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Expanding Weis racks up $65M tab for store acquisitions

Weis Markets opened this new flagship store in Cumberland County earlier this year. Newly filed documents show the chain spent $65 million on buying stores from rival companies in 2016, its strongest sales year ever. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)

It takes money to make money.

Weis Markets exemplified that old adage in 2016.

A recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing reveals that the Sunbury-based grocery chain spent $65 million to acquire stores from rival chains last year, including 38 former Food Lion stores and five Mars Super Market locations in greater Baltimore.

Weis also had its strongest year ever in 2016, topping $3 billion in sales for the first time in the chain’s history.

The new additions appear poised to fuel continued growth, collectively generating more than $120 million in sales for the first quarter of 2017.

The store acquisitions were part of a $175 million capital expansion program, according to a previous SEC filing. The program included new-store construction, store acquisitions, store renovations and upgrades to distribution centers.

The first quarter of this year also saw Weis debut a 65,000 square-foot “superstore” in Cumberland County, directly across the road from a location owned by regional competitor Giant Food Stores.

Efforts to reach a company spokesperson were not immediately successful Thursday morning.

But the company’s own words in the SEC filing reveal much about the size of Weis’ spending spree last year, and the positive impact it seems to be having on sales.

Food Lion feeding frenzy

Last year’s merger of European grocery companies Ahold and Delhaize Group led to the sale of 86 U.S. stores as the supermarket titans looked to satisfy antitrust concerns. The sales were announced in July.

Giant was one of the beneficiaries of that move, snapping up 38 mid-Atlantic Food Lion locations.

Weis, meanwhile, acquired 21 stores in Maryland, 13 in Virginia and four in Delaware.

Weis spent $29.4 million on the deal, assuming 30 lease obligations and ownership of eight locations.

The price, described in the SEC filing as “below fair market value,” reflected the fact that Ahold and Delhaize were forced to sell stores to satisfy antitrust concerns, Weis said.

The company says it recorded a gain of $23.9 million on the purchase, and that the stores contributed $93.7 million to sales in the first quarter of 2017.

Mars, other buys

But the Food Lions weren’t Weis’ only Maryland purchase last year.

In May, Weis agreed to purchase five Baltimore-area locations of the locally based Mars Super Markets Inc. chain, doubling its footprint in the region.

While the purchase price was not revealed at the time, the SEC filing shows that Weis spent $24.6 million for the five stores.

The former Mars locations contributed $23.2 million to sales in the first quarter of 2017, Weis reported to the SEC.

Back home in Pennsylvania, Weis announced an Adams County acquisition in October, agreeing to buy Nell’s Family Market, of East Berlin, from C&S Wholesale Grocers.

The purchase price was $13 million, Weis reported, and the new store contributed $4.1 million worth of sales in the first quarter of 2017.

With the reopening of Nell’s under the Weis banner by early November, the year’s conversions of 44 stores was complete.

The newly converted stores added 2,000 new employees to the organization and expanded the Weis brand into Virginia and Delaware.

They also boosted the company’s store count by 25 percent. Weis now operates more than 200 stores in seven states.

The chain was born in 1912 when brothers Harry and Sigmund Weis founded a neighborhood market in Sunbury.

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com.

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