(April 23) BOISE, Idaho — Albertson’s Inc. — by selling some of its Houston-area grocery stores to Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and leaving the Kansas market — continues to restructure, said a spokeswoman for the nation’s second-largest retail grocery store chain.

Kroger announced April 12 it has agreed to buy 16 of Albertson’s 40 Houston stores. Four stores were sold to The Grocers Supply Co., Houston.

The Kroger sale, which awaits regulatory approval, follows Albertson’s March 13 announcing it would leave the Houston market as well as San Antonio; Memphis, Tenn.; and Nashville, Tenn., by closing or selling underperforming stores.

“We need to evaluate our business strategy going forward,” said Rhonda Clements, external communications director for Albertson’s Inc., Boise. “Part of our strategy is to exit markets where we’re not successful.”

Albertson’s closed the remaining 20 of its 34 San Antonio-area stores April 2. All of its stores in Memphis and Nashville also have been closed, Clements said.

On April 10, Albertson’s said it would leave the Kansas market by selling four stores in Wichita and one store in Topeka to Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan.

“After a thorough review, the company determined these five stores did not build shareowner value and could not attain significant market share,” Clements said.

Associated Wholesale Grocers’ wholly owned subsidiary, Falleys Inc./Food 4 Less, will reopen three of the stores in Wichita.

Clements said Albertson’s tried different marketing techniques to increase the stores’ market share in Wichita. Albertson’s was in third place with a 7.7% share behind the perennial market leader Kroger-owned Dillon Cos. Inc., Hutchinson, Kan., which has a 67.6% share, and Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club, which has 9.8%, according to the Chain Store Guide’s 2002 supermarket store directory.

“We only want the No. 1 or No. 2 market share,” Clements said. “It’s (Wichita) is a very competitive market.”

Albertson’s strategy has been to market its stores to neighborhoods, Clements said. The chain surveys and creates stores matching its community needs, she said.

Albertson’s is planning to open nearly 65 combination food and drug stores and remodel 201 of its stores through 2003, Clements said.

One retail analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed Albertson’s view by saying the chain is reviewing its business and trying to cut costs after its 1999 acquisition of American Stores Co., Salt Lake City.

In late March, the nation’s largest wholesaler, Fleming Cos., Lewisville, Texas, bought Albertson’s Tulsa, Okla., distribution center.

In early March, Albertson’s said it also would leave the southwest Missouri retail market by selling its eight Springfield, Mo., and Joplin, Mo., area stores to Price Cutter Supermarkets Inc., Springfield.

In the past year, Albertson’s has closed 260, or 10.8%, of its 2,400 U.S. stores.