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GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Southern Family Markets Acquisition, LLC, an affiliate of Brattleboro, Vt.-based C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., has said that it would purchase 104 of the 426 stores currently owned by BI-LO, LLC, parent company of BI-LO and Bruno's, which said it would also sell an additional nine stores and close three others.
All of the stores to be divested will continue to be operated by BI-LO/Bruno's under normal business procedures until its ownership is transferred to Southern Family Markets or to other parties. Both parties noted that their objective is that these stores continue operating as supermarkets and will offer positions to all of the associates working in those stores at the time the ownership changes.
For any stores that Southern Family Markets may designate for purchase by a third party, it has agreed to negotiate purchase agreements that provide that the new owners offer positions to all of the associates working in these stores at the time the ownership changes.
For the nine stores that BI-LO/Bruno's intends to divest on its own, the company says it will seek to negotiate similar employment terms with the new owners. In the three stores to be closed, associates will receive all benefits to which they are entitled.
Rick Cohen, c.e.o. of C&S and Southern Family Markets said: "Through the store purchase we look forward to building on the success of our prior distribution agreement with BI-LO/Bruno's and further strengthening our presence in the Southeast. This new agreement will allow us to strategically integrate the wholesale and retail aspects of the purchased stores and grow sales."
Mark Gross, president of Southern Family Markets said, "We are excited to enter the growing Southeast retail market through the purchase of these stores that are operated by a group of talented and dedicated associates."
Described as the last phase of a long-term growth strategy to make the newly transformed company the leading independent food retailer in the Southeast, BI-LO intends to now concentrate its efforts and financial resources on remodeling, investing in technology and bolstering the marketing efforts at more than 300 stores in core markets across the Southeast region, according to Dean Cohagan, president and c.e.o. of BI-LO/Bruno's.
"This is an exciting time for BI-LO/Bruno's, our associates and our customers. After more than a year of planning and development, all of the elements of our long-term strategy are now under way. By increasing the efficiency of our business and making strategic reinvestments in our core markets, we will be well positioned to succeed and thrive in the fast-growing Southeast marketplace."
Noting that the decision to divest stores was a difficult one, Cohagan said: "We must make some tough choices to ensure that we invest our valuable resources in the most prudent way possible and focus on our core markets. The stores we're divesting are good stores that don't fit our core market strategy. Under new ownership they have the potential to grow and continue serving customers. We appreciate the contributions of our associates who have served our customers and supported our stores in these locations through the years, and will work hard to ensure a positive future for them."
After conducting a thorough review of the stores and the markets in which it operates, Cohagan said, "We have decided to focus on the markets in which we currently have the No. 1 or No. 2 position or can reach that position in a reasonable period of time -- or in markets where we see significant growth potential. Our new company is building on a strong foundation, supported by a talented team and by brands our customers trust and admire. By implementing this plan, we will be in a position to grow in our core markets."
In January the company sold its warehouse facilities and moved its distribution and replenishment functions to C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., one of the nation's leading distribution companies. The company also announced in January that it would consolidate corporate support functions, such as marketing, accounting and human resources, in Mauldin, S.C., as well as integrate the separate information technology systems at BI-LO and Bruno's onto one common IT platform. Both the consolidation and integration efforts are on track and are scheduled for completion in the third quarter of this year, according to BI-LO.
BI-LO/Bruno's operates 426 stores in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi and employs approximately 30,000 Associates.
Southern Family Markets, an affiliate of the privately owned C&S, has annual sales of over $15.5 billion. Ranked eighth on Forbes' list of the largest privately held companies in the nation, C&S provides distribution services to grocery chains and independent stores and delivers to more than 3,500 locations from its over 45 distribution centers in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Hawaii.