Albertsons said Tuesday it plans to introduce the Safeway banner in Florida at its three remaining locations there.
The company said it plans to convert stores in Largo, near Tampa Bay; Altamonte Springs, near Orlando; and Oakland Park, near Fort Lauderdale — geographically diverse locations that led some industry observers to believe Albertsons might ultimately be planning to expand its presence in Florida.
An Albertsons spokeswoman told SN the upcoming banner change “signals our commitment to Florida and prepares shoppers for an even better shopping experience.”
She declined to specify when the conversions would take place.
Sources in Florida said each remodel will include expanded floral, wine and specialty foods sections; enhanced food service offerings; new décor; new digital signage; and Starbucks locations.
The Florida locations are part of Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons’ 65-store Houston division, which encompasses units in Texas, Louisiana and the three in Florida.
Jim Hertel, managing partner at Willard Bishop Consulting, Long Grove, Ill., told SN the introduction of the Safeway banner in Florida “suggests the company is getting ready to make a bigger deal with the banner than just using it at those three stores.
“The fact the Florida stores are being supplied out of the company’s Houston distribution center, which is approximately 1,000 miles away, could mean Albertsons is either planning to build additional stores in Florida, acquire a chain there or, what’s most likely, expects to acquire small groups of stores in locations it deems desirable rather than taking someone else’s castoffs.
“Using a name other than Albertsons could be a way of preparing consumers in Florida for a better store experience than they are used to with the existing banner,” Hertel added.
“It’s a way of trying to make sure shoppers realize the company isn’t just remodeling and reopening an old Albertsons store — possibly because the company felt the name had some baggage, and it wants to start out with a clean slate.”
Neal Stern, senior partner with McMillanDoolittle, Chicago, told SN Albertsons’ decision to use the Safeway banner in a market unfamiliar with the name might be the result of consumer research. “Safeway has no history in Florida, so it’s possible Albertsons conducted research and decided that name had resonance with consumers there,” he said.
“Albertsons has done reasonably well in Florida, but clearly if it’s trying to make a change there, then changing the banner is one way to do it. But just three Safeway-banner stores are not going to make a huge difference in the company’s presence there.”
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