North America’s third largest supermarket chain, with 1,700 stores located throughout the western and central United States and western Canada.
Safeway Inc. was born of a 1926 merger between Skaggs Companies and Merrill Lynch. Skaggs, created by Marion Barton Skaggs in 1915 in American Falls, Idaho, agreed to merge its 673 stores with Merrill Lynch’s 322 Safeway stores, formerly owned by the Sam Seelig Company, thus forming the largest chain of grocery stores west of the Mississippi in that era.
By the 1930s, Charles Merrill, of Merril Lynch, began aggresively acquiring a number of regional grocery store chains for Safeway in a rollup strategy. This stategy would come to serve Safeway Inc., which would eventually operate hundreds of stores under seven different banners and in seven countries outside the United States.
The company began expanding as early as 1929, opening stores in Canada. By 1963, its reach had grasp in the United Kingdom, Australia and West Germany. In the 1980s, it opened stores in Mexico and Saudia Arabia as well. But in 1986, Safeway hit a snag: after it was acquired by global asset manager Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in 1986, the company was taken private and assumed a tremendous debt. To pay it off, the company began selling off a number of its operating divisions. Eventually, half of Safeway’s 2,200 stores were sold.
Following this, Safeway’s national presence was reduced primarily to Northern California and the Washington, D.C., region, but Canada Safeway thrived. It dominated the grocery store landscape in western Canada throughout the 1970s and ’80s to the point where it was accused of having a monopoly on the grocery store business and forced to shutter some locations. Canada Safeway suffered an $8 million loss in 1986 when it was forced to close a prime store at West Edmonton Mall, the world’s largest shopping center at that time. But the chain opened additional grocery stores under the names Food Barn and Food for Less in Alberta, and the Safeway Superstore name in British Columbia. In 1987, Safeway acquired 26 Woodward’s Food Floors in British Columbia and Alberta.
Seeing success in Canada, Safeway began aggressively acquiring regional chains throughout the U.S. in the late 1990s. It tooks over Randall’s Food Markets in Texas, Carrs in Alaska, Dominick’s in Illinois and Vons in Southern California. in 2001, Safeway bought Genuardi’s, a family-owned chain with locations in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Although expanding in the U.S., Safeway was closing some of its Food for Less stores in Alberta or converting them to Safeway stores. In British Columbia, it converted its Safeway Superstores to regular stores.
Headquarters: Pleasanton, California
No. of Stores: 1,702
No. of Employees: 186,000
Geography: Alaska, Chicago, Delaware, Nevada, Philadelphia, Southern California, Texas, Canada (Alberta, British Columbia)
Special Services: Pharmacy, grocery delivery
Carrs (Carr-Gottstein Foods), Alaska
Casa Ley, western Mexico
Dominick’s (Dominick’s Finer Foods), Chicago
Genuardi’s (Genuardi’s Family Markets), Delaware
Pak ‘n’ Save, California
Randall’s Food Markets, Texas
Tom Thumb Food & Pharmacy, Texas
Vons, Pavilions (The Vons Companies, Inc.), Southern California/Nevada
Basic Red/Value Red
The Butcher’s Cut
Conti Gourmet Coffee
The Deli Counter
Gourmet Meat Shoppe
Mom to Mom
The Produce Stand