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99 Cents Only Stores Adds Food Expertise

99 Cents Only Stores Adds Food Expertise

"The kind of execution Rick can bring can take 99 Cents Only to the next level." — Industry observer

COMMERCE, Calif. — The appointment of Rick Anicetti as interim chief executive officer of 99 Cents Only Stores here may signal a more aggressive move by the extreme-value retailer to use food to drive more weekly shopping trips, industry observers told SN last week.

Anicetti, who has been a member of the company’s board for the past eight months, is the former president and CEO of Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., a division of Delhaize Group.

“The dollar-store guys are trying to get more into food,” one observer pointed out. “Both Dollar General and Family Dollar are getting more into refrigerated and frozen foods, with Dollar General testing beer and Family Dollar testing tobacco as part of an effort to increase food offerings to drive trips and basket sizes.

“Those two companies are ahead of 99 Cents Only in those categories, and it would seem 99 Cents is trying to catch up with Rick Anicetti, who is a sharp, rock-solid guy.”

According to another observer, “Rick is a very strong food retail executive, and his appointment reflects the direction 99 Cents Only may go in terms of expanding and increasing fresh and frozen offerings.

“In addition, the kind of execution Rick can bring can take 99 Cents Only to the next level.

“Right now fresh is buried at the back of the stores. But with his skill set, the stores have the opportunity to move from a treasure-hunt approach to more of a weekly shop, the same way Dollar General has been successful at doing.”

More news: Dollar General to Open 635 New Stores

One industry analyst also said Anicetti should help 99 Cents Only improve its perishables image: “The company has always sold a lot of food, and before it went private it was trying to figure out how to continue that approach — either to work with the single price point or to eliminate it for some items.

“The former management team did not have a food background, so presumably Anicetti will be able to help the organization manage the category better, especially perishables.”

Besides the appointment of Anicetti as interim CEO, 99 Cents Only also named Michael Fung, former chief financial officer at Walmart U.S., as interim chief administrative officer.

Founding Family Members Depart

In the wake of those changes, three members of the Gold/Schiffer family that founded the chain have left the company: Eric Schiffer, CEO; Jeff Gold, president and chief operating officer; and Howard Gold, executive vice president.

99 Cents Only was acquired in October 2011 by a consortium of private investors led by Ares Management, Los Angeles, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, along with members of the founding family. Ares also owns a majority stake in food retailer , also based in Los Angeles.

Anicetti began his industry career in 1980 at Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, and held the post of chief operating officer at the time the company was acquired by Delhaize in 2000.  He became president of Food Lion in 2001 and CEO in 2002, and in January 2010 was named CEO of Delhaize America Shared Services.

More news: Family Dollar Cites Weak Holiday Sales

He left Delhaize in May 2010 and subsequently founded a consulting firm called From One to Many Leadership Consulting.

“We expect that business will continue as usual, and we are excited to get to work fulfilling the company’s vision as one of the leading extreme-value retailers in the country,” Anicetti said in a statement.

99 Cents Only, whose sales for the fiscal year ending in March are expected to hit $1.7 billion, operates 311 stores, including 227 in California, 39 in Texas, 29 in Arizona and 16 in Nevada. Sales of food and other grocery items account for about 56% of total sales, and health and beauty care accounts for another 9%, according to estimates.

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