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Readers Split On Schnucks’ Purchase Of 19 Shop ‘n Save Locations

September 26, 2018 Big Box, Featured, Retail, STL Region No Comments

Shop ‘n Save’s parent company, Minneapolis-based SuperValu, is selling/closing all locations — St. Louis & Springfield IL. This has been known for months, from July:

Supervalu is exiting the food retail business via a deal to sell itself to United Natural Foods Inc. for $2.9 billion.

The news comes on the same day that Supervalu announced its Q1 2019 earnings.

UNFI said it will sell off Supervalu’s retail business, which comprises 3,000 stores. The company has spent more than two years executing a transformation plan aimed at returning to its wholesale roots. (Retail Leader)

From February 2016:

United Natural Foods, a primary distributor for Whole Foods, distributes natural, organic and specialty food to a variety of grocery and natural product stores. It works with brands including Clif Bar, Annie’s, Bob’s Red Mill and Horizon Organic. The Providence, R.I. -based company also reported preliminary second quarter results Monday that fell below analyst expectations, as competition in the organic and natural food space continues to grow. (USA Today)

Shop ‘n Save has been headquartered in Kirkwood for years, but has been owned by out of state interests for more than a quarter century:

Shop ’n Save was founded in 1979 as a grocery store in Belleville, Illinois, near St. Louis, Missouri. The chain now includes 33 stores in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and 3 additional stores in Springfield, Illinois.

In 1983, the retail chain was acquired by Wetterau, Inc. Nine years later, in 1992, Wetterau was acquired by SuperValu, and Shop ’n Save has been a subsidiary of SuperValu since. (Wikipedia)

Wetterau was based in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood. The Wetterau family has a long history in St. Louis:

George Wetterau moved to St. Louis in 1867 at the age of 17 to join his brother in a small retail grocery business. In 1868, he began working for J. F. Lauman & company, a local wholesale grocery company and he bought the company a year later, with a partner, Frank Goebel. They formed Goebel and Wetterau Grocery Company with their wholesale office located at 712 South Second Street. In 1899, the two dissolved their partnership and George formed G. H. Wetterau & Sons Grocer Company. In 1923, Otto Wetterau, one of his sons, took over the company. He changed the name to Wetterau Grocer Company and took advantage of new forms of transportation and warehouse equipment to expand rapidly. He was one of the first to provide wholesale warehousing of produce. During the Depression, when many grocery stores went out of business, Wetterau became affiliated with the Independent Grocer’s Alliance (IGA). In 1953, Theodore C. Wetterau succeeded his brother Otto as president and added other independent supermarket chains to the organization. The company then became involved in non-food items, added a bakery division, printing division, trucking division and developed its own finance, insurance and construction companies. Wetterau was supplying food to stores in 29 states, when in 1993, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based SUPERVALU, Inc. acquired it to become the nation´s largest food wholesaler. At this time Ted Wetterau, Theodore’s son was president. Before the deal, Supervalu was the second-largest distributor and Wetterau ranked third. Ted Wetterau and his sons, Mark and Conrad then started Wetterau Associates, a holding company in Brentwood to buy and manage food-related companies. (St. Louis)

As a result of the consolidation in both the wholesale & retail grocery markets, Shop ‘n Save locations here and elsewhere will be sold or closed. Unless some other grocery chain enters the St. Louis market, others will pick up market share lost when Shop ‘n Save closes. The biggest gain will be St. Louis-based Schnucks Markets — they’re buying 19 suburban Shop ‘n Save locations. This Summer Schnucks bought the Maplewood Shop ‘n Save on Manchester, quickly reopening it as a Schnucks.

This Sho ‘n Save at 4660 Chippewa is not among the locations bought by Schnucks, it’ll close by the end of 2018 if a buyer doesn’t come forward soon.

Here are other grocery stores with at least a few locations:

  • Save-A-Lot, once also owned by Wetterau/Supervalu is now owned by Toronto-based Onex Corporation — a private equity firm.
  • Lucky’s Markets, still pretty new to the St. Louis market, is based in Boulder Colorado. A large investor is Cincinnati-based Kroeger.
  • Whole Foods is owned by Amazon.
  • Our old Food 4 Less locations became Ruler Foods locations a few years ago, Ruler is owned by Kroeger.
  • ALDI is a German company. The business was split into two separate groups in 1960, that later became Aldi Nord, headquartered in Essen, and Aldi Süd, headquartered in Mülheim. The latter is the group that operates ALDI stores in the U.S.
  • Trader Joe’s is owned by a private family trust associated with Aldi Nord (not the Aldi that operates ALDI in the U.S.).
  • Fields Foods has one location right now, but will soon open others in Dogtown and Downtown West.
  • Privately-owned local grocer Straub’s Markets has 4 locations.  Straub’s had a short-lived 5th location in suburban Ellisville, but in closed in October 2009.
  • Dierbergs Markets, also locally/privately owned, has 25 stores in Missouri & Illinois.

Readers were split on the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Adding 19 Shop ‘n Save locations will make Schnucks too dominant in the St. Louis regional grocery market.

  • Strongly agree 4 [11.76%]
  • Agree 5 [14.71%]
  • Somewhat agree 5 [14.71%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 4 [11.76%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [8.82%]
  • Disagree 8 [23.53%]
  • Strongly disagree 5 [14.71%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

The agree votes total 41.18% with the disagree side totaling 47.06%.  I voted for “slightly disagree” because while I’m not big fan of Schnucks (their development arm, DESCO, is awful about ADA accessibility) but I know that being the biggest grocery store in the region will keep outside chains in a subordinate role. My hometown of Oklahoma City is now dominated by Walmart’s Neighborhood Market chain of stand-alone grocery stores. Local chains have been reduced to rubble.

Having strong locally-owned grocery store chains, even flawed ones, is better than being at the mercy of non-local corporate interests. Just hoping the Schnucks family doesn’t decide to cash out at some point.

— Steve Patterson

 

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