CHICAGO -- IGA here hopes to grow its domestic store count back up to pre-Fleming levels and beyond, Douglas Fritsch, IGA's newly appointed vice president and U.S. chief growth officer, told SN last week.
However, he said it would be premature at this point to put a number on how many stores IGA hopes to add.
IGA has approximately 1,200 U.S. stores -- down 800 since 2003, when a large portion of those 800 stores closed because Fleming, a primary IGA distributor, cut back service levels and ceased wholesale operations.
"We see a fair amount of opportunity for domestic growth, and we think we have the resources to make that happen," Fritsch told SN. "But we have to see where some of the low-hanging fruit is and determine which markets are ripe to grow -- basically, to get a good lay of the land to find where real opportunities exist."
Fritsch said he hopes to set a timetable for growth by late summer. Until then, he will consult with existing IGA members to see what's working at store level and what isn't "to determine how we can make IGA a more valuable brand so other retailers will seek us out."
"We'll also talk with our wholesalers to get a good fix on where potential IGA members are operating, and we'll consult with our field staff to see how we can build and improve relationships between the wholesalers and our retail partners."
IGA's sales last year were $20 billion, of which U.S. stores accounted for $7 billion, or 35%. IGA's Canadian stores accounted for $2 billion, or 10%, and stores overseas for $11 billion, or 55%.
Fritsch said the growth of IGA overseas has been largely a result of happenstance, "and I think agendas for growing U.S. stores and international stores can both be served."
Fritsch, 55, joined IGA last week after 31 years with White Hen Pantry, a chain of 235 convenience stores with locations here. He started his career with Jewel Food Stores, which owned White Hen until 1985.