What's In Store

Bi-Lo prepares for bankruptcy again, may close hundreds of stores, report says

Bi-Lo could close up to 200 stores before filing for bankruptcy protection as soon as next month, according to a recent report from Bloomberg.
Bi-Lo could close up to 200 stores before filing for bankruptcy protection as soon as next month, according to a recent report from Bloomberg. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Bi-Lo could close up to 200 stores before filing for bankruptcy protection as early as next month, according to a recent report from Bloomberg.

Southeastern Grocers – the Florida-based owner of Bi-Lo, Harveys and Winn-Dixie – told the Observer that the company is undertaking “an ongoing strategic review in advance of our unsecured bond maturity later this year.”

The company would not confirm whether any Bi-Lo stores in the Carolinas will be affected. Southeastern Grocers operates about 21 Bi-Lo stores in the Charlotte area.

“The company’s business operations continue to be strong, as we serve our customers with quality and commitment by working seamlessly with our business partners every day,” said Joe Caldwell, manager of corporate communications for Southeastern Grocers, in an email.

Caldwell did not respond to a question about the local impact.

Bi-Lo, which went bankrupt in separate instances in 2005 and 2009, has been trimming its local store count in recent years. Its most recent area closures last summer were stores off Prosperity Church Road in Charlotte and in Fort Mill, S.C.

Last spring, in addition to its planned closure of 20 stores nationwide, Bi-Lo laid off a handful department heads at all of its stores.

Like other grocers, Bi-Lo has been grappling with thin margins amid competition from low-cost grocers like Wal-Mart and Lidl, as well as the mounting threat of lower prices from the Amazon-Whole Foods merger last summer.

With 5.3 percent of the market share in Charlotte’s competitive grocery industry, Bi-Lo is Charlotte’s fifth largest grocery chain, according to Chain Store Guide, a sales-tracking firm.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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