure controls and internal controls have become more complex and may require significantly more resources to ensure the effectiveness of these controls. If we are unable to continue upgrading our financial and management controls, reporting segments, information technology and procedures in a timely and effective fashion, additional management and other resources may need to be devoted to assist in compliance with the disclosure and financial reporting requirements which would adversely affect our business, financial position and results of operations.
Risks Related to Our Segments
The Liberty Tax segment's tax return preparation compliance program may not be successful in detecting all problems in our franchisee network, and franchisee non-compliance, fraud and other misconduct and related enforcement action may damage our reputation and adversely affect our business.
On December 2, 2019, the Company entered into a settlement with the DOJ and the IRS (the “Settlement”) that resolved their investigation of the Company and its subsidiaries, including the Liberty Tax segment's policies, practices and procedures in connection with its tax return preparation activities and tax compliance program. Pursuant to the terms of the Settlement, the Company agreed to pay $3.0 million to be paid in installments over four years and agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor to oversee the implementation of the required enhancements to the compliance program. The monitor will work with the Company’s compliance team and may make recommendations for further refinements to improve the Liberty Tax segment's
tax compliance program. We have implemented a variety of measures to enhance tax return preparation compliance as well as increased monitoring of these activities. Despite these measures, there can be no assurance that franchisees and tax preparers will follow these procedures, that the tax return preparation compliance program, or other efforts will be effective in eliminating non-compliance, fraud and other misconduct among our franchisees and/or employees. Accordingly, any such non-compliance, fraud or other misconduct may have a material adverse effect on our reputation, financial conditions, results of operations and may be deemed a breach of the terms of the Settlement.
If our financial product service providers become unable or unwilling to enable our Liberty Tax segment to offer refund transfer products, we may be unable to offer tax settlement products to our customers.
Our ability to offer refund transfer products (as well as other tax settlement products that require the creation of a customer bank account) is dependent on the ability and willingness of our financial product service providers to make available to our customers the bank accounts into which their tax refunds are deposited. If any of the federal or state regulatory authorities with the power to regulate these service providers prevents or makes it more difficult for our service providers to make these bank accounts available to our customers or if the service providers determine that they no longer wish to participate in these transactions, we may be unable to find alternative service providers that will be willing to provide the required number of bank accounts to our customers. If we are unable to make bank accounts available for refund transfer products, we will not be able to enable our customers to utilize these accounts for the direct deposit of their federal and state tax returns, which would materially affect our ability to offer tax settlement products to those customers. In addition, statutes applicable to acceptable refund transfer fees are state specific which may adversely affect how we currently conduct or have conducted our business in the past and may require change to such business practices to otherwise comply with these statutes and could be subject to fines, penalties, or other payments related to past conduct.
Unfavorable publicity or consumer perception of our services, products and any similar products distributed by other companies could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, which could result in decreased sales and significant fluctuations in our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We depend significantly on consumer perception regarding the safety and quality of our products, as well as similar products distributed by other companies. Consumer perception of products can be significantly influenced by adverse publicity in the form of published scientific research, national media attention or other publicity, whether or not accurate, that associates consumption of our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s products or any other similar products with illness or other adverse effects, or questions the benefits of our or similar products or that claims that any such products are ineffective. A new product may initially be received favorably, resulting in high sales of that product, but that sales level may not be sustainable as consumer preferences change. Future scientific research or publicity could be unfavorable to our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s industry or any of its particular products and may not be consistent with earlier favorable research or publicity. Unfavorable research or publicity could have a material adverse effect on our ability to generate sales within our Vitamin Shoppe segment.
Our Vitamin Shoppe segment sells food, dietary supplement and topical products containing cannabidiol (“CBD”), which is a cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant. There is significant uncertainty regarding the legal status of CBD and other hemp-based products in the U.S. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") currently prohibits the sale of foods and dietary supplements containing CBD, which could subject our Vitamin Shoppe segment to regulatory enforcement action.
Products that contain CBD are subject to various state and federal laws regarding the production and sale of hemp-based products. Historically, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) considered CBD to be a Schedule I controlled substance subject to the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) under the definition for “marijuana.” However, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”) removed “hemp” from the definition of “marijuana.” “Hemp” is defined as the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. As a result of the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill, we believe that our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s CBD products and the hemp from which they are derived are not Schedule I controlled substances under the CSA. However, there is a risk that we could be subject to DEA enforcement action, including prosecution, if any of our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s products are determined to not meet the definition of “hemp” and to constitute “marijuana” based on THC levels or other violations.
In addition, although hemp and hemp-derived CBD are no longer controlled substances subject to regulation under the CSA, the FDA has stated publicly that it is nonetheless unlawful under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) to market foods or dietary supplements containing CBD, even if lawful under the 2018 Farm Bill. Specifically, the FDCA
prohibits the introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any food or dietary supplement that contains an approved drug or a drug for which substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and made public, unless a statutory exemption applies. The FDA has stated its conclusion that this statutory prohibition applies and none of the exceptions has been met for CBD.
The FDA has held public meetings and formed an internal working group to evaluate the potential pathways to market for CBD products, which could include seeking statutory changes from Congress or promulgating new regulations. If legislative action is necessary, such legislative changes could take years to finalize and may not include provisions that would enable our Vitamin Shoppe segment to produce, market and/or sell CBD products, and FDA could similarly take years to promulgate new regulations. Additionally, while the agency’s enforcement focus to date has primarily been on CBD products that are associated with therapeutic claims, the agency has recently issued warning letters to companies marketing CBD products without such claims, and there is a risk that FDA could take enforcement action against our Vitamin Shoppe segment, its third-party contract manufacturers or suppliers, or those marketing similar products, which could limit or prevent this segment from marketing CBD products. While the FDA announced on March 5, 2020 that it is currently evaluating a risk-based enforcement policy for CBD to provide more clarity to industry and the public while the agency takes potential steps to establish a clear regulatory pathway, it remains unclear whether or when FDA will ultimately issue such an enforcement policy.
Moreover, local, state, federal, and international CBD, hemp and cannabis laws and regulations are rapidly changing and subject to evolving interpretations, which could require our Vitamin Shoppe segment to incur substantial costs associated with compliance requirements or alteration of certain aspects of its business plan in the event that its CBD products become subject to new restrictions. In addition, violations of these laws, or allegations of such violations, could disrupt the business and result in a material adverse effect on its operations. We cannot predict the nature of any future laws, regulations, interpretations, or applications, nor can we determine what effect additional governmental regulations or administrative policies and procedures, when and if promulgated, could have on our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s activities in the hemp and CBD industry. The constant evolution of laws and regulations may require this segment to incur substantial costs associated with legal and compliance fees and ultimately require it to alter its current business plan.
Disruptions at our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s warehouse and distribution facilities or at our contract manufacturers’ manufacturing facilities could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and customer relationships.
Any significant disruption in our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s warehouse and distribution facilities or at any contract manufacturers’ manufacturing facilities for any reason, including regulatory requirements, and FDA determination that the contract manufacturers’ facility is not in compliance with the cGMP regulations, the loss of certifications, power interruptions, destruction of or damage to facilities, unexpected delays in delivery or increases in transportation costs (including through increased fuel costs), terrorist attacks, civil unrest, war or the perceived threat thereof, natural disasters could disrupt our contract manufacturers’ ability to manufacture products for our Vitamin Shoppe segment and our ability to deliver products to our customers. Any such disruption could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Increases in the price or shortages of supply in connection with our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s products could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our Vitamin Shoppe segment’s products are composed of certain key raw materials. If the prices of these raw materials were to increase significantly, it could result in a significant increase to us in the prices charged to us for our own Vitamin Shoppe branded products and third-party products. Raw material prices may increase in the future and we may not be able to pass on those increases to customers who purchase our products. A significant increase in the price of raw materials that cannot be passed on to customers could have a material adverse effect on our business.
We may experience product recalls, withdrawals or seizures, which could materially and adversely affect our business.
We may be subject to product recalls, withdrawals or seizures if any of the products we sell are believed to cause injury or illness or if we are alleged to have violated governmental regulations in the manufacturing, labeling, promotion, sale or distribution of those products. A significant recall, withdrawal or seizure of any of the products we manufacture or sell may require significant management attention, which would likely result in substantial and unexpected costs and may materially and adversely affect our business. Furthermore, a recall, withdrawal or seizure of any of our products may adversely affect consumer confidence in our brands and thus decrease consumer demand for our products. In some cases, we rely on our contract manufacturers and suppliers to ensure that the products they manufacture and sell to us comply with all applicable regulatory and legislative requirements. In general, we seek representations and warranties, indemnification and/or insurance
from our contract manufacturers and suppliers. However, even with adequate insurance and indemnification, any claims of non-compliance could significantly damage our reputation and consumer confidence in our products. In addition, the failure of those products to comply with applicable regulatory and legislative requirements could prevent us from marketing the products or require us to recall or remove such products from the market, which in certain cases could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The success of our Buddy’s, American Freight and Vitamin Shoppe segments is dependent on factors affecting consumer spending that are not under our control.
Consumer spending is affected by general economic conditions and other factors including levels of employment, disposable consumer income, prevailing interest rates, consumer debt and availability of credit, costs of fuel, inflation, recession and fears of recession, war and fears of war, pandemics (such as the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic), inclement weather, tariff policies, tax rates and rate increases, timing of receipt of tax refunds, consumer confidence in future economic conditions and political conditions, and consumer perceptions of personal well-being and security. Unfavorable changes in factors affecting discretionary spending could reduce demand for our products and services resulting in lower revenue and negatively impacting our business and financial results.
If our Buddy’s, American Freight and Vitamin Shoppe segments are unable to compete effectively with the growing e-commerce sector, our business and results of operations may be materially adversely affected.
With the continued expansion of Internet use, as well as mobile computing devices and smartphones, competition from the e-commerce sector continues to grow. There can be no assurance we will be able to grow our e-commerce operations in a profitable manner. Certain of our competitors, and a number of e-commerce retailers, have established e-commerce operations against which we compete for customers. It is possible that the increasing competition from the e-commerce sector may reduce our market share, gross and operating margins, and may materially adversely affect our business and results of operations in other ways.
If our Buddy’s, American Freight and Vitamin Shoppe segments do not successfully manage their inventory levels, our operating results will be adversely affected.
We must maintain sufficient inventory levels to operate our business successfully. However, we also must avoid accumulating excess inventory as we seek to minimize out-of-stock levels across all product categories and to maintain in-stock levels. We continue to rely on and obtain significant portions of our inventory from vendors located outside the United States. Some of these vendors often require us to provide lengthy advance notice of our requirements in order to be able to supply products in the quantities we request. This usually requires us to order merchandise, and enter into purchase order contracts for the purchase and manufacture of such merchandise, well in advance of the time these products will be offered for sale. As a result, we may experience difficulty in responding to a changing retail environment, which makes us vulnerable to changes in price and consumer preferences. If we do not accurately anticipate the future demand for a particular product or the time it will take to obtain new inventory, our inventory levels will not be appropriate and our results of operations may be negatively impacted.
Our success is tied to the growth and effective operations of our Company-owned locations and franchises, and the franchise operations could adversely affect our business.
Our financial success depends on how effectively we operate our Company-owned locations and how our franchisees operate and develop their businesses. We do not exercise direct control over the day-to-day operations of our franchises, and our franchisees may not operate their businesses in a manner consistent with our philosophy and standards and may not increase the level of revenues generated compared to prior years. Our growth and revenues may, therefore, be adversely affected. There can be no assurance that the training programs and quality control procedures we have established will be effective in enabling franchisees to run profitable businesses or that we will be able to identify problems or take corrective action quickly enough. In addition, failure by a franchisee to provide service at acceptable levels may result in adverse publicity that can materially adversely affect our reputation and ability to compete in the market in which the franchisee is located.
If our franchisees fail to open locations in new territories or if they are not successful in operating their new locations, our franchise-related revenue and results of operation will be adversely affected.
Each year, we anticipate adding locations to our franchise system, but the opening of these locations depends on the purchase of additional territories by our franchisees and the opening of offices in territories previously purchased and newly
purchased. Many factors go into opening a new location, including obtaining a suitable location, the availability of sufficient start-up capital, and the ability to recruit qualified personnel to work in new locations. If a significant number of locations that we expect to be open, fail to open, are delayed, or open in unsuitable locations or with insufficient personnel, the revenue we expect to receive from royalty payments and the repayment of indebtedness to us by our franchisees will be adversely affected.
We may be held responsible by third parties, regulators, or courts for the action of, or failure to act, by our franchisees and their employees which could be expose us to possible fines, other liabilities, bad publicity or damage to our brands.
We grant our franchisees a limited license to use our registered service marks and, accordingly, there is risk that one or more of the franchisees may be identified as being controlled by us. Third parties, regulators, or courts may seek to hold us responsible for the actions or failures to act by our franchisees. In recent years, some government agencies have taken the position that the extent to which a franchise system establishes requirements for franchisees may justify treating the franchisor as if it “controls” the franchisee’s behavior. Thus, the failure of our franchisees to comply with laws and regulations may expose us to liability and damages that may have an adverse effect on our business.
Our franchisees operate their businesses under our brands. Because our franchisees are independent third parties with their own financial objectives, actions taken by them, including breaches of their contractual obligations, and negative publicity associated with these actions, could adversely affect our reputation and brands more broadly. Any actions as a result of conduct by our franchisees, their employees or otherwise which negatively impacts our reputation and brands may result in fewer customers and lower revenues and profits for us.
Disputes with our franchisees may have a material adverse effect on our business.
From time to time, we engage in disputes with some of our franchisees, and some of these disputes result in litigation or arbitration proceedings. Disputes with our franchisees may require us to incur significant legal fees, subject us to damages, and occupy a disproportionate amount of management's time. A material increase in the number of these disputes, or unfavorable outcomes in these disputes, may have a material adverse effect on our business. To the extent we have disputes with our franchisees, our relationships with our franchisees could be negatively impacted, which could hurt our growth prospects or negatively impact our financial performance.
Our operating results depend on the effectiveness of our marketing and advertising programs and franchisee support of these programs.
Our revenues are heavily influenced by brand marketing and advertising. If our marketing and advertising programs are unsuccessful, we may fail to retain existing customers and attract new customers, which could limit the growth of our revenues or profitability or result in a decline in our revenues or profitability. Moreover, because franchisees are required to pay us marketing and advertising fees based on a percentage of their revenues, our marketing fund expenditures are dependent upon sales volumes of our franchisees.
The support of our franchisees is critical for the success of our marketing programs and any new strategic initiatives we seek to undertake. While we can mandate certain strategic initiatives through enforcement of our franchise agreements, we need the active support of our franchisees if the implementation of our marketing programs and strategic initiatives is to be successful. Although certain actions are required of our franchisees under the franchise agreements, there can be no assurance that our franchisees will continue to support our marketing programs and strategic initiatives. The failure of our franchisees to support our marketing programs and strategic initiatives would adversely affect our ability to implement our business strategy and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Risks Related to Legal and Regulatory Matters
The lines of business in which we operate involve substantial litigation, and such litigation may damage our reputation or result in material liabilities and losses.
We have been named, from time to time, as a defendant in various legal actions, including arbitrations, class-actions, and other litigation arising in connection with our various business activities. We are currently involved in a class-action lawsuit, in which we are vigorously defending ourselves. There can be no assurance, however, that we will not have to pay significant damages or amounts in settlement above insurance coverage. Adverse outcomes related to litigation could result in substantial damages and could materially affect our liquidity and capital resources and cause our net income to decline or may require us to alter our business operations. Failure to pay any material judgment would be a default under our credit facilities. Negative
public opinion can also result from our actual or alleged conduct in such claims, possibly damaging our reputation, which could negatively impact our financial performance and could cause the value of our stock to decline. See “Note 15 - Commitments and Contingencies” in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
If we fail to protect or fail to comply with laws and regulations related to our customers' personal information, we may face significant fines, penalties, or damages and our brands and reputation may be harmed.
We are subject to various federal and state laws related to the use of and protection of customer personal information, including but not limited, California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and other Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). We rely on technology in virtually all aspects of our business. Like those of many large businesses, certain of our information systems have been subject to computer viruses, malicious codes, unauthorized access, phishing efforts, denial-of-service attacks and other cyber-attacks and we expect to be subject to similar attacks in the future as such attacks become more sophisticated and frequent. A significant disruption or failure of our technology systems could result in service interruptions, safety failures, security events, regulatory compliance failures, an inability to protect information and assets against unauthorized users, and other operational difficulties. Attacks perpetrated against our systems could result in loss of assets and critical information and expose us to remediation costs and reputational damage.
We and our franchisees manage highly sensitive client information in our operations, and although we have established security procedures to protect against identity theft and require our franchisees to do the same, a security incident resulting in breaches of our customers' privacy may occur. Our computer systems are subject to penetration and our data protection measures may not prevent unauthorized access to sensitive client information. Threats to our systems, our franchisees systems, or associated third parties' systems can derive from human error, fraud, or malice on the part of employees or third parties, or may result from accidental technological failure. If the measures we have taken prove to be insufficient or inadequate or if our franchisees fail to meet their obligations in this area, we and our franchisees may become subject to litigation or administrative sanctions, which could result in significant fines, penalties, or damages and harm to our brands and reputation, which in turn could negatively impact our ability to retain our customers. Moreover, although we have some insurance that may defray the cost, the cost of remediating any breach resulting from a cybersecurity incident or other breach of the privacy of customer information would likely be substantial. Furthermore, we may be required to invest additional resources to protect us against damages caused by these actual or perceived disruptions or security breaches in the future. We could also suffer harm to our reputation from a security breach or inappropriate disclosure of customer information. Changes in these federal and state regulatory requirements could result in more stringent requirements and could result in a need to change business practices, including how information is disclosed. These changes could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations. Moreover, a significant security breach or disclosure of customer information could so damage our brands and reputation that demand for the services that are provided by us and our franchisees may be reduced.
Although we have taken steps intended to mitigate these risks, a significant disruption or cyber intrusion could adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity. If we become victim to a security breach resulting in third-party access to customer’s personal information which we host, collect, use and retain, this could have a material adverse effect on the demand for our services and products, our reputation, and cause material losses. We share these risks with all of our business segments.
If we or our franchisees fail to comply with marketing and advertising laws, including with regard to direct marketing we may face significant damages.
We rely on a variety of marketing techniques, including telemarketing, email and social media marketing and postal mailings, and we are subject to various laws and regulations in the U.S. and internationally that govern marketing and advertising practices. The retention of customers by our business and franchisees, and our ability to attract additional franchisees, depends on the use of these marketing techniques to contact customers and potential franchisees. However, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) imposes significant restrictions on the ability to utilize telephone calls and text messages to mobile telephone numbers as a means of communication, when the prior consent of the person being contacted has not been obtained. In fiscal 2015, we settled one lawsuit related to the manner in which a contractor for us previously contacted potential franchisees. Violations of the TCPA may be enforced by individual customers through class-actions, and statutory penalties for TCPA violations range from $500 to $1,500 per violation. If we fail to ensure that our own telemarketing and telemarketing efforts are TCPA compliant, or if our franchisees fail to do so and we are held responsible for their behavior, we may incur significant damages.
Compliance with governmental regulations or newly enacted laws could increase our costs significantly and adversely affect our operating income and financial results.
The products and services offered by our business segments are subject to federal laws and regulation by one or more federal agencies, including but not limited to the IRS, FDA, the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. These activities are also regulated by various state, local and international laws and agencies of the states and localities in which our products or services are provided. Regulations may prevent or delay the introduction, or require the reformulation, of our products or services, which could result in lost sales and
increased costs to us.
For example, the FDA may not accept the evidence of safety for any new ingredients that our Vitamin Shoppe segment may want to market, may determine that a particular ingredient is not a legal dietary ingredient under the FDCA, may determine that a particular product or product ingredient presents an unacceptable health risk, may determine that a particular statement of nutritional support on our products, or that we want to use on our products, is an unacceptable drug claim or an unauthorized version of a food “health claim.” The FDA or FTC may determine that particular claims are not adequately supported by available scientific evidence. The FDA may also determine that the Vitamin Shoppe’s CBD-containing food and dietary supplement products are unlawful and may issue an enforcement action against us. Any such regulatory determination would prevent us from marketing particular products or using certain statements on those products or force us to recall a particular product and be subject to additional enforcement or penalties, which could adversely affect our sales of those products.
Additionally, our rental business unit is subject to various federal and state including consumer protection statutes, such as a grace period for late fees and certain contract reinstatement rights. Moreover, many states have passed laws that regulate rental purchase transactions as separate and distinct from credit sales. Specific rental purchase laws generally require certain contractual and advertising disclosures. Any failure of our Buddy’s segment to comply with such laws could have a material adverse effect on our business.
New or revised federal and state tax regulations could have a material effect on the financial results of our Liberty Tax segment. We are unable to predict how we may be affected by changes, or lack of changes, to federal and state tax laws. Accordingly, the risk exists that changes in, or lack of changes in, federal and state tax laws could materially and adversely affect our Liberty Tax business cash flows, results of operations and financial condition.
The CCPA which became effective on January 1, 2020 and requires covered companies to provide new disclosures to California consumers, and afford such consumers new abilities to opt-out of certain sales of personal information. We collect internal and customer data, including personally identifiable information for a variety of important business purposes, including managing our workforce and providing requested products and services. The CCPA required us to modify our data processing practices and policies at Liberty Tax, Vitamin Shoppe and American Freight, which as a result, we may incur substantial costs and expenses in an effort to comply. The effects of the CCPA are potentially significant and require us to modify our data processing practices and policies which as a result, we may incur substantial costs and expenses in an effort to comply. We may also from time to time be subject to, or face assertions that we are subject to, additional obligations relating to personal data by contract or due to assertions that self-regulatory obligations or industry standards apply to our practices. There may be additional regulatory actions or enforcement priorities, or new interpretations of existing requirements that differ from ours, which could impose unanticipated limitations or require changes to our business. Any developments of this nature could increase our costs significantly and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be subject to product liability claims if people or properties are harmed by the products we sell or the services we offer.
Some of the products we sell may expose us to product liability claims relating to personal injury, death, or property damage caused by such products, and may require us to take actions such as product recalls. Although we maintain liability insurance, we cannot be certain that our coverage will be adequate for liabilities actually incurred or that insurance will continue to be available to us on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. Our Vitamin Shoppe segment, in particular, as a retailer and direct marketer of products designed for human consumption, is subject to product liability claims if the use of its products is alleged to have resulted in injury or to include inadequate instructions for use or inadequate warnings concerning possible side effects and interactions with other substances. In addition, third-party manufacturers produce many of the products we sell which may expose us to product liability claims for products we do not manufacture. While we attempt to manage these risks by obtaining indemnification agreements from the manufacturers of products that we sell and insurance, third parties may not satisfy their indemnification obligations to us and/or our insurance policies may not be sufficient or available. A product liability claim against us, whether with respect to products of a third-party that we sell or our branded products, could result in increased costs and could adversely affect our reputation with our customers, which in turn could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are named in federal securities class-action lawsuits and derivative complaints; if we are unable to resolve these matters favorably, then our business, operating results and financial condition may be adversely affected.
We are currently named as defendants in class and derivative litigation in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware (the “Delaware Action”) and a securities class action the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (the "New York Action”). While the Delaware Action has settled in principle and has been stayed pending the parties’ filing of settlement papers, there is no assurance that the settlement will be approved by the Delaware Court of Chancery. Additionally, while the New York Action has been dismissed with prejudice, and such dismissal has been affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, plaintiffs could still seek review by the United States Supreme Court. Until these matters are finally resolved, we cannot predict the outcome of these matters or reasonably determine the probability of a material adverse result or reasonably estimate range of potential exposure, if any, that these matters might have on us, our business, our financial condition or our results of operations, although such effects could be materially adverse. In addition, in the future, we may need to record litigation reserves with respect to these matters. Further, regardless of how these matters proceed, it could divert our management’s attention and other resources away from our business.
General Risk Factors
Our failure to protect our intellectual property rights may harm our competitive position, and litigation to protect our intellectual property rights or defend against third-party allegations of infringement may be costly.
We regard our intellectual property as critical to the success of our business. Third parties may infringe or misappropriate our brand names, trademarks or other intellectual property rights, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or operating results. The actions we take to protect our trademarks and other proprietary rights may not be adequate. Litigation may be necessary to enforce our intellectual property rights, protect our trade secrets, or determine the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others. There are no assurances that we will be able to prevent infringement of our intellectual property rights or misappropriation of our proprietary information. Any infringement or misappropriation could harm any competitive advantage we currently derive or may derive from our proprietary rights. In addition, third parties may assert infringement claims against us. Any claims and any resulting litigation could subject us to significant liability for damages. An adverse determination in any litigation of this type could require us to design around a third-party's patent or to license alternative technology from another party. Litigation is time-consuming and expensive to defend and could result in the diversion of our time and resources. Any claims from third parties may also result in limitations on our ability to use the intellectual property subject to these claims.
Our business relies on technology systems and electronic communications, which, if disrupted, could materially affect our business.
We depend heavily upon our information technology systems in the conduct of our business. We develop, own and license or otherwise contract for sophisticated technology systems and services. If we experience significant disruptions to our systems, we could experience a loss of business, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations. Any data breach or severe disruption of our network or electronic communications could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
We rely on certain software vendors to maintain and periodically upgrade many of these systems so that they can continue to support our business. The software programs supporting many of our systems were licensed to us by independent software developers. The inability of these developers or us to continue to maintain and upgrade these information systems and software programs would disrupt or reduce the efficiency of our operations if we were unable to convert to alternate systems in an efficient and timely manner.
If we are unable to secure our customers’ personal and confidential information, or other private data relating to our associates, suppliers or our business, we could be subject to negative publicity, costly government enforcement actions or private litigation and increased costs, which could damage our business reputation and adversely affect our results of operations or business.
Many of our information technology systems, such as those we use for our point-of-sale, tax preparation software, web and mobile platforms, including online and mobile payment systems, and for administrative functions, including human resources, payroll, accounting, and internal and external communications, contain personal, financial or other information that is entrusted to us by our customers and associates. Many of our information technology systems also contain proprietary and
other confidential information related to our business and suppliers. Although we have developed procedures and technology in place to safeguard our customers’ personal information, our associates’ private data, suppliers’ data, and our business records and intellectual property and other sensitive information, we may nevertheless, be vulnerable to, and unable to anticipate, detect and appropriately respond to, data security breaches and data loss, including cyber-security attacks. If we or any third-party systems we use experience a data security breach, we could be exposed to negative publicity, reputational risk with our customers, government enforcement actions and private litigation, in addition to the potential of significant capital investments and other expenditures to remedy cybersecurity problems and prevent future security breaches. These costs, which could be material, could adversely impact our results of operations in the period in which they are incurred and may not meaningfully limit the success of future attempts to breach our information technology systems.
If we fail to retain our key senior management personnel or are unable to attract and retain highly skilled and other key personnel, our financial performance could be materially adversely affected.
We depend on our senior management and other key or highly skilled personnel. The loss of any of our executive officers or other key employees or the inability to hire, train, retain, and manage qualified personnel, could harm our business.
If we and our franchisees are unable to attract and retain qualified employees, our financial performance could be materially adversely affected.
Both we and our franchisees depend on the ability to find, hire and retain qualified employees to manage day-to-day business activities. Our operating subsidiaries also need qualified and competent personnel in executing their business plans and serving their customers. Our inability to recruit and retain qualified and competent managers and personnel could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our Certificate of Incorporation provides that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the exclusive forum for certain disputes between us and our stockholders, which may limit a stockholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds preferable for disputes with us and our directors, officers or other employees.
Our Certificate of Incorporation provides that, unless we otherwise determine, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, any action asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers or other employees to us or our stockholders, any action asserting a claim against us arising pursuant to any provision of the Delaware General Corporation Law, our Certificate of Incorporation or Bylaws, or any action asserting a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine. This forum selection provision does not apply to suits brought to enforce a duty or liability created by the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), or any claim for which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction. This forum selection provision may limit a stockholder’s ability to bring a claim that is not arising under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act, in a judicial forum (other than in a Delaware court) that it finds preferable for disputes with us or any of our directors, officers or other employees, which may discourage lawsuits with respect to such claims and result in increased costs for stockholders to bring a claim. If a court were to find this forum selection provision to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs or business interruption associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could adversely affect our business and financial condition.
Our stock price has been extremely volatile, and investors may be unable to resell their shares at or above their acquisition price or at all.
Our stock price has been, and may continue to be, subject to wide fluctuations in response to many risk factors listed in this section, and others beyond our control, including, but not limited to:
•actual or anticipated variations in our operating results from quarter to quarter;
•actual or anticipated variations in our operating results and financial performance from the expectations of securities analysts and investors;
•if analysts do not publish research or reports about our business or if they publish misleading or unfavorable research or reports about our business;
•actual or anticipated variations in our operating results from our competitors;
•fluctuations in the valuation of companies perceived by investors to be comparable to us;
•sales of common stock or other securities by us or our stockholders in the future;
•certain non-compliance, fraud and other misconduct by our franchisees and/or employees;
•departures of key executives or directors;
•announcements by us or our competitors of significant contracts, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, financing efforts or capital commitments;
•delays or other changes in our expansion plans;
•failure to maintain adequate internal controls;
•involvement in litigation (including securities class action litigation) or governmental investigations or enforcement activity;
•stock price and volume fluctuations attributable to inconsistent trading volume levels of our shares;
•general economic, stock market and market conditions in our industry and the industries of our customers;
•regulatory or political developments;
•global pandemics (such as the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic); and
•capital markets and trading markets fluctuations.
Although we may desire to continue to pay dividends in the future, our financial condition, debt covenants, or Delaware law may prohibit us from doing so.
The payment of dividends will be at the discretion of our Board of Directors and will depend, among other things, on our earnings, capital requirements, and financial condition. Our ability to pay dividends will also be subject to compliance with financial covenants that are contained in our credit facility and may be restricted by any future indebtedness that we incur or issuances of preferred stock. In addition, applicable law requires our Board of Directors to determine that we have adequate surplus prior to the declaration of dividends. Although we expect to pay a quarterly cash dividend to holders of our common stock, we have no obligation to do so, and our dividend policy may change at any time without notice to our stockholders. We cannot provide an assurance that we will continue to pay dividends at any specific level or at all.
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents, Delaware law, and our credit facility could make an acquisition of us more difficult, limit attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management, and adversely affect the value of our common stock.
Provisions in our second amended and restated certificate of incorporation and bylaws may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change of control or changes in our management. In addition, our credit facility contains covenants that may impede, discourage, or prevent a takeover of us. For instance, upon a change of control, we would default on our credit facility. As a result, a potential takeover may not occur unless sufficient funds are available to repay our outstanding debt. Provisions in our bylaws and credit facility may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of our Board of Directors, which is responsible for appointing the members of our management. Any provision of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and bylaws or our debt documents that has the effect of delaying or deterring a change of control could limit the opportunity for our stockholders to receive a premium for their shares of our common stock. Even in the absence of a takeover attempt, the existence of these provisions may adversely affect our stock value if they are viewed as discouraging takeover attempts in the future.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.
Item 2. Properties.
As of December 26, 2020, we operated or franchised 3,770 stores in 50 states and Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and 253 stores in Canadian provinces as detailed below:
|Liberty Tax||Buddy's ||American Freight||Vitamin Shoppe||Total|
|Alabama||— ||7 ||7 ||— ||11 ||11 ||9 ||— ||9 ||6 ||33 |
|Alaska||3 ||23 ||26 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||26 |
|Arizona||2 ||45 ||47 ||— ||4 ||4 ||9 ||1 ||10 ||11 ||72 |
|Arkansas||2 ||23 ||25 ||— ||15 ||15 ||2 ||— ||2 ||2 ||44 |
|California||15 ||250 ||265 ||— ||— ||— ||18 ||— ||18 ||77 ||360 |
|Colorado||2 ||35 ||37 ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||— ||1 ||7 ||45 |
|Connecticut||— ||30 ||30 ||— ||— ||— ||4 ||— ||4 ||10 ||44 |
|Delaware||2 ||8 ||10 ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||— ||1 ||3 ||14 |
|District of Columbia||— ||6 ||6 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||7 |
|Florida||12 ||137 ||149 ||34 ||19 ||53 ||34 ||— ||34 ||81 ||317 |
|Guam||— ||— ||— ||— ||2 ||2 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||2 |
|Georgia||8 ||75 ||83 ||— ||21 ||21 ||13 ||4 ||17 ||24 ||145 |
|Hawaii||2 ||5 ||7 ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||— ||1 ||7 ||15 |
|Idaho||4 ||12 ||16 ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||— ||1 ||3 ||20 |
|Illinois||2 ||79 ||81 ||— ||4 ||4 ||13 ||— ||13 ||37 ||135 |
|Indiana||5 ||33 ||38 ||1 ||— ||1 ||14 ||— ||14 ||11 ||64 |
|Iowa||1 ||12 ||13 ||— ||1 ||1 ||1 ||— ||1 ||2 ||17 |
|Kansas||4 ||16 ||20 ||— ||1 ||1 ||5 ||— ||5 ||2 ||28 |
|Kentucky||8 ||19 ||27 ||7 ||— ||7 ||5 ||— ||5 ||5 ||44 |
|Louisiana||1 ||23 ||24 ||— ||4 ||4 ||7 ||— ||7 ||6 ||41 |
|Maine||— ||1 ||1 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||2 ||3 |
|Maryland||2 ||26 ||28 ||— ||— ||— ||4 ||— ||4 ||21 ||53 |
|Massachusetts||1 ||52 ||53 ||— ||— ||— ||2 ||— ||2 ||16 ||71 |
|Michigan||5 ||75 ||80 ||— ||— ||— ||12 ||— ||12 ||17 ||109 |
|Minnesota||2 ||27 ||29 ||— ||— ||— ||3 ||— ||3 ||7 ||39 |
|Mississippi||— ||10 ||10 ||— ||9 ||9 ||3 ||— ||3 ||1 ||23 |
|Missouri||3 ||47 ||50 ||— ||2 ||2 ||8 ||— ||8 ||7 ||67 |
|Montana||— ||2 ||2 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||2 |
|Nebraska||— ||10 ||10 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||2 ||12 |
|Nevada||1 ||26 ||27 ||— ||— ||— ||3 ||— ||3 ||8 ||38 |
|New Hampshire||— ||6 ||6 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||4 ||10 |
|New Jersey||2 ||44 ||46 ||— ||— ||— ||4 ||— ||4 ||36 ||86 |
|New Mexico||20 ||14 ||34 ||— ||7 ||7 ||1 ||— ||1 ||3 ||45 |
|New York||7 ||147 ||154 ||— ||— ||— ||5 ||— ||5 ||66 ||225 |
|North Carolina||6 ||123 ||129 ||— ||10 ||10 ||11 ||— ||11 ||27 ||177 |
|North Dakota||— ||10 ||10 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||10 |
|Ohio||6 ||92 ||98 ||— ||— ||— ||26 ||— ||26 ||23 ||147 |
|Oklahoma||— ||31 ||31 ||— ||11 ||11 ||5 ||— ||5 ||3 ||50 |
|Oregon||4 ||18 ||22 ||— ||— ||— ||2 ||— ||2 ||5 ||29 |
|Pennsylvania||7 ||71 ||78 ||— ||5 ||5 ||10 ||— ||10 ||28 ||121 |
|Puerto Rico||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||— ||1 ||2 ||3 |
|Rhode Island||— ||10 ||10 ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||— ||1 ||2 ||13 |
|South Carolina||1 ||69 ||70 ||— ||11 ||11 ||8 ||— ||8 ||17 ||106 |
|South Dakota||— ||8 ||8 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||9 |
|Liberty Tax||Buddy's ||American Freight||Vitamin Shoppe||Total|
|Tennessee||18 ||35 ||53 ||— ||6 ||6 ||9 ||1 ||10 ||14 ||83 |
|Texas||11 ||283 ||294 ||3 ||80 ||83 ||35 ||— ||35 ||54 ||466 |
|Utah||1 ||20 ||21 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||22 |
|Vermont||1 ||1 ||2 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||1 ||3 |
|Virginia||10 ||70 ||80 ||— ||9 ||9 ||10 ||— ||10 ||25 ||124 |
|Washington||9 ||37 ||46 ||— ||15 ||15 ||2 ||— ||2 ||27 ||90 |
|West Virginia||— ||21 ||21 ||— ||— ||— ||2 ||— ||2 ||— ||23 |
|Wisconsin||3 ||19 ||22 ||— ||— ||— ||7 ||— ||7 ||4 ||33 |
|Wyoming||1 ||4 ||5 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||5 |
|Total||194 ||2,247 ||2,441 ||45 ||247 ||292 ||312 ||6 ||318 ||719 ||3,770 |
|Alberta||— ||40 ||40 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||40 |
|British Columbia||1 ||33 ||34 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||34 |
|Manitoba||1 ||28 ||29 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||29 |
|New Brunswick||— ||9 ||9 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||9 |
|Newfoundland and Labrador||— ||4 ||4 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||4 |
|Nova Scotia||— ||9 ||9 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||9 |
|Ontario||6 ||110 ||116 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||116 |
|Prince Edward Island||— ||2 ||2 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||2 |
|Saskatchewan||1 ||8 ||9 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||9 |
|Yukon||1 ||— ||1 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||1 |
|Total||10 ||243 ||253 ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||— ||253 |
We lease the vast majority of our Company-owned stores. Our leases typically provide an initial term with options to extend. As current leases expire, we believe that we will be able to obtain lease renewals, if desired, for present store locations, or to obtain leases for equivalent or better locations in the same general area.
Our leased properties also include the following:
|Miami Lakes, Florida||Manufacturing Facilities|
|Ashland, Virginia||Distribution Center|
|Avondale, Arizona ||Distribution Center|
|Pearl City, Hawaii||Distribution Center|
|Cupey Bajo, Puerto Rico||Distribution Center|
|New Castle Delaware||Distribution Center|
|Livonia, Michigan||Distribution Center|
|Kansas City, Missouri||Distribution Center|
|Tucker, Georgia||Distribution Center|
|Winter Park, Florida||Distribution Center|
|Carrollton, Texas||Distribution Center|
|Houston, Texas||Distribution Center|
|Reno, Nevada||Distribution Center|
|Secaucus, New Jersey||Corporate Offices|
|Orlando, Florida||Corporate Offices|
|Hoffman Estates, Illinois||Corporate Offices|
|Delaware, Ohio||Corporate Offices|
|Hurst, Texas||Corporate Offices|
|Markham, Canada||Corporate Offices|
We own our corporate headquarters which are located in four buildings. Our principal executive office is located at 2387 Liberty Way, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings.
For information regarding legal proceedings, please see "Note 15 - Commitments and Contingencies" in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements, which information is incorporated herein by reference.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.
Item 5. Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters, and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.
Market and Stock Information
Our common stock is listed on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol "FRG" and our Series A Preferred Stock is listed on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol "FRGAP." As of December 26, 2020, there were 40,092,260 and 1,250,000 shares of common stock and shares of our Series A Preferred Stock outstanding, respectively. As of December 26, 2020, options to acquire 391,409 shares of our common stock were outstanding, 328,075 of which were immediately exercisable.
Holders of Record
As of March 4, 2021, we had approximately 138 registered record holders of our common stock. The reported closing price of our common stock on March 4, 2021 was $34.43. As of March 4, 2021, we had 1 registered record holder of our Series A Preferred Stock. The reported closing price of our Series A Preferred Stock on March 4, 2021 was $25.25. EQ Shareowner Services is the transfer agent and registrar for our common stock and Series A Preferred Stock.
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
Other than those sales of unregistered securities that we have disclosed in quarterly reports on Form 10-Q or current reports on Form 8-K, we have not recently sold any unregistered securities.
On March 2, 2021, our Board of Directors declared quarterly dividends of $0.375 per share of common stock and $0.46875 per share of Series A Preferred Stock. The dividends will be paid in cash on or about April 15, 2021 to holders of record of our common stock and Series A Preferred Stock on the close of business on March 31, 2021. On December 3, 2020, our Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.375 per share of common stock. On December 3, 2020, our Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.46875 per share of Series A Preferred Stock. The common stock dividend was paid in cash on or about January 8, 2021 to holders of record of our common stock on the close of business on December 24, 2020 and the Series A Preferred Stock dividend was paid in cash on or about January 15, 2021 to holders of record of our Series A Preferred Stock on the close of business on December 31, 2020. The payment of dividends is at the discretion of our Board of Directors and depends, among other things, on our earnings, capital requirements, and financial condition. Our ability to pay dividends is also subject to compliance with financial covenants that are contained in our credit facility and may be restricted by any future indebtedness that we incur. In addition, applicable law requires our Board of Directors to determine that we have adequate surplus prior to the declaration of dividends. We cannot provide an assurance that we will pay dividends at any specific level or at all.
Our Board of Directors has authorized up to $10.0 million for repurchases of shares of our common stock. This authorization has no specific expiration date and cash proceeds from exercises of our stock options increase the amount of the authorization. In addition, the Board of Directors authorized a Liberty Tax AD repurchase program, which reduces the amount of the share repurchase authorization on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Shares repurchased from option exercises and RSUs vesting that are net-share settled by us and shares repurchased in privately negotiated transactions are not considered share repurchases under this authorization. As part of the AD repurchase program, we expended $9.1 million during the year ended December 26, 2020. During the year ended December 26, 2020, we did not repurchase any shares of our common stock.
Item 6. Selected Financial Data.
Not required for smaller reporting companies.
Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
We are an owner and operator of franchised and franchisable businesses that continually looks to grow our portfolio of brands while utilizing our operating and capital allocation philosophy to generate strong cash flows. We currently operate four reportable segments: Liberty Tax, Buddy’s, American Freight, and Vitamin Shoppe.
Our Vitamin Shoppe segment is an omni-channel specialty retailer of vitamins, minerals, herbs, specialty supplements, sports nutrition and other health and wellness products. Our American Freight segment is a retail chain offering unbranded furniture, mattresses and home accessories at discount prices. On October 23, 2019, we completed the acquisition of the Sears Outlet business (“Sears Outlet”) from Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Inc. (the “Sears Outlet Acquisition”). Sears Outlet has been rebranded as American Freight Outlet and is included in our American Freight segment. Our Liberty Tax segment is one of the leading providers of tax preparation services in the United States and Canada. Our Buddy's segment is a specialty retailer of high quality, name brand consumer electronic, residential furniture, appliances and household accessories through rent-to-own agreements.
Our revenue is primarily derived from merchandise sales, rental revenue, and service revenues comprised of royalties and other required fees from our franchisees and financial products.
In evaluating our performance, management focuses on several metrics that we believe are key to our success:
•Net change in retail and franchise locations. The change in retail and franchise locations from year to year is a function of the opening of new locations, offset by locations that we or our franchisees close. Please see "Item 2. Properties" in this Annual Report for the number of locations as of December 26, 2020.
•Systemwide revenue. Systemwide revenue, which is an operating measure not in accordance with GAAP, includes sales by both Company-owned and franchised locations. We believe systemwide revenue data is useful in assessing consumer demand for our products and services and our performance. In addition, systemwide revenue reflects the size of our business, and because the size of our business drives our management and infrastructure needs, systemwide revenue data helps us assess those needs in comparison to other companies in our industry and other franchise operators.
On February 14, 2020, we completed our acquisition of American Freight (the "American Freight Acquisition"). Additionally, we, through certain of our subsidiaries, entered into a new $675 million credit facility which funded the American Freight Acquisition and refinanced certain debt of our Buddy’s Home Furnishings and Sears Outlet businesses, refer to "Note 2 - Acquisitions" in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
On December 16, 2019, we completed our acquisition of The Vitamin Shoppe (the "Vitamin Shoppe Acquisition"). For a complete description of the Vitamin Shoppe Acquisition, refer to "Note 2 - Acquisitions" in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
On October 23, 2019, we completed the Sears Outlet Acquisition. For a complete description of the Sears Outlet Acquisition, refer to "Note 2 - Acquisitions" in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
On September 30, 2019, we acquired 21 Buddy’s stores from a series of franchisees of Buddy’s New Holdco, a wholly-owned direct subsidiary of the Company. In connection with the acquisition, the sellers received, in aggregate, 1,350,000 New Holdco units (defined below) and 270,000 shares of our Voting Non-Economic Preferred Stock for a purchase price of $16.8 million.
On August 23, 2019, we acquired 41 Buddy’s Home Furnishing stores from A-Team Leasing LLC. (“A-Team”), a franchisee of our Buddy’s segment, for total consideration of $26.6 million.
On July 10, 2019 (the "Buddy’s Acquisition Date"), we formed Franchise Group New Holdco LLC ("New Holdco"), which completed the Buddy’s Acquisition. At the Buddy’s Acquisition Date, each outstanding unit of Buddy’s was converted into the right to receive 0.459315 units of New Holdco (“New Holdco units”) and 0.091863 shares of our Voting Non-Economic Preferred Stock. Each of the New Holdco units held by the former equity holders of Buddy's (the "Buddy's Members") was, together with one-fifth of a share of Voting Non-Economic Preferred Stock held by the Buddy's Members, redeemable in exchange for one share of our common stock after an initial six-month lockup period following their issuance,
which has expired. As of the Buddy’s Acquisition Date, on an as-converted basis, the Buddy's Members' aggregate ownership of New Holdco units and share of Preferred Stock represented approximately 36.44% of our outstanding common stock, which implied an enterprise value of Buddy's of approximately $122 million and an equity value of $12.00 per share of our common stock. We are the sole managing member of New Holdco and is consolidated for financial reporting purposes. We and the Buddy's Members also entered into an income tax receivable agreement (the "TRA"), pursuant to which, subject to certain exceptions set forth in the TRA, we agreed to pay the Buddy's Members 40% of the cash savings, if any, in federal, state and local taxes that we realize or are deemed to realize as a result of any increases in tax basis of the assets of New Holdco resulting from future redemptions or exchanges of New Holdco units and Voting Non-Economic Preferred Stock held by the Buddy's Members in exchange for our common stock. As of April 1, 2020, all shares of Voting Non-Economic Preferred Stock and New Holdco units (except for the New Holdco units held by us) were redeemed for shares of our common stock and no shares of Voting Non-Economic Preferred Stock or New Holdco units remained outstanding (except for the New Holdco units held by us). Refer to the liquidity section below for further discussion. For a complete description of the Buddy’s Acquisition, refer to "Note 2 - Acquisitions" in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Results of Operations
For the Year Ended December 26, 2020 as compared to the Year Ended April 30, 2019
The following table sets forth the results of our operations for the years ended December 26, 2020 and April 30, 2019:
|Fiscal Years Ended||Change|
|Total revenues||$||2,152,504 ||$||132,546 ||$||2,019,958 ||1,524 ||%|
|Total operating expenses||2,076,382 ||133,405 ||1,942,977 ||1,456 ||%|
|Income (loss) from operations||76,122 ||(859)||76,981 ||(8,962)||%|
|Net income (loss)||$||27,154 ||$||(2,156)||$||29,310 ||(1,359)||%|
Revenues. The table below sets forth the components and changes in our revenue for the years ended December 26, 2020 and April 30, 2019:
|Fiscal Years Ended||Change|
|Product||$||1,899,662 ||$||—||$||1,899,662 ||— ||%|
|Service and other||188,575 ||132,546 ||56,029 ||42 ||%|
|Rental||64,267 ||— ||64,267 ||— ||%|
| Total revenue||$||2,152,504 ||$||132,546 ||$||2,019,958 ||1,524 ||%|
Our total revenue increased by $2.0 billion, or 1,524%, in the year ended December 26, 2020 compared to the year ended April 30, 2019. This increase was primarily due to the Buddy's Acquisition on July 10, 2019, which increased revenue by $97.3 million, the Sears Outlet Acquisition on October 23, 2019, which increased revenue by $433.7 million, the Vitamin Shoppe Acquisition on December 19, 2019, which increased revenue by $1,036.0 million, and the American Freight Acquisition on February 14, 2020, which increased revenue by $462.7 million.
Operating expenses. The following table details the amounts and changes in our operating expenses for the years ended December 26, 2020 and April 30, 2019:
|Fiscal Years Ended||Change|
|Cost of revenue:|
| Product||$||1,136,054 ||$||— ||$||1,136,054 ||— ||%|
| Service and other||2,149 ||— ||2,149 ||— ||%|
|Rental||21,905 ||— ||21,905 ||— ||%|
| Total cost of revenue||1,160,108 ||— ||1,160,108 ||— ||%|
|Selling, general and administrative expenses||916,274 ||124,060 ||792,214 ||639 ||%|
|Restructuring expenses||—||9,345 ||(9,345)||(100)||%|
| Total operating expenses||$||2,076,382 ||$||133,405 ||$||1,942,977 ||1,456 ||%|
Total operating expenses increased $1.9 billion, or 1,456%, in the year ended December 26, 2020 compared to the year ended April 30, 2019. This increase was primarily due to the Buddy's Acquisition on July 10, 2019, which increased operating expenses by $77.0 million, the Sears Outlet Acquisition on October 23, 2019, which increased operating expenses by $445.6 million, the Vitamin Shoppe Acquisition on December 19, 2019, which increased operating expenses by $1.0 billion, and the American Freight Acquisition on February 14, 2020, which increased operating expenses by $410.5 million.
Income Taxes. The following table sets forth certain information regarding our income taxes for the years ended December 26, 2020 and April 30, 2019:
|Fiscal Years Ended||Change|
|Loss before income taxes||$||(30,816)||$||(3,995)||$||(26,821)||671 ||%|
|Income tax benefit||(57,970)||(1,839)||(56,131)||3,052 ||%|
|Effective tax rate||188.1 ||%||46.0 ||%|| |
The increase in our income tax benefit in the year ended December 26, 2020 compared to the year ended April 30, 2019 relates to The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (the "CARES Act") which was enacted on March 27, 2020. The CARES Act retroactively changed the eligibility of certain assets for expense treatment in the year placed in service, back to 2018, and permitted any net operating loss for the tax years 2018, 2019 and 2020 to be carried back for five years. The Company recorded an income tax benefit of $52.3 million as a result of the CARES Act which is the primary reason for the change in the effective rate for the year ended December 26, 2020 compared to the year ended April 30, 2019.
Net income. In the year ended December 26, 2020, we had net income of $27.2 million compared to a net loss of $2.2 in the year ended April 30, 2019, primarily as a result of the income tax benefit of $52.3 million related to the CARES Act.
For a discussion of the 2019 Transition Period Results of Operations, including a discussion of the financial results for the Transition Period compared to unaudited period May 1, 2018 to December 29, 2018, refer to Part II, Item 7 of our Transition Report on Form 10-K/T filed with the SEC on April 24, 2020 ("Form 10-K/T").
For a discussion of the 2019 Results of Operations, including a discussion of the financial results for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2019 compared to the fiscal year ended April 30, 2018, refer to Part II, Item 7 of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended April 30, 2019, filed with the SEC on June 27, 2019 ("2019 10-K").
Our operations are conducted in four reporting business segments: Vitamin Shoppe, American Freight, Liberty Tax, and Buddy's. We define our segments as those operations whose results our chief operating decision maker ("CODM") regularly reviews to analyze performance and allocate resources.
We measure the results of our segments using, among other measures, each segment's net revenues, operating expenses and operating income (loss). We may revise the measurement of each segment's operating income, including the allocation of overhead costs, as determined by the information regularly reviewed by the CODM. When the measurement of a segment changes, previous period amounts and balances are reclassified to be comparable to the current period's presentation. Because the American Freight Acquisition occurred in the year ended December 26, 2020, and the Buddy's Acquisition, Sears Outlet Acquisition, and Vitamin Shoppe Acquisition occurred in the Transition Period, comparable information is not available; therefore, Vitamin Shoppe, American Freight, and Buddy's segment information is not provided in this discussion.
The following table summarizes the operating results of our Liberty Tax segment for the years ended December 26, 2020 and April 30, 2019:
|Fiscal Years Ended ||Change|
|Total revenues||$||122,777 ||$||132,546 ||$||(9,769)||(7)||%|
|Operating expenses||99,166 ||133,405 ||(34,239)||(26)||%|
|Operating income (loss)||$||23,611 ||$||(859)||$||24,470 ||(2,849)||%|
Total revenue for our Liberty Tax segment decreased $9.8 million, or 7%, for the year ended December 26, 2020 as compared to the year ended April 30, 2019. The decrease in revenue is primarily driven by the following:
•a decrease of $8.6 million in royalties and advertising, financial products and electronic filing fees related to store closures and reduced U.S. federal tax returns due to COVID-19; and
•a $4.6 million decrease in interest income related to a reduction in working capital loans to franchisees as well as a decrease in the loans due from reacquired ADs and franchisees; and
•an increase of $3.8 million in other revenues resulting primarily from gains recorded on AD and franchisee acquisitions where the consideration was less than the value of the acquired assets and ancillary product revenues; and
•a $1.3 million increase in tax preparation fees due to an increase in the number of Company-owned stores.
Operating expenses for the Liberty Tax segment decreased $34.2 million or 26% for the year ended December 26, 2020 as compared to the year ended April 30, 2019. The decrease in operating expenses is primarily driven by the following:
•a $9.3 million decrease in restructuring costs primarily due to store closures in fiscal 2019; and
•a decrease of $7.6 million in other expenses primarily related to reduced bad debt expense in 2020 and non-recurring professional fees in 2019; and
•a decrease of $6.9 million in compensation costs due to reductions to head count in fiscal 2020; and
•a decrease of $6.0 million in AD expense related to related to buybacks and non-renewals of ADs; and
•a $3.7 million decrease in depreciation, amortization and impairment charges primarily related to software disposed of in December 2019, partially offset by AD buybacks in 2020; and
•a $0.7 million reduction in advertising expense due to decreased tax return volume.
For a discussion of the Liberty Tax segment 2019 Transition Period Results of Operations, including a discussion of the financial results for the Transition Period compared to unaudited period May 1, 2018 to December 29, 2018, refer to Part II, Item 7 of our Form 10-K/T.
For a discussion of the Liberty Tax segment 2019 Results of Operations, including a discussion of the financial results for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2019 compared to the fiscal year ended April 30, 2018, refer to Part II, Item 7 of our 2019 10-K.
To provide additional information regarding our financial results, we have disclosed Adjusted EBITDA in the table below and within this Annual Report. Adjusted EBITDA represents net income (loss), before income taxes, interest expense, depreciation and amortization, and certain other items specified below. We have provided a reconciliation below of Adjusted EBITDA to net loss, the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure.
We have included Adjusted EBITDA in this Annual Report because we believe the presentation of these measures is useful to investors as supplemental measures in evaluating the aggregate performance of our operating businesses and in comparing our results from period to period because they exclude items that we do not believe are reflective of our core or ongoing operating results. These measures are used by our management to evaluate performance and make resource allocation decisions each period. Adjusted EBITDA is also the primary operating metric used in the determination of executive management’s compensation. In addition, a measure similar to Adjusted EBITDA is used in the Company’s credit facilities but is calculated differently. Adjusted EBITDA is not a recognized financial measure under GAAP and may not be comparable to similarly-titled measures used by other companies in our industry. Adjusted EBITDA should not be considered in isolation from or as an alternative to net income (loss), operating income (loss), or any other performance measures derived in accordance with GAAP.
The following table presents a reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA for each of the periods indicated.