published Friday, January 13th, 2012

Hundreds to lose jobs in Food Lion cuts

The Food Lion on Hixson Pike will close in the next 30 days.
The Food Lion on Hixson Pike will close in the next 30 days.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

TIMELINE

• 1957: Grocer founded as Food Town in Salisbury, N.C.

• 1983: Food Town, now a part of Belgium-based grocer Delhaize Group, rebranded as Food Lion

• 1987: Food Lion opens its first Chattanooga store

• 2009: Food Lion offers to buy a large stake of Bi-Lo, which had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

• 2012: The company announces the closure of 13 area stores, 113 across the country

Source: Delhaizegroup.com


STORES CLOSING

Northwest Georgia

• 505 G.I. Maddox Parkway, Chatsworth

• 1800 LaFayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe

• 201 West Gordon Ave., Rossville

• 4645 Highway 136, Trenton

Southeast Tennessee

• 321 Browns Ferry Road

• 4850 Highway 58

• 3201 Wilcox Blvd.

• 3901 Hixson Pike

• 3810 Brainerd Road

• 7601 East Brainerd Road

• 6210 Hixson Pike

• 1312 Decatur Pike, Athens

• 2641 APD 40, Cleveland, Tenn.

• 75 Genesis Square, Crossville, Tenn.


STORES STAYING OPEN

Northwest Georgia

• 13311 N. Highway 27, Chickamauga

• 3925 Cleveland Road, Dalton

• 95 Poplar Springs Road, Ringgold

• 2709 Chattanooga Road, Rocky Face

• 1512 Red Bud Road, Calhoun

• 7409 Adairsville Highway, Calhoun

Southeast Tennessee

• 125 Stuart Road, Cleveland

• 4340 Ringgold Road, East Ridge

Source: Food Lion

Poll
Do you shop at Food Lion?

When Spike Brackett went to bed Wednesday night, he still had a job. When he woke up Thursday morning, he found out he didn't.

Brackett is part of a Food Lion product reset team responsible for changing store layouts. He had been particularly busy since the grocer started a massive rebranding effort in May.

"Up until this point we had been busting butt," he said. "It was not a good way to start a day."

Food Lion will shut down more than two-thirds of its area supermarkets by mid-February as the grocer tries to consolidate and update its brand.

The Salisbury, N.C.-based grocery chain announced Thursday it will shut down 113 underperforming stores across the South, including 13 in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Taking into account the entire Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia area, as many as 540 workers will move from the checkout line to the unemployment line.

The company will continue to operate stores in East Ridge and Cleveland in Tennessee and in Chickamauga, Ringgold, Dalton, Calhoun and Rocky Face in Georgia but will withdraw completely from Publix-dominated Florida.

Not counting Jacksonville, Fla., Chattanooga is losing more Food Lion stores than any other city, with seven.

Food Lion said 4,900 employees, including 1,100 in Tennessee, will lose their jobs from the store closings. Some of those workers, both fulltime and parttime, will be eligible for severance packages.

Add shoppers who depend on Food Lion to the list of affected Chattanoogans and the loss of the stores hurts the area.

Chattanooga City Councilman Peter Murphy, who represents East Chattanooga, said his district may be hardest hit by the loss of the stores.

"To the folks who already had to drive a good bit to get to the Food Lion, this is kind of a disaster," he said. "The cost of living just went up."

Without the local Food Lion, many Chattanooga residents will have to travel a few extra miles every time they need food, he said, and that means higher fuel costs for those with cars, and significant spikes in time and cab fare for those without cars.

Rebranding Effort

Food Lion's parent company, the Belgium-based Delhaize Group, owns several grocery brands in Europe, Indonesia and the United States. Chattanooga was a test market for a Food Lion shake-up in almost every aspect of the stores.

But since the changes were made, Delhaize's stock has dropped by more than 20 percent. The company's stock fell nearly 10 percent Thursday after the company announced the Food Lion closings.

Food Lion trails Bi-Lo and Walmart in grocery sales in the Chattanooga grocery market, and company spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said Food Lion wants to focus on better-performing stores and markets.

"We're focused on our future brand strategy, which would be in our larger, higher-density markets," she said. "It was the prudent thing to do as an organization."

Jon Springer, associate editor of Supermarket News, said he was surprised by the extent of Food Lion's closures. The grocer, which traditionally has smaller stores than some competitors, has struggled to entice shoppers to do their full weekly grocery shopping at Food Lion. The chain too often has been seen as a place to pop in and pick up milk and eggs when you run out at home, Springer said.

By drawing back into its strongest markets, Food Lion is positioning itself to commit fully to a rebranding effort and gain the largest possible share of grocery dollars, he said.

"It signals they're committed to this rebranding idea that they launched last year and they're trying to make their overall footprint in the best shape possible," he said. "These guys know what they're doing and this idea of closing stores is probably well thought out and has a good argument for it."

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