TILTON — "It's huge loss to the town," said Pat Consentino, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, in response to the announcement that the Shaw's Supermarket near Exit 20 is one of the six in New Hampshire the company will close by September 2.
"Over the years Shaw's has been very generous to this community and most recently was a strong supporter of our Senior Center," Consentino said, who added that the loss of jobs would also adversely affect the town.
On Monday the company announced that stores in Manchester, Keene, Seabrook, Goffstown and West Lebanon as well as Tilton would be closed. In a prepared statement Steve Sylven, a corporate spokesman, said that "we strive to ensure the success of all our stores, however, it is occasionally necessary for us to close those that are not meeting company goals or that do not fit into our long-term strategy." He added that the six stores have not been profitable for some time.
In fact, Shaw's has been struggling since at least 2006 when the company, consisting of Shaw's and Star Market operated 212 stores in the six New England states, was acquired by Supervalu, Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Soon after the acquisition the firm began closing stores — six in 2006, three in 2007 and four in 2009. In 2010, Shaw's sold most of its 18 stores in Connecticut and trimmed its payroll by 4 percent. In 2012, Shaw's laid off 700 employees and Supervalu disclosed it was seeking a buyer.
In January, Cerberus a private equity firm, acquired Shaw's and Star Market, along with 877 other grocery and drug stores owned by Supervalu for $3.3-billion. By then Shaw's share of the New England market had fallen from 19-percent to 11-percent between 2006 and 2012 while sales dropped from $5.3-billion to $3.8-billion from 2011 to 2012.
When the transaction closed in March, Sylven issued a statement that no stores would be closed or employees terminated, but added "the management teams for both organizations will determine staffing needs and roles/responsibilities for their respective companies. This process may take several months."
Meanwhile, in Tilton, where Shaw's was already competing with both Market Basket and Hannaford, in April Wal-Mart began transforming its store on the west side of Interstate 93 into a Wal-Mart Supercenter by adding 33,000-square-feet, most built to house a grocery department scheduled to open in 2014. Consentino suggested that some of those losing their jobs at Shaw's might find work at Wal-Mart, which expects to add 84 employees.
With the closures, Shaw's operates 27 supermarkets in New Hampshire, two in Belknap County just three miles apart in Belmont and Gilford. In Gilford, Hannaford recently opened a new and larger supermarket on Lake Shore Road, directly across the street from Shaw's, while further down the road Wal-Mart is planning to double the size of its store to create a Wal-Mart Supercenter.