Safeway Stores Inc. has decided to close and sell 24 Southern California supermarkets in a move that could put up to 800 people out of work, union officials said.
Bonnie Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Oakland-based chain, confirmed Friday that the stores have been put up for sale and that Safeway hopes to close them before the end of March. Twelve other Safeway supermarkets that are already closed or vacant are also up for sale. The chain has about 200 stores in Southern California.
Lewis said many of the stores targeted for closure were built in the 1960s and early 1970s and have 25,000 square feet or less. The firm has been updating its supermarkets by building newer, larger stores that have room for delicatessens, salad bars and pharmacies, she said.
Union officials, however, blamed the closings on Safeway's $4.2-billion takeover by the investment banking firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. The acquisition gave the firm a heavy debt load, which it is trying to pay off by selling assets, said David Barry, a regional vice president for the United Food and Commercial Workers union.