NEWSWATCH

HY-VEE UNVEILS SMALL-STORE BANNER LINCOLN, Neb. Hy-Vee last week opened its first small-store prototype, called Heartland Pantry, here at the site of a larger Hy-Vee store that was closed and relocated. The retailer, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, described Heartland Pantry as an intriguing, practical and flexible format that can be adapted for smaller towns that cannot sustain a large supermarket.

HY-VEE UNVEILS SMALL-STORE BANNER

LINCOLN, Neb. — Hy-Vee last week opened its first small-store prototype, called Heartland Pantry, here at the site of a larger Hy-Vee store that was closed and relocated. The retailer, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, described Heartland Pantry as an “intriguing, practical and flexible” format “that can be adapted for smaller towns that cannot sustain a large supermarket.” The 27,000-square-foot store, which takes its name from a chain of convenience stores that Hy-Vee sold in 1999, is less than half the size of a typical Hy-Vee combination store. It features around 10,000 SKUs with an emphasis on private-label groceries, specialty items and brand-name special buys.

METRO ‘ENCOURAGED’ BY CONVERSIONS

MONTREAL — Metro Inc. here said last week that its conversion of former A&P-owned stores in Ontario to the Metro banner has been well received by consumers, and that results from the stores are “encouraging.” Eric LaFleche, the company's president and chief executive officer, made the remarks during a conference call discussing Metro's results for the fourth quarter, in which profits grew 25.5% and exceeded analysts' estimates. In the quarter, which ended Sept. 27, Metro posted net income of about $58.4 million (U.S.) on sales of about $2 billion, a 1.8% improvement over year-ago sales results. Same-store sales were up 1.5% in the period. For the year, net income rose 5.8%, to $236.5 million, on a sales gain of 0.8%, to $8.67 billion.

TARGET'S ‘AGGRESSIVE TESTS’ IN FOOD

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. here last week said it plans to “aggressively test” an expanded food offering in its discount stores despite a $1 billion reduction in capital spending for 2009. “We are going to continue to push and test aggressively a multitude of food expansions in remodels and other test stores to make sure that we fairly understand where it works and where it doesn't work,” said Gregg Steinhafel, president and chief executive officer, in a conference call discussing third-quarter results. Food and HBC continue to be fast-growing areas for the chain — combined, they had sales growth of about 10% in the quarter, Target said.

PRICE CHOPPER TO BUY 2 P&C STORES

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Price Chopper here has agreed to buy two P&C supermarkets from Penn Traffic Co., Syracuse, N.Y., both companies said. Terms were not disclosed. One of the locations, in Oswego, N.Y., will replace an existing Price Chopper, while the other — a 48,000-square-foot store in Lebanon, N.H. — will mark the chain's third location in that state.

AVANZA PRICING DRAWS LAWSUITS

DENVER — Plaintiffs here last week filed suit against Nash Finch Co., alleging its practice of “shelf plus” pricing at its Avanza stores violates Colorado's consumer protection laws. According to separate suits filed in Denver and Adams County district courts, Avanza advertised prices in circulars and on store shelves, and compared those prices to those at competing chains, but failed to conspicuously reveal to consumers that a 10% charge would be added to the total bill at checkout. The suits also charge that Avanza stores “rounded up” item prices. A spokesman for Minneapolis-based Nash Finch wasn't immediately available for comment.