Southeastern Grocers plans to sell 23 stores under its Bi-Lo and Harveys Supermarket banners to grocery wholesaler and retailer Alex Lee and independent operator B&T Foods.
Financial terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed. Southeastern Grocers said Tuesday that Alex Lee is slated to buy 20 Bi-Lo stores, while B&T is purchasing two Bi-Lo locations and one Harveys store. The Bi-Lo stores being sold are in South Carolina (18 locations) and Georgia (four locations), while the Harveys store being sold is in Ridgeland, S.C.
With the sale agreements, Southeastern Grocers continues its planned dissolution of the Bi-Lo supermarket banner. In June, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company announced the sale of 62 Bi-Lo and Harveys stores and a distribution center to Ahold Delhaize USA’s Food Lion chain. The phaseout of Bi-Lo is part of a five-year business transformation strategy since Southeastern Grocers emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-2018.
Following the sales to Alex Lee and B&T, Bi-Lo will have 39 stores remaining in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, and Harveys will have 29 stores in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Southeastern Grocers said the transition of the stores to the new owners is set to begin later this month and be completed in November.
“We are confident that the acquirers will continue serving these communities with the same commitment to service, quality and value our customers have counted on so for long,” Joe Caldwell, director of corporate communications and government affairs at Southeastern Grocers, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Equally important, this marks continued momentum within our strategic shift to support our core banners.”
Hickory, N.C.-based Alex Lee said it aims to convert 15 of the Bi-Lo stores to the KJ’s Market IGA banner and five to the Lowes Foods banner. Plans call for the stores to remain open under the BI-LO banner until the store sales are finalized, which Alex Lee said it expects to occur between September and November, pending customary closing requirements.
Alex Lee added that it plans to hire more than 2,000 employees from the Bi-Lo stores to continue to serve the communities they serve. The company said it will meet with current BI-LO employees in those stores to discuss employment opportunities.
Besides expanding its geographic footprint, Alex Lee said it expects the addition of the Bi-Lo stores to enhance operations and customer service across these South Carolina and Georgia markets.
“We are excited to add these new locations to our retail store portfolio,” stated Alex Lee President and CEO Brian George. “We have an opportunity to accelerate our growth in these markets while continuing to provide shoppers with a unique grocery shopping experience in their local communities.”
The parent company of full-service grocery wholesaler Merchants Distributors, Alex Lee also owns Lowes Foods, which operates supermarkets in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia; Hispanic food distributor Souto Foods; and W. Lee Flowers, a Scranton, S.C.-based wholesaler that also owns and operates retail stores under the KJ’s Market and IGA banners. Alex Lee acquired W. Lee Flowers last fall.
Southeastern Grocers added that it will “continue to assess options” for the remaining Bi-Lo locations, including other possible transactions. PJ Solomon is serving as financial adviser, while Weil Gotshal and Burr Forman are serving as legal advisers to the retailer on the transactions. Before the store sales to Food Lion, Alex Lee and B&T, Southeastern Grocers operated 550 grocery stores under the Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo, Harveys and Fresco y Más banners in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.