Kathy Holland on Albertsons’ new Market Street store in Meridian
Despite a $10 million drop in sales in 2018, Albertsons Cos. maintained its No. 10 position in an industry publication’s ranking of the top U.S. retailers.
The Boise company reported sales of $59.7 billion, just ahead of Apple Stores/iTunes, which reported sales of $47.3 billion, according to the magazine of the National Retail Federation.
It marked the third straight year Albertsons has come in 10th in the federation’s rankings. It did so despite shedding 143 stores since 2016. Last year, Albertsons operated 2,249 stores across several banners, including Safeway, Vons, Jewel Osco and Haggen. At the end of February, the company said was up to 2,269 stores, according to a quarterly financial report. Albertsons runs one Safeway and four Haggen stores in Bellingham.
The Kroger Co., parent of Portland, Oregon-based Fred Meyer, slipped one spot, to No. 3, swapping positions with Amazon and behind No. 1. Walmart. Walmart reported 2018 sales of $387.7 billion, Amazon $120.9 billion and Kroger, which has 3,035 stores, at $119.7 billion. Two of those stores are in Bellingham.
The magazine said Albertsons is using technology to enhance customers’ shopping experience, shortening waiting times at butcher and deli counters, checkout stands and gas pumps.
The magazine also cited the company’s “next generation” store catering to foodies like one in Boise. The store, with 63,000 square feet — larger than the average Albertsons store in the Treasure Valley, with 45,000 square feet — features a dine-in food court, larger selections of fresh meats, produce and baked goods. It opened last July.
Boosted by rising prices, Albertsons reported a 1 percent increase in sales in its fiscal year that ended Feb. 23. Net income totaled $131.1 million, up from $46.3 million the year before.
For years, Albertsons has been weighed down by massive debt fueled by the SuperValu buyout and the 2015 purchase of Safeway. It amassed $12 billion in debt from those deals and made $1 billion in debt payments in 2018.
The company also experienced an executive shakeup earlier this year. Jim Donald, who became Albertsons CEO last September, was replaced without explanation in late April by Vivek Sankaran, a former Frito-Lay executive. Donald, the former CEO of Starbucks and Extended Stay America, joined Albertsons in March 2018 as chief operations officer and was promoted to CEO six months later.
Donald remains with Albertsons as co-chairman of the board, along with Leonard Laufer, an executive with Cerberus Capital Management, the New York private equity firm that controls the company. Robert Miller, the longtime CEO whom Donald replaced, remains on the board as chairman emeritus.
Before Donald’s appointment, Albertsons had planned to appoint Rite Aid chairman and CEO John Standley to Albertsons’ top position. That never happened, as the planned merger between the grocery chain and the Pennsylvania pharmacy company fell apart last summer.