Acme Markets told workers this week that it will close five unprofitable Philadelphia-area stores by the end of February, three in South Jersey and two in Pennsylvania - locations union officials said were hurt by Wegmans and other competing chains.

The decisions "were made only after careful evaluation and were guided by what is best for Acme's long-term growth and success as a whole," parent company Supervalu Inc. said in a statement.

The shutdowns are in Limerick, Wayne, Moorestown, Cinnaminson, and Millville.

In recent years, Acme, one of the region's oldest supermarket chains, has struggled to reinvent itself as competitors have arrived with stores that sell groceries in new ways. On the higher end, for example, are Whole Foods and Wegmans, with stores popular among gourmands; on the other end are Shop Rite, Walmart and Target, which lure more cost-conscious customers with aggressively low prices.

A top union official blamed bad management at the corporate level for the supermarkets' failure to thrive.

"Unfortunately, it's not a surprise to us," said Wendell Young IV, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which represents 116 clerks in Wayne and Limerick, but not meat cutters. "The reason they're closing the stores is because Supervalu is doing a lousy job of running the stores."

The Limerick market was built from the ground up just a few years ago - Acme shuttered a smaller, older store in nearby Collegeville to drive business to the new one, Young said. In short order, Giant opened a store across the street, and Wegmans opened one not too far away, as well.

The Collegeville Acme was older and smaller than the one in Limerick, but it had been doing OK, Young said. Now, Acme will have no supermarkets in that affluent stretch near the Route 422 residential and corporate corridor west of Philadelphia.

Young's counterpart in South Jersey, Sam Ferraino, who represents 129 clerks in Cinnaminson and Moorestown (but not meat cutters), said competitors similarly attacked Acme there.

He wasn't surprised, for example, that the Moorestown store was being shutttered because Wegmans opened a store across the street a few years ago and quickly scooped up Acme's customers.

"As soon as it opened, [Wegmans] killed them," said Ferraino, president of UFCW Local 1360, which represents clerks at some of Acme's South Jersey stores. "That was the beginning of the end, I'm sorry to say."

In Cinnaminson, Acme vacated an old store and moved to a larger, newer site down the street - only to have Shop Rite to open at Acme's old location and do "phenomenal" business, Ferraino said.

Contact staff writer Maria Panaritis at 215-854-2431 or