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13 Albertsons to close

Grocery chain cites poor sales at stores; 750 workers affected

Published June 7, 2006 at midnight

Albertsons LLC said Tuesday it will close 13 poorly performing Colorado Albertsons stores and three Grocery Warehouse locations in the coming weeks.

News of the closures came four days after an investor group closed on its purchase of 661 Albertsons- owned stores in five regions of the country, including all 58 in Colorado.

The stores set to close make up 23 percent of the Rocky Mountain region's store base and employ about 750 workers but only contribute 13 percent of the region's sales, the company said.

"The goal was to look at past performance," said Wayne Denningham, president of the company's Rocky Mountain division. "Now we'll look at building the business back up and focus on the (more profitable) stores that are remaining."

Albertsons hopes to place as many displaced employees as possible at other stores, Denningham said.

Workers approached at the store at 6575 W. Colfax Ave. in Lakewood declined to comment on the closings or their prospects Tuesday afternoon.

The closures, expected to begin in about six to eight weeks, will leave 42 stores in Colorado, Denningham said. Denver also will continue to house regional offices and a distribution center, he said.

Albertsons consistently ranks fourth in market share among Colorado grocers, after King Soopers, Safeway and Wal-Mart Supercenters, according to lists published by The Shelby Report, a trade publication.

Despite persistent rumors in recent years that Albertsons would disappear entirely in Colorado, Denningham said there are no plans to close any other stores here.

Boise-based Albertsons Inc. was acquired by several buyers last Friday in a deal valued at $17.4 billion. Minnesota-based grocer Supervalu Inc. bought 1,100 stores under various banners, including Albertsons, Acme, Bristol Farms and Shaw's Supermarkets.

A separate investor group led by Cerberus Capital Management bought 661 stores in several regions, including all of Colorado's stores. That acquisition also included stores in Texas, Florida, Northern California and the Southwest.

Stores in some of those markets will close, but the company isn't disclosing which ones because employees haven't been notified, Denningham said.

All but three of the Colorado stores affected are staffed with union workers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.

Under the labor contracts, workers with seniority must be given the option of bumping workers with less time on the job, and all workers who are let go must receive four weeks of severance pay, Local 7 President Ernie Duran said.

Of the stores that will remain open, 20 operate under labor contracts with Local 7, Duran said.

It won't be known how many workers will lose their jobs until the closures are complete, Denningham said.

It also won't be known for a while who will acquire the real estate housing the stores, all of which will be up for grabs.

Earlier this year, Boulder-based Wild Oats Markets Inc. said the company was looking at several existing sites of Albertsons and Jacksonville, Fla.-based Winn- Dixie for possible store expansion in several states, including Colorado.

"We have obviously identified the sites we're interested in, but we're not discussing them publicly for competitive reasons," said Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele.

A handful of automobiles dotted the parking lot of the Lakewood store Tuesday as customers expressed mixed reactions to the news.

Kim Look, navigating her shopping cart through the parked vehicles, stopped short when she heard the news.

"What, they are going to close this one?" she asked.

The 70-year-old said she has been shopping at the Lakewood store for more than two decades, even after she moved to Denver a few years ago.

"I'll miss Albertsons. I like the prices here - most times," Look said. "But what can I do?"

Jesus Avila wasn't upset. The 18-year-old just shrugged and said he'd go to the nearby Save-a-Lot or Safeway, although Albertsons was the closest to his home.

"I don't care," Avila said, clutching two grocery bags. "The next time my mom asks me to get stuff, I'll go somewhere else."

Customers can expect to see changes in the coming weeks at both the stores that will close and the ones slated to remain, Denningham said.

Discounts of between 5 percent and 50 percent will start in about 10 days at the 16 closing stores, which will liquidate their inventory rather than shipping it to other stores, he said.

At the remaining locations, the company will make concerted efforts to improve service and offerings, including produce and deli. Denningham also said Albertsons will work to dispel perceptions that its prices are higher than the competition.

"As a neighborhood market, we want to make sure that our prices are competitive inside the marketplace."

Colorado locations slated for closure

13 ALBERTSONS STORES

9449 S. University Blvd., Highlands Ranch

2900 Iris St., Boulder

1850 30th St., Boulder

3970 Palmer Park Blvd., Colorado Springs

1710 Dublin Blvd., Colorado Springs

12201 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora

302 Main St., Security

1325 E. Eisenhower Blvd., Loveland

8978 Washington St., Thornton

1000 W 104th Ave., Northglenn

3229 Business I-70, Clifton

6575 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood

161 W. County Line Road, Littleton

THREE GROCERY WAREHOUSE STORES

7170 Federal Blvd., Westminster

15380 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora

4262 Wadsworth Blvd., Wheat Ridge

or 303-892-5191

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