Minyard Will Focus on 'Hometown' Brand After Selling Carnival, Says CEO

Jettisoning its Latino-centric Carnival Super Market brand and 37 of its stores will free up Minyard Food Stores, Inc. to focus on playing up the heritage of its eponymous brand, the chain's president and c.e.o. Michael D. Byars told Progressive Grocer yesterday.

"This puts us in a better position in the competitive Dallas Fort-Worth market, as Minyard is known as a hometown grocer," said Byars of his Coppell, Texas-based chain. "Minyard has a rich history of 76 years and a rich heritage of serving local communities."

Just two months ago, the grocer began using the tagline "a tradition as big as Texas." This is part of an ongoing "refreshing" of the Minyard brand, which also includes carrying merchandise suited to local neighborhoods, freshening up stores, and focusing on customer service, Byars added.

The deal leaves Minyard with 21 stores, including 16 under the Minyard banner, three Sack'n Saves, and one Carnival, although the Carnival store will be converted to either the Minyard or Sack'n Save banner, according to Byars. In addition, one of the stores will close next month.

Minyard said late Wednesday that it had decided to sell 23 Carnival supermarkets, five Minyard, five fuel centers, and nine Sack'n Save warehouse stores to The Grocers Supply Co. It is expected that Houston-based retailer Fiesta Mart, Inc. (a major competitor of Carnival) will acquire 11 of these stores, and other retail customers of Grocers Supply will acquire most of the remaining stores.

All of the transactions are expected to close by the end of the year.

Minyard, a privately held company, had hoped for a merger with Fiesta, but Grocers Supply preferred an acquisition, Byars said. Several of Grocers Supply's clients had expressed interest in certain Minyard and Sack'n Save stores, he added.

"On the positive side, we were so successful in building the Carnival brand that we had a competitor want to buy it," he noted. "It demonstrates the hard work of the people in our organization."

Byars said the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of the local grocery market, the weakening economy, and the complexity of running three banners in the same metro market has hindered on Minyard's ability to compete.

"Returns were acceptable, but not what we had originally targeted," he said.

The Carnival brand should thrive under the new structure, Byars noted.

"Added to Fiesta's 15 DFW stores, our Carnival brand and outlets will further establish a substantial Latino-themed retail presence throughout the Metroplex. Grocers Supply's acquisition almost four years ago of Fiesta and, now, of our Carnival brand shows they understand the changing demographics of Texas and the attractiveness of this segment."

Grocers Supply, a family owned business started in 1923, is one of the largest food wholesalers in the Southwest. It services most of the independent grocery stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and owns Fiesta Mart, a supermarket chain of 50 stores serving Latino and multi-ethnic communities in the Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin markets.

Although Minyard will transfer or terminate all of the affected store associates prior to the sale of each store, both Minyard and Grocers Supply said they expect the majority of the workers will be employed by the new store owners.
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