The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That was true for SN's annual listing of the Top 75 chains in North America, as the top 10 chains on last year's list remained this year's top 10.
However, there were a couple of significant flip-flops, as Supervalu, Minneapolis, passed Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway to become the No. 4 operator after integrating the Al-bertsons stores that it acquired in mid-2006; and Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., took over the No. 7 spot from Ahold USA — on the strength of opening 40 new stores during 2007, and on the heels of Ahold's sale of its 71 Tops Markets, which represented approximately 7% of the company's 2006 volume.
Among the next 10 chains on the list, Sobeys passed Meijer to become No. 12 on this year's list, following its aggressive move into British Columbia with the acquisition last fall of Thrifty Foods and the positive impact of ongoing sales and merchandising initiatives.
A&P returned to the top 20 — at No. 17, up from No. 21 a year earlier — by acquiring Pathmark Stores, Carteret, N.J., at the end of 2007.
A&P saw its ranking decline in 2005 when it sold off its Canadian operations. It sold off stores in Detroit and New Orleans in 2007 to coalesce into a more focused Northeast-only operation.
Pathmark, last year's No. 31, was one of three companies to disappear from the Top 75 list this year when it was sold; the other two were Wild Oats Markets, Boulder, Colo. (No. 63 last year), which was sold to Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods, which in turn spun off 36 units to Smart & Final, Los Angeles; and Associated Grocers, Seattle (No. 67), which was sold to Unified Grocers, Los Angeles, last fall.
With only one month of added volume from Wild Oats, Whole Foods moved up one notch, to No. 22, while Smart & Final also moved up one spot, to No. 49.
For Unified, the addition of AG's volume enabled it to move up seven spots this year, to No. 32.
Replacing the three acquired chains on the 2008 list are Tops Markets, Williamsville, N.Y., debuting at No. 54, which was acquired late in the year by a New York-based investment group, Morgan Stanley Private Equity; Fareway Stores, Boone, Iowa, debuting at No. 73; and Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., Charleston, S.C., which rejoined the list at No. 74 after a two-year absence.
Albertsons LLC, Boise, Idaho, which was created out of the Albertsons properties that Supervalu did not acquire in 2006, dropped out of this year's top 20, falling to No. 24 from No. 19 last year while operating 58 fewer stores — some of which were closed; some of which, in Oklahoma, were sold to Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan.; and some, in Austin, Texas, to H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio. Albertsons LLC has previously indicated it intends to continue operating most of its 333 remaining stores rather than seek buyers for them.
Trader Joe's, Monrovia, Calif., moved up four slots to No. 23 this year on the strength of an aggressive store expansion program, which included 28 new stores during the last six months of 2007 and 20 more stores slated to open before its fiscal year ends in June.
Two chains dropped slightly on the 2008 list despite adding sales:
ALDI, Batavia, Ill., which fell back one notch to No. 25, despite adding 75 stores and approximately $500 million in sales.
HY-VEE FOOD STORES, which fell back two spots to No. 27, with one less store and a sales gain of about $200 million.
Other chains saw their fortunes rise with improved sales, each moving up four notches:
WEGMANS FOOD MARKETS, Rochester, N.Y., which moved up to No. 30 following a sales gain of approximately $400 million.
HARRIS TEETER, Matthews, N.C., a division of Ruddick Corp., Charlotte, N.C., which moved up to No. 36 on the strength of 12 additional stores and $400 million in sales.
WINCO FOODS, Boise, Idaho, which moved up to No. 39 after adding eight new stores and an estimated $300 million in sales.
INGLES MARKETS, Asheville, N.C., which climbed to No. 40 with an identical-store count and a sales boost of $300 million.
Among operators whose results declined:
NASH FINCH CO., Minneapolis, fell back two spots to No. 31 as volume slipped by approximately $600 million — due in part to the loss of a 20-store customer and the decision to delay investments in a strategic growth plan in order to focus first on creating a solid foundation from which to grow.
HOUCHENS INDUSTRIES, Bowling Green, Ky., dropped eight spots to No. 53 as volume fell by about $500 million following the sale of its tobacco business last March.
Among other changes on the 2008 list:
GROCERS SUPPLY CO., Houston, rose six spots to No. 48, largely on the continuing strength of Fiesta Marts, the company-owned retailer that reportedly accounts for more than half its volume.
MARSH SUPERMARKETS, Indianapolis, fell one spot to No. 57 with the divestiture at midyear of its Village Pantry convenience store chain, which had accounted for approximately 20% of sales.
CENTRAL GROCERS, Franklin Park, Ill., climbed six spots to No. 58 on the strength of a sales increase estimated at $300 million that resulted from both internal growth and the acquisition in mid-2006 of 12 Cub stores from Supervalu, seven of which Central Grocers kept as corporate stores and five of which went to member operators.
BROOKSHIRE BROTHERS, Lufkin, Texas, rose five notches to No. 60 after acquiring 29 convenience stores at midyear, which boosted volume by $26 million.
PENN TRAFFIC CO., Syracuse, N.Y., fell four spots to No. 62 on flat sales.
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