Acme reclaims market share The largest supermarket chain in this region says its recent renovations have stopped a long decline.

Posted: March 14, 2002

Acme Markets Inc. may have stopped the decline in market share that has plagued the region's largest grocery-store chain for more than a decade, an executive at its parent company said yesterday.

Peter Lynch, president and chief operating officer of Albertson's Inc., said that, as Acme stores have been renovated and expanded, the group's share of the supermarket pie in the Philadelphia area increased in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 31. Lynch ran the Acme division in the late 1990s, when it was owned by American Stores Inc. Albertson's bought American Stores in 1999.

Lynch said that market share was estimated in several ways, and that Acme was seeing gains in all the measurements.

"We continue to invest in Acme," he said. The renovations "have been very successful."

Acme operates 142 stores in the Mid-Atlantic states, including 95 in the Philadelphia area and South Jersey. Acme had about 38 percent of the market in 1991, but that had slipped to about 28.4 percent in 1996 and to 25.8 percent in 2001 in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, according to Food Trade News, an industry publication that covers the Mid-Atlantic region.

Acme believes it has about 28.3 percent of the market share in the Philadelphia area and South Jersey, based on recent survey research data, Acme spokesman Walt Rubel said.

Acme's budget for renovating and expanding its stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic region increased to about $75 million in its fiscal year that started Feb. 1 from about $60 million spent last year, Rubel said. Acme, which is based in Malvern, will undertake 27 projects to build stores or remodel and expand old ones, he said.

The Acme progress report came as Albertson's, which is based in Boise, Idaho, announced a sharp increase in fourth-quarter profits and plans to close 116 stores in Houston and San Antonio, Texas, this year. An Albertson's statement said the closings were in addition to previously announced plans to close 167 stores in Memphis and Nashville, Tenn. All the stores being shuttered operate under the Albertson's name.

"This is kind of the final chapter in the restructuring of our store base," Albertson's chairman Larry Johnston told Bloomberg News.

Albertson's reported net income for the quarter ended Jan. 31 of $290 million, or 71 cents a share, on revenue of $9.7 billion. A year earlier, the company made $220 million, or 54 cents a share, on revenue of $9.5 billion. For the full fiscal year, the company made $501 million, or $1.23 a share, on revenue of $37.9 billion, compared with $765 million, or $1.83 a share, on revenue of $36.8 billion the year before.

Contact Tom Belden at 215-854-2454 or tbelden@phillynews.com.

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