Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

Sweetbay wounded in grocery wars fought on price, quality

RECOMMENDED READING


What to do when you're an aging grocery brand striving not just to survive but compete against heavyweight Publix Super Markets and the thundering invasion of Walmart — the world's biggest retailer?

Nine years ago, Kash n' Karry and its Belgian parent, the Delhaize Group, opted for a new strategy and new name: Sweetbay Supermarket. The idea at the time was to redesign its stores and make itself more upscale. Sweetbay became a cheaper-priced version of Publix and tried to hold on to what was in 2004 an impressive No. 2 market share in this region among supermarkets.

Then the grocery battle intensified.

Sweetbay this week said it will cut 2,000 jobs and shut 33 weak stores by mid February. That leaves just 72 locations to fight an uphill fight, mostly in the Tampa Bay area and south to Fort Myers.

In a conference call Thursday, Delhaize chief financial officer Pierre Bouchut hinted the parent company is not done with Sweetbay.

"We decided to close the loss-making stores, and we believe that this is a sensible decision," he said. "Regarding the strategy on the remaining stores and how it fits within Delhaize, we thought strategically about this. And what we are announcing today is a first step to stop the bleeding at a loss-making operation, and definitely over time a more structural solution for the rest of Sweetbay would be a logical step."

Lakeland-based Publix sits solidly in its No. 1 spot among Tampa Bay and Florida grocers. Walmart long ago blew by Sweetbay and Winn-Dixie to become No. 2. Combined, Publix and Walmart now grab 70 cents of every $1 spent on groceries here.

In a metro market where Publix offers convenience, quality service and an incomparable in-store bakery, and where Walmart and sister chain Sam's Club increasingly offer lower-priced options, what can middle-of-the-road Sweetbay bring to the table?

A diminished Sweetbay must now supply a good answer to area consumers.

Shoppers consider many other variables when deciding where to buy food.

Location counts. Publix, with 768 stores in Florida, is famous for demographic analysis and building new stores where it anticipates growing populations. Walmart employs similar tactics. Sweetbay lacked the financial muscle to keep up with such real estate investments.

Cleanliness and good service count. Sweetbay remodeled Kash n' Karry into brighter, more compelling stores. But Sweetbay slowly grew fatigued. Stores often seem down to one or two cashiers — good cost control, perhaps, but an unfortunate reminder of few customers.

Good marketing also counts. Publix aggressively employs BOGO (buy one, get one) promotions that can drive prices lower than Walmart. Day to day, Walmart underprices Publix (and everybody else) but typically does not have the same range of goods and brands.

Sweetbay's latest ad campaign features "Kevin the Butcher," so enamored with the store's meat quality and value that he tries to change Sweetbay's name to Meatbay.

What was amusing, now seems bittersweet. No word if Kevin is among the thousands losing their jobs.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Times Staff Writer ST. PETERSBURG — World and national tragedies are changing the city’s approach to security for special events at North Straub Park.With the approach of the holidays, concrete barricades have been erected at a section of the park’s ...
Published: 11/21/17
Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women have told the Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.Th...
Updated: 11 hours ago
St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council on Monday approved a lease for the Manhattan Casino, a landmark building in the city’s historic African-American business and entertainment community.It was a controversial decision for some of the city’s black resid...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

APOLLO BEACH — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Tampa Electric $18,108 and gave the company two "serious" citations for its response to a gas leak at the Big Bend Power Station in May, the agency announced late Friday.T...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and this year is expected to be particularly kind to retailers.The Florida Retail Federation’s holiday shopping forecast predicts that a combination of high consumer confidence, strong tourism numbers and a littl...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

TAMPA — If you tread water too long in the same spot, someone might start asking why you’re not trying to swim somewhere.Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands — parent company of such prominent restaurant chains as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and ...
Published: 11/20/17
Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

The New York Times said Monday that it was suspending Glenn Thrush, one of its most prominent reporters, after he was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior.The move came after the website Vox published a report containing allegations that Thrus...
Published: 11/20/17
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Stolen car crashes in St. Pete, leaving passenger, 15, with life threatening injuries

Two boys in a stolen car struck a dip in the roadway and crashed into a tree, leaving the 15-year-old passenger with life-threatening injuries, St. Petersburg police said.The crash occurred about 11:25 a.m. Sunday as the car sped west on 11th Avenue ...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17