It was tough to find a parking spot anywhere near the Lucky’s Market in Tyrone Square late Wednesday afternoon, as the grocery chain began the process of shutting down its St. Petersburg store and others throughout Florida.
Many of the store shelves were empty. Lines 10 customers or more deep clogged several aisles, and a cashier said it had been like that much of the day.
One day after reports surfaced that Lucky’s would close nearly all its Florida stores, the grocery chain confirmed the closures on its Facebook page.
“This store brought a lot of life to the mall, which once was dead. Now it’s going to be an empty building and who know what’s going to go in here now,” said Kristin Blasek, who said she’s a frequent Lucky’s Market shopper. It’s close to her home, she said, and she likes the concept as well as the fresh products and the prices.
The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) invested in Lucky’s in 2016, in part as a way to expand in Florida, trade publication Winsight Grocery Business reported. In December, Kroger said it would divest its interest in Lucky’s and take a $238 million impairment charge.
“The amount of investment that it would take for Lucky’s to be a meaningful contributor to Kroger overall and the efforts that it would take, we just didn’t think it created a good return for the investments that were needed to be made relative to that,” William McMullen, Kroger chairman and CEO, said in a conference call with analysts.
“I can’t understand why Kroger pulled back,” Blasek said. “This place has always been packed.”
The store is slated to close Feb. 12 but customers and cashiers said they would not be surprised if the inventory was gone before then.
Lucky’s is just one of several retailers reducing or eliminating their presence in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
• Pier 1 Imports will close three local stores, according to Business Insider. The stores slated to close are at 2351 101st St. in Largo, 16318 N. Dale Mabry in Tampa and 6907 Gunn Hwy. in Tampa.
• Bed Bath & Beyond is shuttering one store at 12803 Citrus Park Dr. in Tampa, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
• Papyrus, a greeting card and stationary retailer, is closing all of its stores nationwide, including in Tampa’s International Plaza, Fortune said.
• Winn-Dixie said its store at 7489 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg was underperforming and would close.
Intense competition and fight for market share is putting pressure on performance in the retail industry, Moody’s Investors Service said in a November report. The credit rating agency downgraded its outlook for U.S. retail to stable from positive.
But Moody’s is expecting improvement this year, citing strategic investments in e-commerce capabilities and improved operating efficiencies, coupled with continued strong performance from larger well capitalized retailers in select retail sectors alongside a strong economy.