published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Sweetbay closes 2 local stores
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
Plans by Sweetbay to close 33 underperforming stores in Florida hit Clermont this week when both of the company's supermarkets locked their doors, putting about 100 employees out of work.
There are no immediate plans to close the company's only other Lake County Sweetbay in The Villages.
Originally, the market plan was to sell down the store's inventory and shoot for a mid-February closing, but with reduced prices of up to 75 percent on most items, the shelves were emptied and doors locked at all locations this week, spokesperson Nicole LeBreau said.
"There is no reason to keep the stores open with nothing for customers to buy," LeBreau said.
In Clermont, the city's two Sweetbay stores, one at 1718 E. Highway 50 formerly a Kash n Karry Foodstore, and the other at 1713 U.S. Highway 27, were closed on Monday.
Former employees at the store on U.S. Highway 50 said they had packed up the remaining merchandise.
About 2,000 Sweetbay employees will be displaced overall. The company will provide severance to eligible employees, a press release stated.
In Clermont more than 100 employees were displaced, according to LeBreau's calculations that about 50 to 60 people were employed at each of the Clermont stores. LeBreau said it was a tough decision, but it couldn't be avoided.
"We had to base the decision on which stores to close, on sales and profits. We have a commitment to our shareholders, but no matter which way you slice and dice it, it's incredibly hard to make cuts and close stores when you know you are displacing employees," she said.
Sweetbay will have 72 stores left in Florida.
"These actions will continue to enhance the performance of our overall store portfolio and further enable us to deliver profitable growth and accelerate shareholder value," a press release from Sweetbay stated.
LeBreau said the cuts will make the Sweetbay brand 'more relevant.'
Hardest hit by the closings was Tampa, which had five stores closed. St. Petersburg and Naples each had three store closings.
Sweetbay Supermarket began in November 2004 in Largo and is headquartered in Tampa with one distribution center in Plant City.
Sweetbay operates under Delhaize America, a leading supermarket operator with more than 1,500 stores in 16 states in the eastern United States. A press release states that Delhaize America operates under the banners of Bottom Dollar Food, Food Lion, Harveys, Hannaford Supermarkets, Reid's and Sweetbay, each of which has a strategy and a brand image.
"Through its multiple banners, Delhaize America is able to target the needs and requirements of specific markets, customize its product and service offerings and maintain strong brand recognition with its local customers," the release reads, adding that Delhaize America employs approximately 107,000 full-time and part-time associates.
In Clermont, city officials verified that as of now, no other businesses have applied for a license at any of the former Sweetbay locations.
The owner of the store on U.S. 50 is listed with the Lake County Property Appraiser's Office as Lucas Clermont Limited Partnership, C/O Castro Southeast out of Sarasota and the owner of the store on U.S. 27 is listed as WCOT Glenbrook Commons C/O Southeast Centers LLC out of Coral Gables.
Neither could be reached for comment.