Parent company Albertsons to relaunch Salisbury Giant store as an Acme

News that the popular Giant grocery store was sold to parent company Albertsons, which will open an Acme there as fall begins, came as a surprise to shoppers Thursday afternoon.

“Giant is closing? Oh, that’s bad. I don’t like that,” a woman said, as she fed dollar bills into the self-checkout at Giant, to pay for a package of pork chops and loaf of rye bread.

Told the longtime, popular supermarket will become Acme, she brightened.

“Oh, that won’t be bad at all,” she said, declining to give her name.

“We used to have an Acme in Salisbury, at Twilley Center,” said a man who identified himself only as Kevin, as he walked by. “Nice store. We shopped there all the time. I’ll be glad to see it come back.”

A manager at Giant, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said store employees were told they will keep their jobs.

Chris Brand, external communications and public affairs lead for the company that is selling Giant, Ahold USA, based in Carlisle, Pa., also confirmed that, saying personnel officials at Albertsons have “agreed to negotiate a successor collective bargaining agreement with the unions representatives and the associates.”

“We do not anticipate any layoffs at this time,” he said.

Brand said the amount paid for the Salisbury Giant will not be disclosed.

Acme is expected to open in September.

Acme operates 107 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, and employs more than 10,000 people.

In 2013, AB Acquisition acquired the Acme brand of markets in a transaction that brought all Albertsons stores under a single ownership.

On Thursday, Salisbury Mayor Jake Day issued a statement saying representatives of Royal Ahold and Delhaize Group contacted him with the news of the sale. The grocery store transition has been an emotional issue within the community.

“The loss of our Giant is a situation which has been the topic of much discussion and worry over the past few months, but I’m happy to say that there is very, very good news to report,” Day wrote.

“First and most important, not one current Salisbury Giant employee will lose their job. There will be no store closure, and current Giant employees will continue on as Acme employees. This is fantastic news for the employees, their families, and our local economy.

“Additionally, the Salisbury Acme will remain a union shop. Current employees’ standing as union members will not be affected in any way. I’m unable to speak to what may or may not happen in other markets, except to say that it is my understanding that our store is the only location where this will happen.

“All of this means that, by and large, what Salisbury residents can expect to see is a sign change. Acme is a brand which has history in Salisbury, and I expect that residents will find the new store to be comparable to the Giant which it replaces. The bottom line is this: The store which has been known as Salisbury’s premier supermarket will stay on – employees and all – with a new name. I’m excited to welcome Acme to Salisbury, and I will do everything I can to help them become part of our community,” Day wrote.

Ahold — the owner of Giant — and Delhaize Group — the owner of Food Lion — announced agreements with buyers to sell 86 stores in a limited number of locations in which the companies’ U.S. subsidiaries both operate.

The companies are in the midst of a merger. In the Salisbury community — with so many Food Lion stores already established — Giant has drawn the short straw business-wise and is being sold.

For comparison purposes, Albertsons’ ownership of Acme is similar to General Motors’ ownership of Chevrolet. Acme is a bran under the parent company, which happenens to have a brand of its own.

The divestments are being made in connection with the Federal Trade Commission’s pending review of the proposed merger between the two companies. According to Ahold officials, the divested stores are being sold to well-established supermarket operators; New Albertson’s fits that criteria, based on its industry performance.

The companies continue to expect to complete the merger before the end of July.

Ahold purchased Giant in 1998. Since its founding, it had been owned by a Washington, D.C., family and was a major force in the regional food sales arena.

While Safeway, A&P and Acme have faded from the Salisbury scene, Salisbury’s Giant has remained a local consumer institution.

“The combination of Ahold and Delhaize Group is a unique opportunity to deliver even more for customers, associates and local communities,” said CEO Dick Boer. “Together, Ahold and Delhaize Group have been working hard to resolve the competition concerns raised by the FTC, and we are pleased to have found strong, well established buyers for the stores we are required to divest. We deeply appreciate the long-time support of our customers and associates in these locations and are confident that the new owners will continue to serve local communities well.”

Customer loyalty to the Salisbury story is strong and there has been strong angst in the community about a change.

Acme is part of Albertsons Co. and is based in Idaho. In January 2015, it acquired Safeway Inc. for $9.2 billion. The company has more than 2,200 stores and some 250,000 employees, which makes it the second-largest supermarket chain in North America after Kroger, which has 2,424 stores.

Among reported reasons for the Ahold/Delhaize merger is that traditional supermarket customers are being lured away by discount establishments or department stores that have started carrying groceries, such as Walmart and Target. By merging, the two companies could save money and overhead expenses.

According to regulatory laws, the company cannot have a grocery dominance in the market, which it would through the Food Lions and Giant.

Waverly Plaza Associates, who own the shopping center where Giant is located, reportedly has no interest in selling the total property and little interest in redeveloping. According to local commercial Realtors, the Giant store is leased through 2035, but can sell those rights to another chain, such Albertsons and Acme.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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