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Supervalu Eyes Top-Line Growth

LAS VEGAS — The primary goal for Supervalu going forward is to grow sales, Bob Miller told a roomful of Supervalu customers here last week.

“There’s only one thing that makes you successful, and that’s growing sales,” said Miller, who is chairman of Albertsons LLC, Boise, Idaho, and is scheduled to become non-executive chairman of Supervalu when the sale of the company’s largest retail assets is completed in mid-March.

“Everything we do will be to drive sales for the company and for you, and we are here for the long term,” he told the independent operators during a cocktail party for Supervalu customers during last week’s National Grocers Association Show here.

When Supervalu acquired the best-performing assets from Albertsons in 2006, Albertsons LLC took the least successful Albertsons units, he recalled. “Comparable store sales were in the area of negative 7% or 8%, but we’ve had positive comps in 15 of the last 24 quarters, and that’s what we want to do at Supervalu.”

He said his financial partners — Cerberus Capital Management and four real estate companies — are scheduled to acquire up to 30% of Supervalu’s stock next month, “and they are committed to making the value of the stock go up.”

His remarks were echoed by Sam Duncan, who recently took over as president and chief executive officer of Supervalu.

“Our focus will be helping you to grow your businesses, and you will be hearing that a lot from me,” he said.

“I have three operating principles — integrity, accountability and a sense of urgency, and looking at the P&L statement, I can tell you we will operate for sales and cash. And we are in this for the long haul — we’re not going away.”

Read more: Duncan Takes Supervalu CEO Post Early

Duncan said he became involved last July with the Cerberus-led group that’s buying the retail chains and taking an equity position in Supervalu.

“I looked at the company and how it operated, and when I came on as a consultant when the deal was announced Jan. 10, I got to see the operation more clearly,” he explained. “Having done the due diligence, I am in awe to realize the wholesale business has stayed consistent despite all the confusion that was going on. When I was at OfficeMax, $3.5 billion of our sales came from wholesale, and I love that side of the business.

“I’m very excited about the opportunities I see at Supervalu. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I’ve had 18 months in retirement to recharge my batteries.”

In his presentation, Miller said he will play the role of an advisor at Supervalu. “I’m a groceryman — that’s the only title that counts.”

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