Food Lion Revamps Va. Markets

BRUSSELS — Delhaize Group [3] here on Thursday said it planned to expand its Food Lion repositioning effort to about 250 stores in the Virginia markets of Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke and Lynchburg.

The makeovers include reduced pricing and other changes, and have driven sales gains in the Raleigh, N.C., market, the company said.

“The solid trends in both customer count and number of items purchased in the Food Lion ‘phase one’ stores in the Raleigh market continued in the fourth quarter and early this year,” said Pierre-Olivier Beckers, president and chief executive officer, Delhaize Group, in a conference call discussing fourth-quarter results.

Delhaize also said operating profit in the U.S. fell 20.3% in the fourth quarter, to $243 million, and was down 9.5% for the year, to $921 million. Operating profit margins were down 60 basis points in 2011, to 4.8% of sales. The company attributed the declines to “soft sales and price investments” in the competitive and economically challenged Southeast.

As previously reported, comparable-store sales in the U.S. were down 0.4% for the fourth quarter.