Bankruptcies, the weak economy, and asset sales and acquisitions impact the rankings of North America's largest food distribution companies.
Reprinted from Supermarket News
The more things stay the same, the more they change. The top 10 chains in Supermarket New's annual listing of the Top 75 food retailers and wholesalers in North America remained nearly identical in 2010 to the top 10 a year earlier, with Wal-Mart leading the pack, followed in the same order by Kroger Co., Costco Wholesale Corp., Supervalu, Safeway, Loblaw Cos., Publix Super Markets and Ahold USA. C&S Wholesale Grocers and Delhaize America now share the No. 9 spot.
However, while the combined sales of the 10 companies rose about 3 percent year-over-year, six of the operators saw their estimated volumes drop, while three others experienced volume gains: No. 1 Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., which benefited from aggressive promotions; No. 7 Publix, Lakeland, Fla., which continued to aggressively grow its store base; and No. 8 Ahold USA, Quincy, Mass., whose lower pricing initiatives paid dividends in increased sales. C&S Wholesale Grocers, Keene, N.H., saw sales remain flat.
More shuffling occurred among the second group of 10 companies, with Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer Inc., moving up one spot to No. 13, ahead of Sobey's, Stellarton, Nova Scotia, which was hurt by a less beneficial exchange rate; and Dollar General Corp., Goodlettsville, Tenn., boosting sales during the recession and advancing four spots to No. 15, passing Wakefern, Metro, BJ's Wholesale Club and A&P.
Four companies disappeared from this year's list:
- Wawa (No. 27 a year ago), the convenience-store chain based in Wawa, Pa., whose sales of consumables fell to 47 percent—below the 50 percent minimum for a non-supermarket operator to be included on the list.
- Penn Traffic Co., Syracuse, N.Y. (No. 66 last year), which declared bankruptcy late last year and is in the process of selling off its 79 stores.
- Bruno's (No. 70 last year), the Birmingham, Ala.-based company that liquidated its assets after filing bankruptcy protection last year.
- Haggen (No. 74 last year), Bellingham, Wash., whose sales dipped below those of a couple of other companies to force it off of this year's list.
Taking the place of those four companies were four additions to the list:
- Family Dollar Stores, Charlotte, N.C., debuting at No. 23, whose consumables sales, driven by the tight economy, rose to nearly 65 percent of total volume.
- Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn., whose 91 stores boosted its estimated volume to $1 billion, which enabled it to join the list at No. 69.
- Purity Wholesale Grocers, Boca Raton, Fla., which fell off the list two years ago when it sold some of its ancillary businesses to concentrate on grocery, HBC and general merchandise—a pickup in whose sales was sufficient to enable the distributor to recover enough business to return at No. 74.
- Redner's Markets, Reading, Pa., which fell just below the cutoff for last year's top 75 but returned at No. 75 this year.
While several companies moved up or down the list one or two spots, the biggest gainers included the following:
- Grocers Supply Co., Houston, which moved up four spots—to No. 41 from No. 45 a year ago—on the strength of its acquisition late in 2008 of 37 locations from Minyard Food Stores, keeping 11 as corporate stores under the Fiesta banner and selling 26 to 14 different customers.
- Central Grocers, Joliet, Ill., which rose to No. 53 from No. 57 a year ago after Central Grocers Cooperative acquired 80 percent of the volume being done by Certified Grocers Midwest, boosting the surviving company's overall volume.
- Bozzuto's, Cheshire, Conn., which jumped to No. 56 from No. 64 a year earlier on the strength of adding Big Y Foods' 57 stores to its customer base in late 2008.
On the other end of the scale, three companies saw big drops in their positions:
- Bi-Lo fell to No. 50 from No. 44 a year ago following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in March 2009, which was prompted by the tough competitive environment and the economic downturn.
- Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., which fell to No. 58 from No. 53 after closing nearly 30 stores in the course of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
- Marsh Supermarket, which fell to No. 68 from No. 61 after shutting down its catering businesses.