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A&P's Haub Talks of Formats, Store Brands

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Co.'s ongoing evolution from a "geographic banner" player to a "format-driven" contender is a key reason for the grocer's leading market share in the No. 1 competitive stage in the country, metro New York, said A&P's executive chairman, Christian Haub, yesterday.

Haub delivered his upbeat message during a presentation at Lehman Brothers' 11th Annual Retail and Restaurant Conference, held just ahead of A&P's release of fourth-quarter earnings next week.

In addition to its familiar Fresh, Discount, and Gourmet formats, A&P is working on a center store-driven Price Impact concept for its Pathmark stores, which are in the midst of integration into their new parent company. A&P's c.f.o. Brenda Galgano described the process as "on track."

After A&P completes the Pathmark integration, which includes consolidation of corporate employees at the new owner's Montvale, N.J. headquarters, Haub said the company would most likely focus next on the Food Basics Discount format, which has been highly successful in Canada. Haub said he sees a lot of potential for the banner in the United States. Real growth for the format would come through new locations, he noted, particularly existing properties A&P would acquire and convert.

Haub added that Food Basics in the company's existing trade areas could grow to "100 stores or more." A&P already operates 11 Food Basics stores in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Other plans for the post-integration future include the introduction of a new private label line across the company. In preparation for the new line, Haub noted that the company is negotiating with suppliers to lower costs.

Haub said he's especially pleased with his company's newfound agility, thanks to its revamped management team led by c.e.o. and president Eric Claus, as it seeks to maintain momentum by increasing sales productivity, upgrading its store base, and driving Northeast consolidation. "When we decide to do something, you can count on it [happening]," Haub told attendees at the conference.
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