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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Wednesday, May 6, 2009 11 years ago

People must eat, grocers doing better

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Department stores maybe be closing stores and pulling back, but another large retail anchor sector, grocery stores, looks to be holding its ground on real estate and still growing.

Department stores maybe be closing stores and pulling back, but another large retail anchor sector, grocery stores, looks to be holding its ground on real estate and still growing.

Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc. has 22 stores currently under construction and another six store leases signed in its central, western and southwest Florida regions. Shannon Patten, spokesperson for Publix, describes the company as extremely stable and says it is able to expand without taking on much new debit. Of the 22 stores, eight are replacement stores.

Comparatively, Tampa Sweetbay Supermarket is planning few new stores, just three additional locations this year. However, the three new stores isn't the full story, as Sweetbay is in a digesting period after converting 108 Kash n' Karry stores since 2005, according to Nicole LeBeau, a Sweetbay spokesperson.

“It would be unrealistic to say the economy hasn't effected our growth plan,” says LeBeau, “but for us we've done what we want to do by this point, converting and opening all those stores. We would be slowing down naturally.”

The biggest impact of the recession is being felt by smaller independent grocery operators, according to Mark Gallagher co-owner of Florida Capital Business Brokers Inc., a Sarasota business brokerage specializing in the sale and financing of independent grocery stories in Florida.

“The independents are having a lot more troubles than the chains,” he says. “A lot of guys have lost their credit lines with banks. There are also plenty of potential buyers they just can't find the financing.”
However, all three industry experts agreed that the grocery industry is much more insulated to the effects of bad economy than the rest of the retail sector. People have to eat and there is always government aid or food stamps.

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