LUCKY TO TARGET ETHNIC SHOPPERS

LAS VEGAS - Supervalu expects to use the Lucky banner to rebrand Albertsons stores serving ethnic communities here and in Southern California, Jeff Noddle, chairman and chief executive officer, said here last week."We see Lucky as a neighborhood solution with tailored offerings," Noddle said in a keynote address to the Western Food Industry Exposition, sponsored by the California Grocers Association.Supervalu's

LAS VEGAS - Supervalu expects to use the Lucky banner to rebrand Albertsons stores serving ethnic communities here and in Southern California, Jeff Noddle, chairman and chief executive officer, said here last week.

"We see Lucky as a neighborhood solution with tailored offerings," Noddle said in a keynote address to the Western Food Industry Exposition, sponsored by the California Grocers Association.

Supervalu's intention, he explained, is "to relaunch the Lucky banner in neighborhoods where ethnic customers predominate" - with Hispanics being the largest group, along with Asians - "where the Lucky identity may have a more important neighborhood feel."

He said Lucky stores will offer "a more locally tailored assortment, with a focus on items that are most relevant to customers in those areas. Consumers recognize that Lucky delivers the right products at the right price, and we're excited to have the promise of the Lucky brand in our portfolio."

Reflecting on the company's decision to use the Lucky banner in ethnic areas of Southern California - a marketplace that encompasses Las Vegas - Noddle cited the region's population density and diversity, "which gives us plenty of opportunities to customize the product mix on a neighborhood basis."

Supervalu has already converted five Albertsons stores to the Lucky banner - three in Southern California and two here, all in ethnic neighborhoods. Asked when additional locations might be converted, Noddle told SN, "We want to see how the first five do."

The Lucky name has "a 65-year legacy of low-price leadership" in Southern California, Noddle said.

The name still had strong consumer appeal at the time Albertsons acquired American Stores Co. in 1999, but Albertsons opted to drop the Lucky banner.

The name has been the subject of a legal dispute between Albertsons and Grocery Outlet, a Berkeley, Calif.-based chain that claims Albertsons lost rights to the name by not using it for several years. Although the matter is still in the courts, Noddle said Supervalu, through its acquisition of Albertsons, owns the name.

Noddle directed most of his remarks in the presentation to Supervalu's plans for Southern California.

He said he does not expect Supervalu to seek new wholesale customers there or make acquisitions there in the short term, "though I never say never. But we have no plans to expand our distribution to independents in Southern California. Right now our plan is to focus on the retail business we've acquired there."