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The 'new' Albertsons aggressively moving forward

In mid-March, the sale of five grocery store chains from Supervalu to Cerberus Capital Management was finalized leading to a plethora of activity on the retail front.

Immediately upon shedding the five chains -- Albertsons, Acme, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's and Star Market -- Supervalu announced it was eliminating 1,100 positions nationwide, which amounted to about 3 percent of its workforce. Supervalu's remaining businesses include 1,331 Save-A-Lot discount groceries, 1,950 stores serviced by its wholesale distribution business and 191 regional groceries in the Cub, Farm Fresh, Shoppers, Shop 'n Save and Hornbacher's chains.

With fewer stores to service, the Minneapolis based company said there would be cuts across almost all departments. However, for the most part they said in-store employees would not be affected.

At the same time, Cerberus, which operates the Albertsons stores under the umbrella name of Albertsons LLC, announced management changes for that chain's stores as well as the sister chains that it acquired. The announcement included three senior vice presidents and nine division vice presidents.

The new senior vice presidents are Mike Massimino, marketing and merchandising; Rick Bunnell, supply chain; and Justin Ewing, corporate development and real estate. The line up for the various divisions include:

Acme Markets: Dennis Clark, most recently vice president of merchandising for the Acme division of Supervalu, will retain his role at the division going forward.

Albertsons Northwest Division: Dennis Schwarz, most recently a district manager in the Seattle area for the Intermountain West Division of Supervalu, and previously vice president sales and merchandising for the same area, has been named the Northwest vice president of marketing and merchandising.

Albertsons Intermountain Division: John Colgrove, most recently sales merchandising manager for the Intermountain West Division of Supervalu, and previously a vice president of marketing and merchandising for the Dallas Fort Worth Division of Albertsons Inc., has been named the Intermountain vice president of marketing and merchandising.

Albertsons Southern California: Greg McNiff, most recently senior vice president of operations in the Southern California division of Supervalu, began his career at Albertsons in 1981. He has been named vice president of marketing and merchandising. Additionally, Wendy Oliver has been named vice president of operations for the division. Steve Lawler and Vince Maggio will serve in senior positions in Albertson's Southern California produce buying office.

Albertsons Market Southern Division: David Urby, most recently a district manager for the Southern Division's West Texas stores, has been named the Southern vice president of marketing and merchandising.

Albertsons Market Southwest Division: Greg Matteri, who has held several key leadership positions for Albertsons Inc. and Supervalu, has been named Southwest vice president of marketing and merchandising.

Jewel Osco: Ken Diehl, formerly vice president of marketing and merchandising of the Southwest Division of Albertsons LLC, has been named Jewel Osco's vice president of marketing and merchandising.

Shaws and Star Markets: Paul Gossett, most recently senior director of merchandising at Nash Finch, started with Albertsons in 1977 and held roles of increasing responsibility with the company as well as Winn Dixie and Nash Finch. He is returning to the company after being named vice president of marketing and merchandising.

"This is really exciting news," Ed Odron of Ed Odron Produce Marketing Consulting in Stockton, CA, told The Produce News, adding that Albertsons is moving from a centralized buying operation to a division set up, which works great for the produce industry because it enables each area to cater to its local customers.

Prior to this sale, Albertsons LLC did operate a Phoenix Division separately from Supervalu and received very high marks.

"Vince Maggio is coming back [to the Southern California Division] and he should do a great job," said Mr. Odron.

Speaking specifically about Southern California, which is Albertson's largest division with almost 200 stores currently, the former Lucky Stores produce executive said that he expects the division to downsize by both selling and closing some stores.

"Ultimately I think it will have about 125 to 135 stores and operate very efficiently," he said.

Dick Spezzano of Spezzano Consulting Service Inc., who worked the retail scene in Southern California for many years with The Vons Cos., said that Albertson's Southern California Division "will certainly close some underperforming stores and sell some others."

He expects that Stater Bros., which bought dozens of Southern California Albertsons properties when it was sold to Supervalu, will pick up some more real estate from the chain as this deal moves forward.

Mr. Spezzano believes this is a win-win situation for all involved: Albertsons, the produce industry at large and consumers.

Another retail consultant, Ron Pelger of RonProCon and FreshXperts, added that this is also good for Supervalu. "They are now right-sized," he said.

He said that Supervalu was an excellent wholesaler that did a very good job of serving independent retailers throughout the upper Midwest. This move will allow the operation to return to its roots and once again excel at what it does best.

Mr. Pelger also endorsed the decentralized concept that Albertsons is pursuing.

"It is always better to be on top of things than to be far away looking through binoculars," he said.