Winn-Dixie To Sell, Shut Stores

Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. will close or sell 156 stores over the next year, trimming 10,000 jobs from its payroll, the company announced Friday.

Affected stores include 111 in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Distribution centers in Sarasota, Raleigh, N.C., and Louisville, Ky., will also be closed. The other 45 stores are in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia.

The closings and sales will leave the Jacksonville-based supermarket chain with 922 stores and about 90,000 employees.

The company said it hopes to sell stores rather than close them so that affected employees won't lose their jobs. Some employees will be given the chance to fill openings at other stores.

"This was a difficult decision, but it is a necessary part of our strategic plan to restore Winn-Dixie to consistent profitability," said Frank Lazaran, the company's president and chief executive officer. "We will make every effort to ensure a smooth and fair transition for affected (employees)."

The company reported Friday a 5.5 percent decrease in first quarter sales, to $2.7 billion. For the 40 weeks ending March 31, sales were down 5.8 percent for the identical period last year, to $8.9 billion.

Identical store sales, which includes enlargements and excludes stores that opened or closed during the period, decreased 6.4% for the quarter and 6.6% for the fiscal year to date. Comparable store sales, which include replacement stores, decreased 6.4% for the quarter and 6.6% for the fiscal year to date.