MINNEAPOLIS — Supervalu last week said it would exit the Cincinnati retail market, selling six Bigg's stores to local rival Remke Markets and closing its remaining five Bigg's locations.
The announcement spells the likely end for Bigg's, a supercenter pioneer when founded in the 1980s. More recently, Supervalu had crafted Bigg's around its “premium fresh and healthy” food offering, but decided to sell the brand as part of its ongoing transformation under Craig Herkert, its new chief executive officer. A sale price was not disclosed.
Bill Remke, president and CEO of Remke Markets, in an interview with SN last week said the company would operate the acquired stores under the Bigg's name “for now,” but added it would look into ways to combine the organizations in the months ahead. Specifically, he said he would look to bring together Remke's flair for perishable food and local roots — Remke's is based in Erlanger, Ky. — with Bigg's reputation for price.
“This gave us an opportunity to improve our competitiveness in the market and also our location concentration,” said Remke. “We want to merge the reputation Bigg's has for being price-conscious and competitive with our reputation for perishables, value, friendliness and service.”
Remke, founded more than 113 years ago, currently operates seven stores under the Remke Markets banner. The retailer earlier this year agreed to source its products from Supervalu's Xenia, Ohio, warehouse, which will also continue to supply Bigg's.
The Bigg's stores to be acquired by Remke are its smaller grocery combination stores of around 65,000 square feet each (one acquired store will be reduced to that size). The five stores set to close were larger locations originally developed as food and general merchandise superstores. Those stores are expected to close before the end of May. Remke will take over the others in June.
This would be the largest acquisition in Remke's history. The company bought three stores from area independents in 2000.
Bigg's was founded in Cincinnati by Hyper Shoppes in 1984, using a European-style “hypermarket” format of 175,000 to 225,000 square feet. Bigg's at one time operated in the Denver and Louisville, Ky., markets in addition to Cincinnati. Supervalu acquired the retailer in 1994.
Pierre Wevers, a former Bigg's CEO, told SN last week that he was sad to see the demise of what he recalled as a “vibrant, successful organization.”
“Despite some mistakes, we did a nice job of competing with the big boys like Kroger and Meijer,” Wevers said.
Bigg's in November announced that its president and CEO, Steve Kaczynski, had left the company.