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Albertson's acquires area Smitty's

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Smitty's grocery stores in the Springfield area will soon have a new owner. March 13 Smitty's announced that Albertson's, a Boise, Idaho-based grocer, will acquire Smitty's Super Markets Inc.

The deal, set to close in a month or two, will include four Smitty's stores in Springfield, three in Joplin, one in Republic, one in Nixa and one in Waynesville, said Albertson's spokeswoman Jenny Enochson.

Albertson's had previously been looking to move into the Missouri market by building a store in Springfield and had researched a site on Kansas Expressway, although the company had not yet purchased any land, Enochson said.

"We did have a location picked out to build a new store, but we may hold off for a year or two until the market shows us what Springfield demands. Purchasing the Smitty's stores was a much better option for us than building a single store," Enochson said.

The stores will continue to operate under the Smitty's flag, and any new stores built in the area will be built as Smitty's stores, Enochson said.

"It is unlikely that we would have stores under two flags in the same area," she added.

Smitty's was founded by David Trottier in 1977. Albertson's was founded by Joe Albertson in 1939. Albertson died in 1993. The company is now public and is traded on the New York and Pacific stock exchanges under the symbol ABS.

Albertson's has a total of 893 stores and had $13.8 billion in sales for the year ended Jan. 30, 1997.

Though the company is located in 21 West, Midwest and Southern states, it was not yet in Missouri, Enochson said. The company does have stores in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Enochson said that the two companies were "a good fit," and that right now no immediate changes are planned for the Smitty's stores. She said it was too soon to tell whether any jobs would be added to the Springfield market.

The company has a store brand, Albertson's, which will soon be in Smitty's stores. Albertson's is one of the largest grocery chains in the country, ranking fourth or fifth, depending on whether Wal-Mart stores are included in the ranking, Enochson said.

Albertson's has 11 of its own distribution centers, and hopes to someday be distributing from its centers to all of its stores, but Associated Wholesale Grocers will continue to be the distributor for Smitty's.

UMB Bank Southwest operates five branch banks in Smitty's stores, said Brad Weaver, chairman, president and chief operating officer. The UMB branches are in three Springfield stores and in the Nixa and Republic stores. Weaver said the relationship has been a very positive one for UMB and added that the bank wanted to continue to offer the banking services within Smitty's stores.

"We're very excited to be involved with good partners such as Smitty's and Albertson's," Weaver said.

The Springfield-area supermarket banks opened beginning in November of 1996.

UMB started grocery banking about five years ago and is adding four banks in Albertson's stores in Omaha, Neb., said Roger Hoadley, UMB Financial's director of corporate communications. The first Albertson's bank will open in Omaha in April and the additional three will open before June, Hoadley said. UMB has 20 in-store locations out of 155 total banking centers, he added.

For now, it's business as usual at Smitty's, said spokesman Jeff Kollmeyer. The companies are now in the due-diligence phase of the acquisition, where each aspect of Smitty's will be examined.

INSET CAPTION:

Albertson's will put on hold plans

it had for a South Kansas Expressway store.[[In-content Ad]]

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