From Target to Bi-Lo, Strategic Moves Impact Industry Rankings

The industry’s $1 billion dollar sales club is now just a bit less exclusive.

For the first time all companies making SN’s newly released Top 75, the annual ranking of North American food retailers and wholesalers, have surpassed the $1 billion sales mark.

That’s an impressive factoid to remember at industry gatherings and for office water-cooler conversations, even though it’s probably not the most important thing about this year’s list (see the Top 75 insert for the story and rankings).

It was inevitable that inflation would eventually push all the largest retailers past this dollar milestone. Some observers also noted that store closings by weaker operators played a role.

More important in the long term is how individual retailers are surging because of their strategies. This year’s rankings were impacted by sales growth at a number of retailers, including Target Corp. with it’s P-fresh food format now incorporated in close to half its stores; Bi-Lo with its renovation moves; and Fresh & Easy with its ongoing expansion.

Industry mergers played a role in the relative positions of several acquiring companies including 7-Eleven, Sprouts Farmers Market and PAQ.

In fact, The Food Institute has reported a 21% increase in overall food industry mergers in 2011, to some 384 transactions for retailers, suppliers and others.

What you won’t see on this year’s Top 75 list is the impact of deals and other moves still pending or those that occurred after the close of the latest fiscal years of the Top 75 retailers. In many years those late-season developments would have had little impact on the roster, but not so this time. The latest moves included:

  • Homeland Stores has been sold to its employees by Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City. The sale involves 76 units, which will continue to be supplied by AWG.
  • Giant Food Stores has agreed to purchase 16 Genuardi’s stores from Safeway.
  • Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie plan to merge in a deal that would create a $10 billion supermarket entity.
  • Delhaize Group plans to shutter 113 Food Lions and discontinue the Bloom banner as part of a wide-ranging reorganization strategy.

These late developments will surely figure prominently in next year’s rankings. Moreover, they have already set the tone for an action-packed start to the new year. Some analysts have predicted we won’t see much big merger activity this year, but even if that’s the case, there’s already been enough activity to keep the industry buzzing for a while.

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