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Movable Banners: Lucky Is Up, Kash n' Karry Is Down

Movable Banners: Lucky Is Up, Kash n' Karry Is Down

Is there some cosmic force that makes the industry seek symmetry?

Probably not, but consider this: Last month in this space we took a look at the bold experiment going on in California involving Save Mart Supermarkets' decision to rebanner 72 Albertsons stores it acquired in the Bay area as Luckys, a banner that fell into complete disuse in 1999.

Also last month and on the opposite coast, Delhaize arrived at the end of a three-year-long project that resulted in the complete eradication of one of its store banners in Florida, Kash n' Karry. It was replaced by the Sweetbay flag. See last week's SN, Page 1.

Why does the Lucky name have so much appeal to shoppers that it's being revived after years of disuse, while Kash n' Karry had so little value as a name that it was tossed right out the window? Let's take a couple of guesses.

First, Lucky, a name that had been in use since 1935, was long known for its promotional prices, moderate service levels, finely tuned assortment and maybe because the name itself has intrinsic appeal. Conversely, the harsh-sounding Kash n' Karry name didn't have too much going for it, and it limited what could be done with it since it held no expectation past bare-bones retailing.

To be sure, Kash n' Karry, like Lucky, had a lot of history going for it. It had roots dating to 1914, and evolved into a company that operated stores as Tampa Wholesale. The Kash n' Karry banner was rolled out in 1962. Maybe at that time, the quirky spelling of the banner seemed fashionable, and the “k” might have seemed stronger than a “c.” Krispy Kreme has used aberrant spelling since its founding in 1937. At some point, though, such spellings lose their charm. (Incidentally, why wasn't it Kash 'n' Karry? Two apostrophes are needed.)

Most likely, the name cash and carry — let's use standard spelling for a while — was selected with the cash and carry form of wholesaling in mind. Cash and carries vend to stores so small wholesalers won't deliver to them. Instead, store buyers pick product themselves from a wholesaler's designated location, pay cash and transport product to their store themselves. Curious history: The term “cash and carry” apparently was coined in 1939 at a time when Neutrality Acts forbade the U.S. from supplying war material on credit to European belligerents. Instead, they were asked to come pick up needed munitions and pay cash for them. The Lend-Lease plan followed that and, fortunately, failed to spawn a supermarket banner.

One last curious fact: The company that once operated Lucky stores in California bought Kash n' Karry's predecessor company in 1979 and operated it for years. Delhaize's Food Lion chain bought Kash n' Karry in 1996 from a group that had channeled it through a pre-packaged Chapter 11 in 1994.

In the now-completed Kash n' Karry metamorphosis, Delhaize accomplished much. In a short time, it remodeled and rebannered 92 stores, and closed 34. Now we'll see if the burden of history weighs at all on Sweetbay. One hazard: Although Kash n' Karry promised more about price than it delivered, Sweetbay's decidedly upscale look and name may speak the language of price too quietly.