business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe reports this morning that Delhaize’s Hannaford Bros. continues to get aggressive in Massachusetts, opening new stores in Taunton and Easton this weekend that it believes will help it become a “major player” in the state.

“The company, which more than tripled its Massachusetts locations after the takeover of Victory Super Markets in 2004, is now the fifth largest grocery chain in the Commonwealth, moving ahead of Whole Foods, Roche Bros., and Price Chopper during the last year,” the Globe writes.

“The Scarborough, Maine, chain, best known for shirking coupons and weekly specials in favor of ‘everyday low prices,’ will unveil stores Saturday that feature an expanded seafood section, plenty of samples, and a dining expert who will help customers with recipes and meal planning.” The two new stores are 56,000 square feet, though the Globe notes that “Hannaford is also designing 35,000 square-foot stores to make it easier to open in communities where real estate is hard to come by. It runs counter, in many ways, to the super-center approach adopted by many grocers from Shaw's to Wal-Mart that can require up to 80,000 square feet.”

This flexibility is seen as serving Hannaford well for reasons beyond the fact that it gives it real estate options that other chains may not have. For one thing, the sale of Albertsons and its New England-based Shaws division to Supervalu could give it a bit of time to make even more headway in markets where they compete.

The other reason has to do with why the Massachusetts area is attractive to supermarket chains. It’s because of what isn’t in the state – lots of Wal-Marts. The Globe writes, “With its vast supercenters, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has catapulted to the top of the US supermarket business with an estimated $80 billion in annual grocery sales. But Wal-Mart hasn't gained a foothold in Massachusetts, analysts say, making Hannaford and others eager to bulk up here as a preemptive strike.”
KC's View:
The willingness and ability to open different sized formats is a good barometer by which to measure the excellent Hannaford operation. This is a consistent theme throughout the company’s US operations, and can be seen in the three formats now being operated by Food Lion, and the conversion of Kash n’ Karry to Sweetbay Markets in Florida.

Smart company. Smart approach.

And as we’ve said in this space many times, you’ve got to be where the customer wants you, how the customer wants you, when the customer wants you, with the products the customer wants at a fair price the customer deems appropriate.

To be perfectly honest, we wish Hannaford would come to our southwest corner of Connecticut. Stop & Shop has one of the oldest and ugliest stores in its fleet in our town, and Shaws rebuilt a unit there into one of the most underwhelming new stores we’ve ever seen. (There is an excellent independent, Palmer’s, that is easily the best store in town.)