(Sept. 18) Shareholders of Associated Grocers Inc. have approved the sale of the company to Unified Grocers, clearing the way for the creation of a $4 billion-a-year business.

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close by Oct. 1, were not disclosed.

Spokesman Tom Schaffner said retailer-owned Unified, City of Commerce, Calif., has 550 members with about 2,500 retail locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the Pacific Rim.

Corporate communications manager Bob Hutchins said Seattle-based Associated’s 129 shareholders operate 320 locations in Alaska, Oregon, Hawaii, Washington, Guam and the Pacific Rim.

“A $4 billion company is going to have a lot more clout,” Schaffner said. “It will be of interest to vendors because we’ll be a bigger customer buying more product. The hope is that you can keep costs lower.”

Schaffner said Unified generates about $3 billion a year in sales, and produce accounts for 4% of that total. Associated is a $1 billion a year business, he said.

Unified Grocers, previously Unified Western Grocers, has shortened its name as part of a corporate branding initiative.