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LUBBOCK, Tex. -- United Supermarkets, Ltd. here said this week it would close two of its Hispanic-themed SuperMercado stores, both located in Wichita Falls, Texas, Jan. 27, essentially due in part to an apparent lack of interest in the market.
The retailer's director of communications, Eddie Owens, told Progressive Grocer that United was "more committed than ever to the format," however, adding that the original SuperMercado store, which opened in Plainview, Texas in 2000, "is still very much alive and well."
Owens said that the company had acquired the stores from fellow Texas grocer Brookshire Grocery Co. last summer. Owens said the retailer decided to shutter the stores in the course of a larger reorganizing of its store portfolio. The chain's five stores in total in Wichita Falls were not attracting enough consumer traffic to merit continuing to operate all of them, so United chose to close the SuperMercado units.
"We were operating more stores than we needed in the area," said Owens. "We suspected [when we opened the SuperMercado locations] that we couldn't sustain the stores."
The planned construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter was also reportedly a factor in the decision to shut the SuperMercado stores.
In its reorganization, United is placing stores into three divisions: Traditional, which consists of 21 mainstream United Supermarkets; Specialty, which includes both the retailer's gourmet Market Street banner, and its higher-end United Supermarkets locations; and International, consisting of stores in heavily Hispanic communities.
"We operate three distinct types of stores today, so the restructure allows team members working in similar stores to collaborate with their peers more effectively," noted United c.e.o. Dan Sanders in a statement. Sanders added that the two closing SuperMercados, which he termed "pilot" stores, "have served their purpose for us."
Added Owens: "We will take the lessons learned in merchandising from the [closing] SuperMercado stores and apply them to our International stores."
Although he acknowledged that "it's too early for us to know how many stores will undergo a 'name change'" to the SuperMercado banner, "the Hispanic format is most definitely a part of our strategic plan."
The approximately 150 employees at the two closing stores will have the option of transferring to other area United stores, according to the company.
The grocer is also planning to remodel two existing stores in Wichita Falls, with one to receive a drive-through pharmacy. Additionally, a location in Graham, Texas is currently getting a major overhaul to become a hybrid Traditional/Specialty store.
The company holds leases on both buildings in which the closing SuperMercado stores are located, but Owens was unaware of any future plans for the sites.