(Jan. 28, 9:30 a.m.) Twenty-seven Sweetbay, Food Lion and Hannaford stores are scheduled to close in 2009, while up to 43 new supermarkets from those chains should open, according to a report from the chains’ parent company, Delhaize Group.

Seven underperforming Sweetbay Supermarkets stores are slated to close in the Tampa, Fla.-based retailer’s home state by the end of March, said Nicole LeBeau, communications manager for Sweetbay. The Brussels, Belgium-based owner Sweetbay, Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford Bros. and Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion chains in the U.S. announced its plans in a Jan. 16 report that covered its 2008 performance and 2009 outlook.

Delhaize ended 2008 with 2,673 stores worldwide, 1,594 of them in the U.S., according to the report. The company saw an increase of 5.6% in revenues over the year at an identical exchange rate between the euro and the dollar. At an actual exchange rate, increase in revenues was only 0.4% because of the weakening of the U.S. dollar.

The company reported positive results in its three U.S. chains from different initiatives. Sweetbay stores are working to gain improved price reality and perception, the report states, and are making changes to adapt the stores to local markets. The chain began a price investment program in mid-2007, the release stated, which has resulted in better performing stores, with the exception of the seven that are scheduled to close.

LeBeau said Sweetbay is the only low-price retailer in its area, with prices set for at least a 13-week period. The chain does not run promotions, but keeps its prices set low, she said. The chain is using signs and advertisements to educate its customers on the program.

“Our prices have always remained the same, but we’re just explaining to customers that we just have a great low price every day,” LeBeau said.

Hannaford stores continued with the Guiding Stars nutritional information system, and are implementing ongoing price investments. Delhaize plans to relocate one Hannaford store in 2009, according to the report.

Delhaize remodeled 151 Food Lion stores in 2008 and also increased promotional and pricing initiatives. The company plans to remodel 43 Food Lion in 2009, focusing on Daytona, Fla., and Columbia, S.C. Delhaize also plans to relocate six Food Lion stores.

“We really reintroduce the stores to their markets,” said Karen Peterson, corporate communications manager for Food Lion. “They get renovated, remodeled, new merchandising and a new marketing focus.”

Peterson said the chain is also focusing its marketing efforts on each store’s specific area.

“Our marketing efforts are really focused on segmentation and customizing,” Peterson said. “We take a close look at who shops at that store, and another store may have a different segment, so we’re able to better merchandise our stores.”

In addition to closing seven Sweetbay stores, and relocating the Food Lion and Hannaford stores, 13 other unspecified stores are scheduled to close in 2009, according to the report.

Private-label support

Delhaize introduced a private-label program in 2008.

Food Lion stores have three new private labels: Home 360, Smart Options and Healthy Accents.

“The program is just starting to roll out at Sweetbay,” LeBeau said. “We think it will be big for 2009, but it’s a little early to tell.”

LeBeau said the new private-label program started with Smart Options products in the stores. She said Sweetbay stores currently carry three private labels: Sweetbay, Hannaford and Smart Options. The Sweetbay label is used mostly for perishables, while the Hannaford is a center-store brand. Smart Options is a lower-tier version for many center-store items.

Further 2009 plans include opening 30-35 Food Lion stores under Food Lion, Bottom Dollar, Bloom and Harveys banners, and opening five Hannaford stores, in addition to the three Sweetbay stores.

LeBeau said the first of the three new Sweetbay stores is set to open before any stores close, early in February in Clermont, Fla. Another store in Tampa is set to open in the spring, then a third in Tarpon Springs in the fall.