MONTVALE, N.J. -- A&P here said last week it would exit the Atlanta market, where it operates 34 stores, by the end of June.
Earlier this year, A&P left the Richmond and Tidewater areas of Virginia, where it was operating 31 stores.
According to Christian Haub, president and chief executive officer, "Our strategy is to achieve a No. 1 or No. 2 market-share position in every market we serve, [but] the Atlanta market is already highly concentrated and we therefore could not see ourselves achieving a top position as well as providing sufficient return on the investment of our capital and management resources."
As part of its exit program, the company said, it has signed definitive agreements for the sale of 14 of the 34 stores -- reportedly to Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., which operates 78 stores in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
Both A&P and Publix declined comment. A&P said it expected to close or sell the remaining stores by the end of June.
The decision to leave Atlanta is part of A&P's "Project Great Renewal," a strategic initiative disclosed in December that is designed to improve the chain's performance and profitability.
Haub said the decision to leave Atlanta completes the company's evaluation of all markets and "allows the company to focus on improving performance in its core markets and upgrading its store base to the successful superstore format."
Since announcing the renewal program in December, A&P said it has exited 80 of the 132 stores it identified for closure. Terry Galvin, vice president of finance and treasurer, told SN the 34 Atlanta stores were not included in the 132.
He said the remaining stores targeted for closing are sprinkled in markets in which A&P will continue operating stores.
Gary Giblen, New York managing director of NationsBanc Montgomery Securities, San Francisco, said A&P's pullout from Atlanta "is long overdue. With Publix, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Cub and, to some degree, Ingles, operating there, Atlanta is possibly the most competitive market in the country, and A&P lacked critical mass, and a lot of its stores are older.