19 Shaw’s in Vt. under new owner
By Gayle Hanson
Correspondent | March 26,2013
Central Vermont grocery shoppers will be seeing changes now that the 19 Shaw’s stores in the state have changed hands, said local management.
Private investors led by Cerberus Capital Management closed a $3.3 billion deal Friday to purchase a group of national grocery chains from their former parent company, Supervalu Inc. The deal, which was in the works since January, involved several thousand grocery stores across the country, including the Star Markets on the East Coast and the West Coast giant Albertsons.
The acquisition will result in a different kind of experience for local shoppers, according to local management.
“We’re already lowering prices quite significantly,” said Shaw’s Montpelier Manager George Murphy. “We’re excited about the changes that are going to be coming.” Customers can expect to see a banner touting the change hanging from the store any day now.
In Poultney, however, Shaw’s Manager Butch LaChappelle said the store has yet to see any changes.
“It’s only been three days,” he said. “So I really don’t have any idea what they’re up to. But I’m sure they’re going to let me know.”
In the nationwide supermarket business, time-honored grocery chains face challenges from discounters like Wal-Mart that have gotten into the butter and eggs business with a vengeance, as well as from high-end suppliers like Whole Foods.
“I can’t tell you too much about what we’re going to be doing in the near future from a purely competitive standpoint,” said Steve Sylven, a spokesman at Shaw’s headquarters in Bridgewater, Mass. “The retail business is a service industry, and what we are trying to do is create an atmosphere that makes customers want to shop our stores as well as to differentiate ourselves from a fresh standpoint.”
Shaw’s, like many other food chains, has weathered a few rough years since the economic downturn in 2007. The company, which serves five of the New England states, pulled out of Connecticut in 2010. Less than six months ago Supervalu Inc. laid of 700 retail workers at its Shaw’s and Star Market stores in Massachusetts.
Sylven said there are no immediate plans for any store closings or layoffs in Vermont. The chain also has stores in Berlin, Randolph, Stowe, Waitsfield and Waterbury.
“It’s hard to speculate about the future right now. But there are no immediate closures planned, and we’re committed to maintaining a positive environment,” he said.
A spokesman for a competitor, Maine-based Hannaford, said the chain, which has 15 stores throughout Vermont, didn’t plan to change the way it does business in the wake of the Shaw’s sale.
“We’re going to just keep delivering the services that our customers have come to rely on,” said Eric Blom.
Cerberus Capital Management will oversee its investment in Shaw’s and the other supermarket brands acquired in the deal through a holding company under the Albertsons moniker.
Among the leadership team at the $20 billion investment giant is former Vice President Dan Quayle, who is chairman of the company’s global investments. The company hit the headlines in December after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut when, under pressure from investors, it divested itself of its holdings in the Freedom Group, the American firearms holding company that owns brands including Remington Arms and Bushmaster.