Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Can you say Stupid-valu?

A few years ago Jewel made a big splash about returning to southeastern Wisconsin, opening grocery and Osco Drug Stores in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha.

The stores did well -- especially the Kenosha store as Jewel is the "home town store" for Illinois transplants.

But funny things happen in the grocery business.

Jewel was bought by Albertson's which kept Jewel-Osco intact. (Once when a prescription was stolen from my checked luggage I was able to get it immediately replaced at an Osco store inside an Albertson's in Bozeman, Montana. That's good service!)

Albertson's was later bought out by Super-Valu which decided to close the Wisconsin Jewel stores and Osco pharmacies. The corporate flaks at Super-Valu came out with the usually male bovine excrement to cover this idiotic decision. CVS took over the free-standing Osco pharmacies while the Kenosha and Racine Jewel stores were sold to Albrecht's, a Wisconsin grocer, to be reopened as Sentry stores (ironically stocked by Super-Valu).

So here's what happened in Kenosha.

The first dumb move was to close the Kenosha Jewel-Osco store. It was profitable and could easily have been stocked by Jewel's Chicago area warehouse (just as Jewel-Osco is in Zion). That was corporate rectal-cranial inversion at its finest. Or was it?

The even dumber move was not just to close the Kenosha Jewel-Osco store but to make the new owner change brands. Stupid-Valu could have seamlessly transferred the grocery store and pharmacy to the new owners and kept stocking it. It could have been run as a Jewel-Osco without any interruption of business. But, hey, it's not Stupid-Valu without a reason, right?

So, Jewel-Osco spent several weeks doing a massive cleanout of the store's inventory. It was like attending a funeral for days on end. Nobody was happy to see Jewel-Osco close.

Then adding even more layers of stupidity the store had to be closed to restock it as a Sentry store which had zero brand identity with Illinois transplants (of which there are many in Kenosha).

When it finally reopened (and the pharmacy became an Aurora pharmacy, a regional operation with limited hours) the customers predictably didn't come back. The familiar brands and services were gone. The new store stocked less and never even looked as if the remodeling was completed. I predicted it would close within a year.

Yesterday Albrecht's said the Sentry store would close in February. They're looking for a buyer, of course, but folks, it's damaged goods. Aurora Pharmacy will close, too.

About the only think that might work would be if Stupid-Valu came to its senses and realized how stupid they were and bought the store and pharmacy back. A Jewel-Osco at that location would still work but only if Stupid-Valu was smart enough to make an immediate transition.

But we all know how eager corporate poo-bahs are when it comes to admitting they screwed up. I'm more likely to be the new poster child for Jenny Craig.

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