A Food Lion in Belmont is closing, as the company continues grappling with sluggish sales and stiff competition.
Delhaize is also closing 34 Sweetbay supermarkets in Florida, as well as seven Food Lion locations outside the Charlotte area. Each Food Lion employs 35 to 40 people.There will be about 1,120 Food Lion locations after the most recent closures.
There were just over 100 Sweetbay locations (none in the Charlotte area), so the closings announced represent about a third of the total.
It's the second mass-closure in just over a year. Last January, the company shuttered 113 Food Lion stores, as well as six Bottom Dollar and seven Bloom stores.
Delhaize also shook up upper management at Salisbury-headquartered Food Lion late last year. The company pushed out Food Lion president Cathy Green Burns and shuffled other top managers.
The company has been trying to revitalize sales at Food Lion, its largest and best-known U.S. supermarket chain. Food Lion has refreshed and updated hundreds of its stores, including those in Charlotte, and changed its produce practices to enhance freshness.
Food Lion has been seeing its market share slip in the Charlotte region. In 2011, Food Lion fell from 19.2 percent of the market to 17.7 percent, according to data from Chain Store Guide.
Delhaize remains a huge company: It's 2012 sales topped $30.2 billion, up 2.9 percent from the year before. But sales at stores open a year or more in the U.S. - a key indicator of a retailer's health - slumped 0.8 percent.
And competition is likely to only get tougher: Publix is expanding north, further into Food Lion's markets, and Wal-Mart is investing more into its grocery offerings and expanding its Neighborhood Market concept.
And all these store closings and management shakeups aren't cheap. Delhaize is taking more than $173 million worth of charges related to the latest round of store closures, and almost $20 million worth of charges stemming from the management changes, including Green Burns.
Delhaize CEO Pierre Olivier-Beckers said the latest closures will help the company. "These actions, coupled with the portfolio review announced last year, enhance the health of our store network and create a solid base on which to go forward," he said, in a statement. "We remain determined to accelerate the transformation of our business."
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