DELHAIZE RESTRUCTURES KASH N' KARRY

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Delhaize here said last week it would close or sell 34 underperforming Kash n' Karry stores as it seeks to focus its revitalization efforts on its most profitable locations.The closings, set to take place by the end of next month, will essentially withdraw the chain from the Orlando, Fla., market and eastern Florida, according to Camille Branch-Turley, spokeswoman, Kash n' Karry."It

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Delhaize here said last week it would close or sell 34 underperforming Kash n' Karry stores as it seeks to focus its revitalization efforts on its most profitable locations.

The closings, set to take place by the end of next month, will essentially withdraw the chain from the Orlando, Fla., market and eastern Florida, according to Camille Branch-Turley, spokeswoman, Kash n' Karry.

"It signals a major, major recommitment to our core market, so we can bring the great changes we saw in 2003 to more of our stores," she told SN.

The chain, based in Tampa, Fla., will retain most of its operations in that market and the western region of the state, leaving it with 103 locations. Its distribution center in Plant City, Fla., about midway between Orlando and Tampa, will not be affected, Branch-Turley said.

In connection with the closures, Delhaize said it also would open or remodel 20 Kash n' Karry stores in 2004 as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the chain under the new management of Shelly Broader, president and chief operating officer, who joined the chain from sister chain Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, last year.

Branch-Turley said the chain was placing a lot of emphasis on remodeling, adding Nature's Place organic/natural departments and improving the quality of its perishables offerings through the alignment of its procurement functions with those of Hannaford Bros.

Other changes that are part of what Delhaize described as a "rebranding" of Kash n' Karry are a focus on customer service and more attention to the development of employees, she said.

Patrick Roquas, analyst, Kempen & Co., Amsterdam, said he was not surprised by the company's plans. "I would say it's a good thing to restructure Kash n' Karry, and focus on improving its most profitable operations," he told SN.