Group buys Balducci’s, closes underperforming stores

04/29/2009 01:07:51 PM
Pamela Riemenschneider

Following an investor group purchase, Bethesda, Md.-based Balducci’s LLC closed three stores and plans another.

According to a company statement, an investor group led by Jim Demme acquired stores in Alexandria, Va., Bethesda, Md., McLean, Va., Scarsdale, N.Y., Westport, Conn., and Greenwich, Conn., for an undisclosed amount. Demme is a senior advisor to the investment firm Angelo, Gordon & Co., New York.

Two stores in Manhattan and one in Ridgefield, Conn., closed April 26, and a store in Washington, D.C. will stay open until June 29.

A representative from Balducci’s could not be reached for comment.

It is not surprising that Balducci’s has closed stores, said retail analyst David Livingston of DJL Research, Pewaukee, Wis. However, it was not as much the economy as other factors, he said.

“Balducci’s was more about the management than about the economy,” he said. “They would be closing stores no matter how well the economy was doing.”

Balducci’s, founded in 1946 as a fruit and vegetable stand in New York, was sold to Bethesda-based Sutton Place Gourmet.

Bear Stearns bought the chain in 2003 and changed its stores to the Balducci’s banner.

The retailer was known for its high-end ingredients, especially imported olive oils, cheeses and other specialty items.

The store has seen a lot of competition in the past couple of years, especially with the entry of Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc.

It is not a good time to be in a premium market, Livingston said.

“We will probably see some closures and consolidations,” he said. “Consumers are trading down and being smarter with their money. Therefore, the weak link in that grocery segment will be breaking.”



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