Haggen to close, sell 27 stores

By Oliver Lazenby

olazenby@bbjtoday.com

Haggen’s huge expansion earlier this year may have been a bit too much.

The Bellingham-based grocer announced Friday it will close or sell 27 stores in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state in the next 60 days.

Oak Harbor Haggen’s is not among those slated for closure.

One Haggen in Washing-ton will close, a store in Spanaway, near Tacoma.

Haggen is shutting down only one store that it owned before the expansion, a location in Tualatin, Ore.

The move aims to strengthen and streamline store operations, the company said in a press release.

“Haggen’s goal going forward is to ensure a stable, healthy company that will benefit our customers, associates, vendors, creditors, stakeholders as well as the communities we serve,” said Haggen Southwest CEO Bill Shaner, in the release.

“By making the tough choice to close and sell some stores, we will be able to invest in stores that have the potential to thrive under the Haggen banner.”

Haggen bought 146 grocery stores earlier this year when Albertsons and Safeway struck a deal to merge. In response, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Albertsons to sell 168 stores before it would approve the deal.

Haggen bought the vast majority of the stores, growing from 18 locations with 2,000 employees in the Pacific Northwest to 164 stores with more than 10,000 employees on the West Coast.

With the closures announced Friday, Haggen will shrink to 137 stores. The company doesn’t know yet how many jobs will be affected by the closures, according to a press release.

The company has faced some challenges at its new stores. Newspapers in California and Arizona reported customers complained about the cost of Haggen compared to other grocery stores.

The already competitive grocery industry in California, Arizona and Nevada reacted to Haggen’s entry in the market by cutting prices, Shaner said in a statement in July.

“The competitive activity launched in response to our entry into the marketplace — while expected — has been unprecedented,” he said.