business news in context, analysis with attitude

• In a conference call with analysts yesterday, Supervalu chairman/president/CEO Jeff Noddle said yesterday that the company would close about two dozen of the Albertsons stores that it recently acquired (though he did not identify them), would make its Shaws banner in New England less driven by price promotions than in the recent past, and would convert some Southern California stores back to the Lucky banner that was abandoned by the old Albertsons regime.

This last strategy certainly puts a new spin on the court battle currently taking place over the Lucky name, which Grocery Outlet started to use in northern California – saying that Albertsons had lost its rights to the tradename because it essentially abandoned it for more than three years.

• Kroger-owned Ralphs Grocery Co. pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that it rehired hundreds of employees during the 2003 lockout/strike and then paid them under false names. As reported on MNB earlier this month, Ralphs has agreed to pay $70 million in restitution and fines. ..but the judge delayed sentencing while deciding whether to accept the plea arrangement.

• The Seattle Times reports that bankrupt Larry’s Markets had found a buyer and reached an agreement in principle that will allow its six stores to remain open and operating as supermarkets.

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