Owner slows Save-A-Lot growth, will fix Acme stores instead

Supervalu, the giant grocery operator that owns both the formerly dominant Acme supermarket chain in Philadelphia and discount Save-A-Lot markets, among others, has cut its new low-end store opening plans by half, boss Craig Hekert told investors last week.

The move follows decisions by Home Depot and others to slow new-store growth, given sluggish U.S. live retail sales.

"We feel it is appropriate to revise the pace of new store openings in the near term," Heckert told investors at Supervalu's quarterly conference call. "We now expect to add 80 to 90 locations to our store count this year compared to our original expectation of 160...

"We will open fewer Save-A-Lot stores this year but will reallocate capital to increase our investment in customer-facing assets, such as merchandising fixtures to better display product, as well as our logistics and transportation network."

The idea, at full-service chains like Acme, is to "freshen our retail stores, and we will continue to invest in energy management projects. We are also increasing our traditional store remodels from 55 to 75 to a new range of 80 to 90."

Read transcript of Heckert's remarks at FT's SeekingAlpha.com here. Compare with more ambitious Save-A-Lot projections in January here.

Philadelphia-area commecial property broker David Goodman noted the change in his Running with Equity Retail blog here.   He also points Amazon.com has launched an online grocery service, a decade after Webvan crashed.

As my colleague Maria Panaritis wrote last week, at least one regional grocery chain is also going online in a bigger way.