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MINNEAPOLIS-Nash Finch Co. blames slumping sales at its retail grocery stores for its decision to shut down 21 of them next month. The move includes its five discount Buy n Save in the Twin Cities among those scheduled to close in June.

The Buy n Save stores in Minnesota were the prototypes for Nash Finch to develop a limited selection discount format, called “extreme value” stores in the food industry.

Also being shut down are two full-size EconoFoods supermarkets in Rochester, MN, as well as several EconoFoods stores in Upper Midwest states and a Sun Mart supermarket in Nebraska. The chain is also closing its Hispanic-themed Avanza stores in Chicago and Colorado.

Nash Finch’s retail sales were down 10.6% on same-store basis over the previous year. Two months ago, the Edina, MN-based food wholesaler and retailer said it was making cutbacks in the form of layoffs, and securities analysts thought store closings were inevitable. In fact, analysts had expected Nash Finch to close even more stores than the 21.

Nash Finch’s stores have come under fierce competition from new Wal-Mart and Target super centers, which carry full grocery lines, and from other retailers.

The company projected closing the stores will improve pretax earnings by about $16 million, and that the sale of property and inventories will offset other closing costs.

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