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ATLANTA-Super Discount Markets Inc. is exiting Atlanta’s fiercely competitive grocery market and will begin expanding its Sav-A-Lot chain elsewhere in the Southeast in early 2002.

The company’s Cub Foods division plans to close all 19 Georgia grocery stores by the end of 2001. An estimated total 570,000 sf, based on an average 30,000 sf per store, is going on the market, either for sale or lease. The chain has 17 stores in metro Atlanta and two in Columbus.

At press time, there was no word on potential buyers for the stores or on exact closing dates.

Look for more supermarket vacancies surfacing over the next two quarters, industry brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

The initial Cub Foods announcement was buried in the Oct. 26 third-quarter earnings report of one of the parent companies, Belgian food conglomerate Delhaize.

“After a strategic review of its operations, Delhaize Group decided to close the 19 Cub Foods stores of Super Discount Markets before the year-end, concluding that the significant investment required to be successful in the highly competitive Atlanta market would not be justified,” Delhaize says.

Delhaize’s U.S. subsidiary, Delhaize America Inc., owns the Food Lion chain. Super Discount Markets is a holding company 60% owned by Delhaize and 40% owned by Supervalu Inc.

Jeff Noddle, president and CEO of Supervalu, also announced the exit on Oct. 26. He added in a prepared statement that Supervalu, nevertheless, plans to expand its Southeast presence.

“We plan to aggressively expand Save-A-Lot over the next five years and growth within this market is a significant component to that strategy,” Noddle says.

Cub’s exit from the Atlanta market is the latest in a series of grocery closings, including A&P and Harris Teeter.

Harris Teeter’s departure this summer has left several stores vacant, despite Kroger buying 14 stores from Harris Teeter in metro Atlanta and one in Athens, GA. and reopening eight under the Kroger name.

Whole Foods recently bought Harry’s Farmers Market, and the fate of the separate Harry’s in a Hurry locations remains in doubt.

Kroger Co. and Publix Super Markets Inc. dominate the Atlanta market.

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