Metro Food Market closing 2 unprofitable area stores

Sites in Columbia, Cockeysville affected

March 31, 2001|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

Metro Food Market, the Baltimore area's second-largest supermarket chain, is closing two of its stores as part of a strategy to strengthen the company's standing in an increasingly competitive market.

Metro, which has 20 stores in the area, will shut down its Columbia grocery, in the Oakland Mills Village Center, and a store on York Road in Cockeysville on April 14.

Neither store was profitable, Metro President Bill White said yesterday.

"If you have unprofitable stores, you take them out of the mix, and that allows you to work with the stores that are profitable," White said. "They just impact the bottom line negatively and affect the overall strategy negatively."

About 100 employees from the two stores have been offered jobs at three other Metro sites, White said.

The already competitive grocery business is likely to intensify as new players such as Wal-Mart, which is building supercenters with grocery stores, move into the market.

Metro, which is trying to boost flat sales and performance, has in recent months changed its image from an upscale store emphasizing prepared meals and fresh produce to a low-price, warehouse concept where food is sold in bulk, much as at its sister store, Shoppers Food Warehouse in Washington.

White says he saw no way to turn around the Columbia and Cockeysville stores.

"There were some mistakes made up front in the development of the property that can't really be changed," White said.

The Columbia store, opened about two years ago at the former site of a Giant Food, is in an isolated area, and the entrance is hard to get to.

"There's a lot of nothing around it," said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Columbia-based Food World. "It should have never been a grocery store."

The Cockeysville site, at 11121 York Road in the Ashland Shopping Center, is in an area saturated with supermarkets, including SuperFresh, Giant and a second Metro a short distance away.

"The area is `over-stored,'" Metzger said. "Metro was one of the last guys on the block. When you're one of the newer guys it's harder to penetrate and capture the market."

Metro will sell out its perishable goods at the closing stores and either send dry goods back to the distributor or transfer them to other stores.

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