Randall Onstead, president and chief executive officer of Bi-Lo Holdings, has his eye on growth.
Bi-Lo, based in Jacksonville, Fla., has been owned since 2005 by Lone Star Funds, a Dallas-based investment company. It acquired Winn-Dixie in March 2012 and agreed earlier this year to acquire 165 stores from Delhaize Group, encompassing 72 Sweetbay stores (plus 10 leases) in Florida; 72 Harveys Supermarkets in South Carolina, Georgia and Northern Florida; and 11 units of Reid’s in South Carolina.
Onstead said he expects to continue to expand the company once the deal with Delhaize has been completed.
“We plan to grow, and there are three ways we are going to do it,” he told SN. “First, we see lots of opportunity for continued organic growth within our existing stores by focusing on offering customers the freshest foods at the best deals and really connecting to their neighborhoods.
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“Second, we will grow through smart capital investments in our stores as we keep remodeling and building new Bi-Los and Winn-Dixies.
“The third way we want to grow is through acquisition. The infrastructure we’re building today will be capable of supporting even more stores. We want to expand, and we are committed to it.”
Bi-Lo Holdings operates within an eight-state region in the Southeast — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee — and Onstead said he believes there are additional opportunities to grow within that marketing area.
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He declined to indicate if the company is interested in moving beyond those eight states but said, “We are continually looking for acquisitions that will add value to our company.”
Asked whether Bi-Lo would prefer to absorb one acquisition before taking on another, Onstead said, “One of the benefits of [having] a private-equity sponsor is the ability to bring additional resources to bear to help management deal with additional workloads.”
Dick Goodspeed, chairman of Unified Grocers, Los Angeles, and the former CEO of Vons when it was an independent chain, said Onstead is the right man for the job at Bi-Lo.
“Randall is a great strategist — a really deep thinker — and a no-nonsense guy. And he’s extremely good with numbers, which will help him focus on the debt level the company has. Plus he’s a good merchant who grew up learning from his dad, Robert Onstead [who owned Randalls, the Houston-based chain named for his son], who was one of the premier merchants in the industry in his time.”
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