Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sprouts Farmers Market Plans to Close Henry's Farmers Market's Corporate Office in Irvine, California July 9

The Insider - Heard on the Street

It's nearly all over in Irvine accept for the sweeping, mopping and locking up.

Sprouts Farmers Market plans to close the Henry's Farmers Market corporate office in Irvine, California July 9, as it completes its consolidation of Henry's headquarters operations into its corporate offices in Phoenix, Arizona, according to my sources.

And since July 9 happens to be a Saturday, there will be time to do some sweeping and mopping up before turning the key in the lock of the Irvine office doors for the very last time.

Sprouts Farmers Market hasn't announced when it plans to close the Henry's Farmers Market's corporate office - just that it will do so at some point. Additionally, a closing date hasn't been reported by any other publication to date, at least based on a search of the three major Internet search engines I did before writing my column.

All the Henry's headquarters employees remaining employed by Sprouts Farmers Market have either moved into their respective jobs at Henry's stores in Southern California or out in the field, or to the grocer's corporate headquarters offices (just a handful of workers) in Phoenix, as the consolidation process that began immediately after Sprouts' and its new majority-owner, private equity firm Apollo Global Management, got the green light from U.S. government regulators on April 18, 2011 that the deal to merge Henry's into Sprouts Farmers Market was approved and final, is nearly completed.

The Henry's corporate headquarters employees not remaining with Sprouts Farmers Market, which include most of the category managers/buyers and other support staff like finance, marketing, administration and human resources, have been laid off, the last remaining batch having completed their tenure in Irvine last week, according to my sources.

The Henry's Farmers Market Stores in Southern California will continue to fly the Henry's banner for most of this year. However, by mid-2012 or earlier all of those units should be re-branded to the Sprouts Farmers Market banner, my sources tell me.

Sprouts has already changed the name of the single Henry's store in Northern California to Sprouts Farmers Market. That store is in Elk Grove, near Sacramento. Sprouts has a store in nearby Roseville. The combining of the two farmers market-style grocery chains, which share a family history, gives Sprouts Farmers Market a little better brand recognition in the Sacramento area, where it will open a third store in Citrus Heights in early 2012 and is looking for numerous other locations.

Phoenix-based Sprouts is starting the re-branding process with Henry's nine Sun Harvest banner stores in Texas. Sean Boney, CEO of Sprouts Farmers Market said in April the Sun Harvest stores should all be flying the Sprouts banner before the end of this year.

The closing of the Henry's Farmers Market headquarters in Irvine will be the end of long era of the chain's being based in Southern California, where it was founded by members of the Boney family, who also are he founders of Sprouts Farmers Market, despite being bought and sold twice over the last couple decades.

For example, Henry's remained headquartered in Southern California through two corporate ownership changes - Wild Oats Markets Inc., which bought the chain from the Boney family - and Commerce, California-based Smart & Final, Inc.

Smart & Final, which is also owned by Apollo Global Management, bought Henry's Farmers Market from Whole Foods Market, Inc. in 2007. Whole Foods Market obtained Henry's in its 2007 acquisition of Wild Oats Markets. The hybrid conventional-natural foods farmers market style chain didn't fit Whole Foods' plans so it sold it to Smart & Final.

Apollo Global Management bought Henry's Farmers Market from Whole Foods Market in 2007 because it wanted a growth vehicle to combine with its Smart & Final chain.

Smart & Final, which operates mostly small-format non-membership warehouse stores, along with some Smart & Final Extra smaller-format style grocery stores, has historically relied on food-service customers - mom and pop grocers, restaurants and the like - for a significant percentage of sales.

However, Apollo's strategy since owning the chain has been to become more of a consumer-focused food and grocery retailer, which led to the start-up of the Extra format stores, the acquisition of Henry's in 2007, and last year's ill-fated launch of five SmartCo Foods stores in metropolitan Denver, Colorado which were closed a few months later. [See - December 11, 2010: Smart & Final's Not So Marvelous SmartCo Foods' Misadventure in Denver and here for details and analysis.]

(Smart & Final's future post Henry's becoming part of Sprouts Farmers Market is the topic of a follow-up column coming soon. Stay tuned.)

Meanwhile Sprouts Farmers Market opened its newest store today. The store is in Dublin, California, which is in the Easy Bay Area, no more than a stone's throw from Safeway Stores' corporate headquarters in Pleasanton.

The Dublin market is Sprouts' third store in Northern California. It also has stores in Sunnyvale (South Bay Area), Roseville and Elk Grove (the former Henry's unit).

It's also one of seven new stores Sprouts Farmers Market plans to open between April and December of this year. In addition to the Dublin store, five of the seven stores are in Southern California, in the following cities: Redondo Beach, Westlake Village, Costa Mesa, Lakewood and Granada Hills. The remaining store is in Carrollton, Texas.

Back in Northern California, which is Sprouts' newest market region and a major focus for the retailer because it plans to open numerous stores in the region over the next few years, the farmers market-style grocery chain is set to begin renovation and expansion in July of a former Co-op grocery store in Walnut Creek(East Bay Area), which it plans to open in early 2012, along with the store in Citrus Height mentioned earlier.

The Walnut Creek store was planned by Henry's prior to the deal. It fit Sprouts' Northern California plan well, so it decided earlier this year to move forward on the location.

- The Insider

Fresh & Easy Buzz's 'The Insider' on the Apollo/Sprouts/Henry's Deal + Related Stories

April 18, 2011: Sprouts Farmers Market Confirms Our April 14 Scoop: Sprouts' Acquisition-Merger of Henry's Farmers Market Final Today

April 14, 2011: Sprouts Farmers Market's Acquisition-Merger of Henry's Farmers Market to Be Final On Monday, April 18

~February 16, 2011: The Sprouts-Henry's Deal: New Website Reunites the Two Grocery Chains As 'One Farmers Market'

~February 16, 2011: Breaking: Smart & Final Enters Into Agreement to Sell Henry's to Sprouts Farmers Market

~January 5, 2011: 'The Insider' - Will 2011 See Sprouts Farmers Market Acquiring Henry's Farmers Market? 'The Insider' Says it Could Be in The Cards

~January 7, 2011: 'The Insider' - Sprouts Farmers Market-Henry's Farmers Market Deal Negotiations Continue; End-Game Could Be Near

~January 8, 2011: Smart & Final-Henry's Tell Employees About Deal Discussions With Sprouts Farmers Market; Confirming 'The Insider's' Reports

~January 10, 2011: Sprouts Farmers Market to Open Second Northern California Store in Roseville No Later Than Mid-April

~January 11, 2011: 'The Insider' - A 'New York State of Mind': 'The Insider' On Walmart, Apollo Global Management, Tesco's Fresh & Easy and the NRF in New York City

~January 24, 2011: 'The Insider' - End-Game Could Be Near in the Sprouts Farmers Market-Henry's Farmers Market Deal Talks

~January 30, 2011: 'The Insider' - The Sprouts & Henry's Deal Talks: Smart & Final is Looking Like A Retailer That Wants to Make A Deal

Also see:

~December 11, 2010: Smart & Final's Not So Marvelous SmartCo Foods' Misadventure in Denver

~November 17, 2010: Smart & Final Pulls the Plug On All Five SmartCo Foods Stores in Metro Denver After Being Open Less Than Five Months

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