BLOOM TO ADD SIX STORES IN GREENVILLE

SALISBURY, N.C. - Six of the nine stores Food Lion plans to open in the Greenville, S.C., market in 2006 will carry the Bloom banner, Food Lion said last week.SN reported last month that Food Lion was planning to expand its test of the Bloom concept into the Greenville and Washington, D.C., markets. Food Lion currently has five Bloom stores in Charlotte, N.C., that feature state-of-the-art technologies

SALISBURY, N.C. - Six of the nine stores Food Lion plans to open in the Greenville, S.C., market in 2006 will carry the Bloom banner, Food Lion said last week.

SN reported last month that Food Lion was planning to expand its test of the Bloom concept into the Greenville and Washington, D.C., markets. Food Lion currently has five Bloom stores in Charlotte, N.C., that feature state-of-the-art technologies and a strong focus on customer convenience.

Greenville is a new market for Food Lion. In Washington, D.C., the chain is planning a marketwide remodeling campaign and is evaluating which of its 60 stores there will be converted to Bloom and which will become Bottom Dollar, its limited-assortment, deep-discount format.

Food Lion recently expanded Bloom's offerings with a wider selection of prepared and gourmet foods and a new line of private-label items.

Meanwhile, Brussels, Belgium-based Delhaize Group last week said strong sales growth at its Food Lion banner in the second half of 2005 helped the company post a revenue gain of 4.1% for the year.

"Our main satisfaction for the fiscal year 2005 has been an improving sales trend during the year, with the strongest sales dynamics in the fourth quarter," said Pierre-Olivier Beckers, president and chief executive officer, Delhaize. "We have been particularly pleased with the sales upturn at Food Lion in the second half of the year."

In the fourth quarter, comparable-store sales were up 2.5% in the United States, where Delhaize operates the Food Lion, Hannaford Bros. and Kash n' Karry/Sweetbay chains. Comp-store sales for the full year were up 1.1% in the U.S.

Delhaize said Food Lion's "strong sales momentum" in the fourth quarter was driven by effective pricing and marketing initiatives, improved store-level execution, the marketwide remodeling initiatives in Greensboro, S.C. and Baltimore, and store closings by rival Winn-Dixie.

Andrew Wolf, analyst, BB&T Capital Markets, also pointed out that Food Lion was up against a relatively weak comparable-sales number in the year-ago fourth quarter, when comps were up only 0.3%.

"If you adjust for the easy comparison, they almost maintained the sales they had in the third quarter," he said.

In New England, the company said sales momentum picked up gradually throughout the fourth quarter after the conversion of the 19-unit Victory Markets banner, which was acquired last year, to Hannaford.

Total sales in the U.S. rose 5.1% in the fourth quarter to $4.2 billion, compared with year-ago results. For the year, U.S. sales rose 4.4% to $16.6 billion. (Delhaize reported its fiscal 2005 results too late for the Top 75 supplement, which appears in this issue and reported estimated sales of $16.5 billion for Delhaize.)

A full earnings report for fiscal 2005 is scheduled to be released March 15.

Delhaize said it expects capital expenditures in the U.S. to total $700 million in 2006. It plans to open 54 new supermarkets, including the Greenville locations. It plans to remodel or expand 158 supermarkets.

All of the company's Kash n' Karry stores in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., are scheduled to be converted to Sweetbay. In 2005, 19 Sweetbays were added through conversions or new openings, giving the company 25 Sweetbays at the end of 2005.

In addition, Delhaize plans to convert six Food Lion stores to the Harvey's banner, after converting 12 in 2005.