Sweetbay closing dozens of supermarkets in Florida - WFLA News Channel 8

Sweetbay closing dozens of supermarkets in Florida

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If your supermarket of choice is Sweetbay, you may need to find a new place to get your groceries.

The supermarket chain announced plans Thursday to close 33 stores in Florida. 22 of the stores are in the Tampa Bay area, with some others in the Sarasota area. 72 stores will remain open statewide.

Sweetbay's parent company, the Belgium-based Delhaize Group, said it plans to close the stores by mid-February.

Sweetbay spokesperson Nicole LeBeau says, "(The stores) weren't meeting their sales expectation. We're a publicly held company. We have a responsibility to our shareholders."

The Delhaize Group's earnings report showed that fourth quarter revenues for Delhaize America fell 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter, with the company anticipating a 17.5 percent decline in 2012 operating profits

"We're going to have 72 stores still in Florida that we need to keep open and keep them successful," said LeBeau.

The store closures are bad news for Sweetbay employees. The grocery chain expects to lay off roughly 2,000 employees across Florida. Many will be eligible for severance packages.

"We will have one-on-one conversations with every single associate so that they understand what's going on, they understand their future, they understand their severance package," said LeBeau. "We just really want to make sure we're respectful, we're sensitive and we're having those conversation appropriately."

Three locations are closing in St. Petersburg, including the store located in the Midtown district. St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster released a statement today, saying, "As of this morning, I had conversations with Sweetbay representatives and two meetings with staff and interested parties, and this will remain a high priority pending resolution."

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