Acme Markets has decided to close another store in Lower Merion at the end of the month, adding to a rolling trend of shutting down underperforming stores in the tristate area and eyeballing prospects for new, potentially more prosperous, locations.
The company will close the dated store at 250 E. Lancaster Ave. in Wynnewood instead of remodeling it, Dana Ward, a company spokesperson, said Wednesday. The chain shuttered its Gladwyne store — a few miles away from Wynnewood — in February 2019.
“It’s just a real estate decision,” Ward said.
Three other Acme stores within five miles of the Wynnewood location will remain open, Ward said. Those stores, in Bala Cynwyd, Bryn Mawr, and Narberth, will absorb the 70 or so Wynnewood employees when their store closes July 30. Workers will keep their current positions and seniority when they are transferred, she said.
The Wynnewood store had struggled with poor sales, said Wendell Young, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1776. The union, headquartered in Plymouth Meeting, represents 35,000 employees — from grocery stores to nursing homes — in Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.
Union policies prohibited Young from providing sales figures, but he said the union was “always worried the company wasn’t going to keep the place.” He pointed out that the store’s unusually small staff was “a function of what the sales are.”
“Acme’s got a good brand and good reputation, but they need to promote and be price competitive and invest in the stores so people have modern, clean stores with products they want,” Young said. “If they do that, Acme can have some bright days.”
Ward declined to elaborate on the Wynnewood store’s sales. An employee at the store deferred to the chain’s corporate office.
Acme, founded in Philadelphia and headquartered in Chester County, has 164 stores across Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The chain said last year that it planned to close its store in Eastchester, N.Y., that fall, along with three New Jersey stores in Elmwood Park, Woodcliff Lake, and Weehawken.
In Philadelphia, the chain is expected to replace a Fresh Grocer near the University of Pennsylvania this fall.
Despite subpar sales at some Acme stores, its Boise, Idaho-based parent company, Albertsons (NYSE: ACI), has thrived during the coronavirus pandemic as more people have taken to cooking at home. The company had its initial public offering last week — 50 million shares of common stock — which sold out at $16 a share, or about $2 to $4 lower than what its investors had anticipated.
Albertsons’ sales jumped by 47% during the first four weeks of fiscal year 2020, a period that ended in late March, Albertsons said in a quarterly earnings announcement. Sales then grew 21% more over another four-week period that concluded in late April. The numbers over the eight weeks were up 34% from the same time frame in fiscal year 2019.
The increase in sales proved helpful to Albertsons, which accrued billions in debt — about $8.3 billion as of late 2019 — from grocery acquisitions. It acquired Acme in 1999. Albertsons, which owns Safeway, Vons, and Shaw’s supermarkets, as well as 18 other grocery subsidiaries, has a total of 2,252 stores in 34 states and Washington.
Since Albertsons’ initial public offering at $16 a share last week, the stock has traded in a narrow range and closed at $15.76 Wednesday.