A number of big stories came out of the western states in 2012. Below are the most noteworthy as reported by The Shelby Report this year.
Haggen Rolls Out Rebranding Program
Bellingham, Wash.-based Haggen launched its Northwest Fresh rebranding program at its Bellevue store in late 2011, and this year the company began extending the rebranding to all 28 of the company’s stores in Washington and Oregon. The new Northwest Fresh branding refocuses Haggen on its western Washington roots—particularly the area between Bellingham and Seattle—making it not only a local, but a hyper-local, effort, according to Haggen President and CEO C.J. Gabriel Jr. Full article
Fresh & Easy Closes 12 Stores
In January, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market said it planned to close a dozen stores—seven in California, four in Arizona and one in Nevada due to underperformance. A company spokesman told The Los Angeles Times then that the grocer, owned by British parent company Tesco, would reopen the stores “when economic and business conditions warrant.” Full article
Update: Fresh & Easy’s parent company, U.K.-based Tesco, announced earlier this month that it was performing a strategic review of its Fresh & Easy stores and likely would exit the U.S. market. Fresh & Easy has about 200 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada.
Raya Becomes Safeway’s Vons Division President
Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway promoted Lori Raya to lead its Vons division in Southern California as president. She succeeded Tom Kellar, who retired Feb. 1 after more than 40 years in the food industry. Raya joined Safeway about 25 years ago.
Additionally in 2012, Safeway rolled out its personalized “just for u” platform that tailors coupons and deals to program participants.
Later in the year, in mid-September, Safeway said it would consolidate its Portland and Seattle divisions to form a Northwest division led by Steve Frisby, who was in charge of both divisions prior to the consolidation. Full article
WinCo Foods Debuts First Arizona, Nevada Stores
Boise, Idaho-based WinCo Foods opened its first Arizona stores April 1. The debut of the discount warehouse/supermarket came less than a month after it made entry into Nevada with store openings in Las Vegas and Henderson. Michael Read, WinCo spokesman, told The Shelby Report then that “the grand openings went very well, they were very strong.”
Winco store opening articles:
Fallout Results from Ground Beef Controversy
Reports earlier in the year that beef processing byproducts, or lean finely textured beef (LFTB), treated with anti-bacterial agents such as ammonia or citric acid is unsafe resulted in fallout for beef processors, in particular Beef Products Inc. (BPI) with its headquarters in Dakota Dunes, S.D. Dubbed “pink slime” by major news outlets across the world, grocers and retailers pulled LFTB-enhanced products from their meat cases. BPI says it was forced to close three of its facilities, causing 700 workers to lose their jobs. It recently filed suit against ABC for defamation, citing more than $1 billion in claimed damages. Full article
Sprouts, Sunflower Merge
Two western farmers market operators—Sprouts Farmers Markets and Sunflower Farmers Market, merged in May, with the expanded company operating under the Sprouts name. The merged company projects 2012 annual revenues approaching $2 billion through more than 145 stores and about 11,000 employees. The addition of Sunflower’s approximately 37 stores expanded Sprouts’ geographic footprint into Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Oklahoma and further extends its presence in California, Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Conversions to the Sprouts banner are expected to be complete by the end of the year. Full article
Supervalu Eyes ‘Strategic Alternatives’
In July, Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu—with supermarkets and distribution centers across the nation—announced that it was looking at what its strategic alternatives might be, including selling all or parts of the company following a challenging first quarter. At press time, no buyers had emerged for the troubled supermarket operator and grocery wholesaler.
“Supervalu has gone through a lot of change over the last decade,” Keith Anderson, VP and senior analyst at RetailNet Group, told The Shelby Report in November. “The integration with C&S was a big transition and it was a big bet on Save-A-Lot. And structurally, as a corporate entity, they just face a lot of pressures.
“We are sure there will be some kind of resolution to everything,” he added, “but I don’t have a prediction of what it’s going to be.”
The company also appointed a new president and CEO in July. Wayne C. Sales, the company’s board chairman, replaced Craig R. Herkert as the leader of Supervalu.
Later in the year, in September, Supervalu released a list of 60 underperforming and/or non-strategic stores to be closed. Thirty-five stores on the list are in the West. For the Albertsons banner, all of the announced closures are on the West Coast—in California, Oregon and Washington. The closing list also includes some Save-A-Lot stores in California, Oregon and Washington. Full article
Find an updated Supervalu story here.
Union Talks Dominate
Union talks in California have dominated the grocery scene this year. Save Mart Supermarkets and its Lucky banner, as well as Safeway and Raley’s, all have been in negotiations with local chapters of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). At press time, on Nov. 5, UFCW Local 5 members had formed picket lines with Local 8 members at all Raley’s-Nob Hill stores in Northern California, citing management’s alleged unlawful implementation of takeaways and unfair labor practices. The labor dispute involves approximately 7,000 union members. The strike comes after more than a year of negotiations and marks the first time the company has faced a strike in its nearly 80 years in business.
Plastic Bag Ban Goes Into Effect in Seattle
A ban on single-use plastic bags took effect in Seattle on July 1. The city became the fourth in Washington to ban plastic bags, following Edmonds, Bellingham and Mukilteo. Any retail location that violates the Seattle ordinance can be charged a $250 fine.
New Seasons CEO Departs to Launch Healthy Convenience Stores
Portland-based New Seasons Market said in early October that its president and CEO, Lisa Sedlar, would leave the company to launch her own endeavor—healthy convenience stores. New Seasons, which will be a minority investor in Sedlar’s new enterprise, expects to name a new CEO early next year. Sedlar joined New Seasons as president in 2005 before becoming CEO in 2010. Full article
Find an updated New Seasons Market story here.