published: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Local Sweetbay Supermarkets safe; 33 others not so lucky
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
and BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - Sweetbay employees and shoppers in Highlands County can breathe a sigh of relief after the Sweetbay corporate offices in Tampa announced the closure of 33 stores in the state of Florida.
Media Relations director Nicole LeBeau confirmed the closures early Friday afternoon to the News-Sun.
"The stores listed on our website will be the ones closing," LeBeau said.
Neither of the Highlands County (Sebring and Lake Placid) store locations were listed on the supermarkets website.
Sebring's Sweetbay manager was unable to comment on the subject Friday afternoon.
The closest link in the chain to feel the ax will be in Polk County at the store on U.S. 98 in Lakeland.
Over the years, the location at the DeSoto Square shopping plaza has carried a number of badges. It has served shoppers as a Food Lion, a Pak 'n Save and Kash n' Karry.
In 2004, after years of slumping sales growth, Kash n' Karry announced the creation of their new supermarket concept called Sweetbay Supermarket, which first appeared in its core markets on the west coast of Florida. By September 2007, all Kash n' Karry stores had been redesigned as Sweetbays.
Some annalists contend the chain has since suffered from image problems and an inability to carve out a niche among Florida shoppers. They say Kash n' Karry had appealed to budget-conscious consumers, however, Sweetbay's more upscale approach alienated some of its customer base with higher prices on wine and other items. Further, industry experts charge Sweetbay failed to gain overall traction against firmly embedded competitors such as Publix
A media release stated no specific reason for the closures of the 33 stores but stated: "While these decisions are difficult, especially given the impact on our associates, customers and communities, these actions will continue to enhance the performance of our overall store portfolio and further enable us to deliver profitable growth and accelerate shareholder value."
The closures are mainly in the Tampa Bay area. The closures are spread from the northwestern Florida coast beginning in Pasco County down to the Fort Myers/Naples area. Two stores in Lake County (Clermont) will also be closing their doors.
Roughly a third of the stores owned by the Belgain-based Delhaize Group will be shuttered, leaving 72 operating locations across the Sunshine State after mid-February. Sweetbay spokeswoman Nichole LeBeau said the move was designed to help the chain "deliver profitable growth and accelerate shareholder value."
As a result of the closures, 2,000 employees will lose their positions with the establishment. Sweetbay stated it will provide severance to eligible employees.
Earnings reports indicated revenues for Delhaize America fell 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter, with the company reportedly anticipating a 17.5 percent decline in 2012 operating profits
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