Grocery Store Closures in 2017: Marsh Supermarkets, Whole Foods, and Ultra Foods

Grocery Store Closings 2017
iStock/Aslan Alphan

The retail apocalypse is responsible for shuttering more than just traditional retailers, it has also forced hundreds grocery stores closure in 2017. In addition to the crowded supermarket industry, margins are razor thin. On top of that, grocery stores are losing ground to online behemoth Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).

Most recently, revenue declines at several Whole Foods Market, Inc.(NASDAQ:WFM) locations across the country have resulted in store closures. Indianapolis-based Marsh Supermarkets filed for bankruptcy in May and was eventually liquidated, resulting in the closure of nearly 100 stores and the loss of thousands of jobs. Ultra Foods, Inc. has announced a number of closures in 2017, along with a large number of layoffs.

With more and more Americans migrating to online shopping, the grocery store apocalypse will continue next year. The only question is, will an even greater number of grocery stores close in 2018?

Marsh Supermarkets Store Closings: 18 Grocery Stores Close in Indiana & Ohio

In May, Marsh Supermarkets filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, looking to keep 44 of its grocery stores open as it looked for a buyer. The chain listed assets and liabilities each of between $100.0 million and $500.0 million. Pension costs came in at more than $83.0 million.

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The announcement was not a total surprise, as Marsh had fallen behind on rent and a number of other bills for months. The grocery store chain was founded in 1931 and run by the Marsh family until Sun Capital Partners, Inc. took it private in 2006 for $325.0 million.

At that time, it ran 116 supermarkets and 154 convenience stores. Following the acquisition, Marsh’s footprint began to dwindle.

The grocer also said it hopes to sell the remaining 44 stores in Ohio and Indiana.

The remaining stores “can be a valuable acquisition or merger partner for a grocery company or other buyer,” Marsh said.

Fresh Encounter, Inc. and Kroger Co (NYSE:KR) purchased 26 stores from Marsh, with Kroger offering $16.0 million for 11 stores and Fresh Encounter bidding $8.0 million for 15 stores. The 18 stores that could not find a buyer were liquidated and closed.

Over the years, Marsh faced increased competition from larger grocery store chains, forcing it to close more than a dozen locations in early 2017. It also sold its in-store pharmacy business to a subsidiary of CVS Health Corp (NYSE:CVS) in April.

Whole Foods Store Closings: 11 Stores in California, Colorado & 5 More States Shuttered

Earlier this summer, Amazon announced it had acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. The acquisition was good for the owners of Whole Foods, but these kinds of transactions are always followed by store closures and layoffs.

Whole Foods announced it was closing a number of locations after experiencing declining revenues. The company’s other brand, Whole Foods 365 (a smaller, less expensive version to Whole Foods), has also been experiencing declining revenue at some of its locations.

In October, Whole Foods closed its 365 location in Washington just a year after it opened. The company said the decision to close the 365 grocery store in Bellevue was made before the Amazon deal and was related to store performance.

In August, a Whole Foods store closed in Santa Monica, California. The location was shuttered because it was underperforming, an issue facing many grocery store chains across the U.S.

In April, Whole Foods announced it was closing nine locations after reporting a weak quarterly report. This represented the first store closures at Whole Foods since the recession. The company’s same-store sales declined for six consecutive quarters leading into April.

The company closed stores in:

  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Salt Lake City, Utah (Draper)
  • Davis, California
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Prescott, Arizona
  • Encinitas, California
  • Chicago, Illinois (South Evanston)

It’s not just the U.S. grocery industry that is facing tough times. In early November, Amazon announced it is closing two Whole Foods locations in the U.K; the two locations employed around 150. This leaves just seven Whole Foods locations in the U.K., all of which are in London.

Ultra Foods Store Closings: Central Grocers Close 9 Underperforming Stores

Central Grocers, Inc. announced in April that it was closing nine Ultra Foods supermarkets, with plans to sell 22 Strack & Van Til stores. The Joliet, Illinois-based Central Grocers filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, laying off about 550 employees at its Joliet warehouse.

In Central Grocers bankruptcy filing, the company said, “While the traditional, independent grocer has long faced peripheral competitive challenges from the likes of warehouse clubs, drug stores, and convenience stores, it now is losing market share to online retailers.”

After filing for bankruptcy, Central Grocers started closing stores that failed to attract buyers. More than 2,000 employees lost their jobs in the process.

In June, Central Grocers had a liquidation sale at its one-million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center.

Central Grocers is a grocery cooperative created in 1917. It operates as a wholesaler to co-op member independent grocery retailers in the Chicago area.

Strack & Van Til was Central Grocer’s largest distribution customer and was 80% owned by the cooperative.

Shop ‘n Save Store Closings: 2 Stores Shut Down in Missouri as Sales Declined

Shop ‘n Save has been shuttering stores as it deals with weak sales. Supervalu Inc. (NYSE:SVU), the parent company of the Shop ‘n Save grocery chain closed its store in Ferguson, Missouri in February, where 90 people were employed. The company said declining business was a factor in closing the store.

In October, Shop ‘n Save said it is closing its grocery store at the Gravois Plaza shopping center in south St. Louis. The 68,307-square-foot store at 3685 Gravois Avenue closed on November 7.

Supervalu, which also owns Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s, and Shoppers, is under pressure by an activist investor to sell stores.  Supervalu’s five chains operate 217 grocery stores in multiple states.

Activist investor Blackwells Capital Management sent a letter to Supervalu’s board saying the company should sell 30% of its stores to improve shareholder value.

As far as store closures go, it looks like 2017 could just be the beginning.

Tom Thumb Store Closings: Supermarket Shutters Grocery Store in Texas

Tom Thumb, a chain of grocery stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, announced in July that it was permanently closing its location in the WestBend shopping center less than one year after it opened. The closure affected 61 employees.

The 26,000-square-foot Tom Thumb in WestBend only opened in December 2016. The company cited the number of Tom Thumb and Albertson stores in close proximity as the reason for the closure.

Harris Teeter Store Closing: Kroger Closes Grocery Store in North Carolina

Harris Teeter Supermarkets closed its location on High House Crossing Road in Cary, North Carolina on September 16. The in-store pharmacy closed on August 16. The grocery store employed 57 workers.

The grocer, which is a subsidiary of Kroger Co, said closing the 20-year old store was a strategic decision, but gave no further details. However, most believe the closure had to do with increased competition over the last few years as new supermarket brands have popped up.

In fact, some of the area’s biggest grocery store chains have been reporting weaker market share. For example, three of the top four grocery chains in Raleigh–Wal-Mart Stores Inc (NYSE:WMT), Supercenter, Food Lion, and Kroger–lost market share from 2014 to 2016.

To prepare for the increased competition from new grocers, Harris Tweed has added home delivery service, and some locations have added fuel centers.

Other Grocery Stores that Closed in 2017

Whether it’s because of increased competition, thin margins, or the threat of online giants like Amazon, 2017 was a tough year for grocers.

After 75 years in business, Brennan’s Market closed all of its stores at the end of September. The company cited changing consumer habits and increased competition as the reason behind the move. The five retail locations and cheese warehouse and packaging facility employed 150 full- and part-time employees.

A family-owned Village Market Place closed in September after almost nine years in business. The Carol-Stream, Illinois grocer said it was, “too small to compete against bigger guys.”

Over the last few years, a 70,000-square-foot grocer opened up two miles away and in June, Aldi reopened its store after a major renovation and expansion.

Wisconsin-based Gordy’s Market is having a rough go. In August, SpartanNash Co (NASDAQ:SPTN) filed a lawsuit against Gordy’s in August, saying locations across western Wisconsin owned it more than $86.0 million. In total, more than $120.0 million in claims have been filed against Gordy’s.

In light of the lawsuits, Gordy’s had been closing down stores in a massive restructuring effort. In September, 11 Gordy’s Markets were sold off. At the time, the family said it wanted to keep six locations open and within the family.

Fast-forward to November and an auction date for the remaining six Gordy’s Markets has been set: November 29. A hearing to approve the auction results is scheduled for December 11 in Chippewa County Court.

The six stores to be sold at the auction are the downtown Chippewa Falls, Lake Wissota, Barron, Cornell, Chetek, and Ladysmith locations.

 

Sources

Marsh Supermarkets Files for Bankruptcy, Looking for a Buyer,” The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017.

List of Marsh stores closing, under new ownership,” Indianapolis Star, June 15, 2017.

Ultra Foods to lay off 139 workers in Highland,” Northwest Indiana Times, July 24, 2017.

Ferguson Shop ‘n Save to close,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 20, 2017.

Shop ‘n Save closing south St. Louis grocery store,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 27, 2017.

Tom Thumb store in Fort Worth to close after less than a year,” Star-Telegram, July 31, 2017.

Harris Teeter announces closure of Cary store,” ABC11, July 14, 2017.

Brennan’s Market to Close After 75 Years,” Brennan’s Market, July 11, 2017.

Family-owned Carol Stream grocery store closing,” Daily Herald, September 6, 2017.

11 Gordy’s Market stores sold,” WEAU, September 28, 2017.

UPDATE: Auction date set for 6 remaining Gordy’s stores,” WEAU, November 15, 2017.

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