AHOLD UNFURLING BI-LO BANNER IN MALAYSIA

ZAANDAM, Netherlands -- Ahold here has exported another one of its U.S. supermarket banners to Malaysia, though it sports a different concept.The Dutch retailer and the Kuok Group, its Malaysian joint-venture partner, introduced a discount food-store format in Asia that will operate under the Bi-Lo banner. The partnership has opened 16 Bi-Lo stores in Malaysia's biggest cities, Kuala Lumpur and Johore

ZAANDAM, Netherlands -- Ahold here has exported another one of its U.S. supermarket banners to Malaysia, though it sports a different concept.

The Dutch retailer and the Kuok Group, its Malaysian joint-venture partner, introduced a discount food-store format in Asia that will operate under the Bi-Lo banner. The partnership has opened 16 Bi-Lo stores in Malaysia's biggest cities, Kuala Lumpur and Johore Bahru.

While the units use the name of Ahold's Mauldin, S.C.-based supermarket chain, Bi-Lo, the store formats are completely different, spokesman Hans Gobes told SN. The Bi-Lo format, designed primarily for urban areas, will complement the larger Tops stores Ahold is opening throughout Southeast Asia, he added. "Bi-Lo's format in the United States is an excellent full-service supermarket with all the produce, bakery and meat departments and customer service areas," Gobes said.

"The Bi-Lo stores in Asia are discount stores with a maximum capacity of 400 to 500 products. They will only feature dry groceries."

The Bi-Lo stores, about 3,000 square feet, will be located in densely populated areas. Centralized purchasing and tightly controlled operating costs will keep prices competitive on brand-name and private-label products, Ahold reported.

The Tops units are 22,000-square-foot, full-service supermarkets with more than 10,000 products and are located on the outskirts of urban areas, Gobes said.

"Bi-Lo will be the neighborhood discount store and will be in the places where people live. People will be able to walk from their apartments to the stores to pick up items," he explained. "For the Tops stores, customers will have to come by car."

Ahold introduced its Asian Tops stores, named after Ahold USA's Tops Markets, Williamsville, N.Y., this fall. It chose the Tops and Bi-Lo banners after extensive research showed that Asian shoppers like those names, Gobes said.

"We tested various names and from a consumer point of view, Tops did very well for the larger supermarket and Bi-Lo did well as a name for discount stores," he explained.

In the next five to 10 years, Ahold plans to open 200 to 1,000 stores in Asia. It now has operations in Indonesia, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The Tops and Bi-Lo formats will be part of the expansion effort in the Pacific Rim region, Gobes said.