In the grocery and distribution wars, Spartan Stores is up for the fight. The grocery retailer and wholesaler operates 100 Michigan supermarkets under the banners Glen's Markets, Family Fare Supermarkets, D&W Fresh Markets, and VG's Food and Pharmacy. Besides selling national brands, stores offer private-label goods under the Spartan, Top Care, Valu Time, and Full Circle names. Spartan is also a leading grocery wholesaler, distributing more than 40,000 food and general merchandise items to about 390 independent grocery stores in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio from its Grand Rapids, Michigan, distribution center. Founded in 1917 as a cooperative grocery distributor, Spartan Stores acquired Nash-Finch in 2013.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In a strategic move that gave Spartan Stores an extended reach beyond its Midwestern stronghold and boosted its retail holdings, the company in November 2013 purchased Minneapolis-based grocery distributor Nash-Finch. Valued at $1.3 billion, the all-stock deal made Spartan Stores the largest food supplier to US military stores. The deal, structured as a tax-free exchange and a merger, entailed Spartan Stores assuming about $380 million in Nash-Finch's long-term debt. The stock portion of the purchase was about $340 million. In the end, Nash-Finch shareholders held a 42% stake in the combined entity. The combined distribution company will do business as SpartanNash, but retail stores will continue to operate under the Spartan Stores, Nash Finch, and MDV, in their respective markets.
Spartan Stores is struggling to grow sales amid difficult regional economic conditions and competition from supercenters, including Wal-Mart Stores. In fiscal 2013 (ended March), the company's sales dipped 1% compared with the prior year, while net income fell 14% over the same period. Spartan blamed the dip in annual sales on the inclusion of a 53rd week in fiscal 2012, which accounted for nearly $50 million. Ignoring the extra week, both the retail and distribution segments posted low single-digit sales gains. The retail segment got a boost from the acquisition of a new supermarket in the third quarter of fiscal 2013, and increased fuel center sales (driven by higher prices and volumes). Same-store sales at Spartan's supermarkets declined.
As the Michigan economy gradually improves, Spartan Stores expects its fortunes to as well. The company is focused on growing sales in both its retail and distribution divisions organically and through acquisitions, such as the pending Nash Finch purchase. The company in 2013 inked a deal with Chief Super Market to be its primary wholesale grocery supplier. To drive sales and foster customer loyalty Spartan will further develop its private-label brand program and rollout its loyalty card program to all of its banners. Through Spartan's neighborhood market strategy, the company endeavors to distinguish itself from other food retailers, such as supercenters and limited-assortment stores. It does this by emphasizing convenient locations, as well as offering demographically targeted merchandise, high-quality fresh foods, and value pricing. Leading Spartan's turnaround efforts Dennis Eidson was promoted to CEO in 2008.
With demand for fuel rising and prices increasing, Spartan has been adding fuel centers at supermarket locations. It has about 30 fuel centers across its various banners.