Albertsons website used to contain a fairly good company history, but it has been removed since the Supervalu merger, so I’m reproducing it here:
“You’ve got to give the customer the merchandise they want, at a price they can afford, complete with lots of tender, loving care.” ~ Joe Albertson
This simple philosophy guided Joe Albertson as he opened his first grocery store in Boise, Idaho on July 21, 1939. The newspaper ad for the grand opening of “Idaho’s largest and finest food store” promised customers benefits that have been standard ever since ~ convenient hours, free parking, top quality, a money-back guarantee, low prices and good value.
Joe believed in listening to his customers and putting their needs first. His store was ahead of its time. For starters, it was very big, incorporating 10,000 square feet of space ~ nearly eight times the size of a typical store in 1939.
To ensure customers received the best possible service, nearly 30 employees were on hand. Five departments offered everything from fresh produce to bulk and packaged foodstuffs and quality meat and fish.
For just over 75 cents, customers could purchase three pounds of tomatoes, a pound of coffee and a one-pound roast. A scratch bakery filled the store with the aroma of fresh-baked bread. An icecream shop served double-dipped, homemade icecream cones called “Big Joe’s” for a nickel. There was also fresh popcorn, roasted nuts and an automatic doughnut machine.
Albertsons flourished; at the end of 1939 sales totaled over $170,000 with a net profit of nearly $10,000 ~ very respectable figures for a new business at the time.
Joe went quietly about his business during the war years by refining and polishing operations for maximum efficiency and promoting War Bonds. Sales remained fairly constant in the early 1940s at about $1.5 million per year.
In 1945, Albertsons Corporation was formed with six state-of-the-art supermarkets and sales approaching $3 million. Albertsons grew with the times and came of age in the postwar years.
A complete poultry operation was also started. It featured over a mile of brooder houses, full feed and grain milling facilities and a modern processing plant.
Always the innovator, Joe was among the first to foresee the advantages in locating food stores in the modern shopping centers that had started to sprout up in suburban areas.
In 1951, Albertsons opened its largest store, a whopping 60,000 square feet of retail space. It was the first of a few experimental combination food and drug stores to be built during the decade.
By the mid-1950s, Albertsons was well established in a four-state territory including Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The company continued to build supermarkets at an accelerated pace, and a corporate headquarters was established adjacent to the original Boise store.
Specialized departments for advertising and public relations, administration, accounting, legal affairs, real estate planning and architecture were created. To supply stores with well-prepared managers, the company began an extensive training program providing selected personnel with a complete course in store-wide operations.
In 1957, Albertsons renewed drug operations with the purchase of a small drugstore. It’s a trend that continues today, with pharmacies being an important part of Albertsons food stores.
A significant decision regarding the future of Albertsons was made in 1959. The company went public with its first stock offering to develop more capital for operations and to establish a market value for the business.
By the end of the decade, Albertsons operated 62 supermarkets, five drug units and one department store. Together, they generated nearly $70 million in sales with almost $1.8 million in profits.
Keeping in step with the dynamic growth of the nation and the West in particular, Albertsons rapidly expanded during the 1960s. By 1963, Albertsons was celebrating the opening of its 100th store, in Seattle, Washington.
In 1964, the year of the company’s silver anniversary, Albertsons made a major thrust into the southern California market by acquiring a 14-store, Los Angeles-based chain of markets.
By the end of the decade, Albertsons had more than 8,500 employees, over 200 stores and was operating in a nine-state area. The average unit size had increased to 20,000 square feet…twice as large as the original store in Boise.
Sales had swelled to $420 million, an increase of 100% in just four years. Publicly listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the company had 7,200 stockholders and was the 38th-largest merchandising firm in the country.
The reasons for Albertsons rapid rise to prominence in the world of food retailing were many. One factor was a company policy to keep each store as modern, efficient and profitable as possible. Another was the company’s strategy in determining where new stores should be built.
The single most contributing factor though was Joe’s original philosophy of “giving the customer the merchandise they want, at a price they can afford, complete with lots of tender, loving care.”
During the 1970s, Albertsons started to reach “superstar” status in merchandising.
A partnership had formed with Skaggs Companies, Inc. in 1969. The partnership combined the Skaggs’ expertise in drug retailing and Albertsons know-how in food retailing to create large combination food and drug units.
Albertsons recognized the need for company-owned support units and in 1972 purchased a wholesale company in Boise. This was the first step toward the establishment of a distribution system.
A full-line distribution facility was constructed in Brea, California in 1973, followed by a large, fully integrated warehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1976. The Utah facility was 346,000 square feet- big enough to accommodate the playing fields of both Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
Great strides were made during the decade by instituting many consumer-oriented programs for shoppers. A company-wide “Tru Valu” unit pricing program and a freshness code dating system were implemented in 1972.
One of the most visible programs was the “Man in Gold”, which saw all store directors sporting bright gold blazers to identify them as the person available to assist customers.
During the 70s, several management changes took place that would affect the future of the company. In 1972, Joe Albertson moved from President to Chairman of the Board.
In 1976, Warren McCain became Chairman of the Board and CEO. Under Warren’s stewardship, Albertsons prepared for the greatest period of growth in its history.
In 1975, sales topped the $1 billion mark for the first time. Albertsons acquired a 47-unit chain in southern California in 1978.
By the end of the decade, the company had grown to 365 stores in nine divisions, employed nearly 25,000 employees and had sales of more than $2 billion. The Skaggs-Albertsons partnership was amicably dissolved and jointly-held assets were divided evenly.
A leader in matching store composition to the lifestyles of shoppers, Albertsons responded well to the challenges of the 80s.
The company concentrated on building big stores with wide aisles and spacious parking lots, facilitating suitable movement both inside and outside. Specialty departments like service delis, meat and fish counters, and salad bars added to the one-stop shopping concept.
To speed up transactions, Albertsons implemented electronic scanning at the check stands. New pharmacy computers in combination units instantly provided patient profiles for faster prescription ordering and more efficient insurance billing procedures.
Albertsons modern and efficient distribution system expanded during the decade to provide nearly two-thirds of all merchandise sold in stores. In 1982, a 371,000-square foot full-line facility opened in Denver, Colorado.
In 1988, the company’s first mechanized distribution center, covering an area of over half a million square feet, opened in Portland, Oregon. By the end of the decade, this and six other distribution centers serviced Albertsons 523 stores in 17 states. The Albertsons team was 55,000 strong.
Albertsons continues to evolve with the changing needs of customers. Friendly well-trained employees, the right products, great service, commitment to the community, and most of all, an unwavering focus on customers’ needs, are the principles applied by the nearly 100,000 men and women representing Albertsons Food and Drug today.
As always, we will continue to strive to “give the customer the merchandise they want, at a price they can afford, complete with lots of tender, loving care,” just as Joe Albertson did in 1939.
Technology continued to evolve throughout the 1990s, but while computers linked stores, distribution centers and support offices in everything from ordering, fulfillment, merchandising and even computer-guided training of store associates, the company maintained that for customers the personal touch still meant everything.
A concerted effort was launched to learn about the individual communities we served. The one-size-fits-all store of the 80s gave way to neighborhood marketing in which we looked for ways to cater to our diverse customers and neighborhoods in the most meaningful ways possible. By expanding our store formats and product selection to provide for Kosher, Hispanic and Asian necessities, we grew in our commitment to meeting the needs of our customers.
In 1993, Albertsons suffered a great loss with the passing of our founder Joe Albertson at the age of 86. Joe’s spirit will always live on, however, in our effort to “give the customer the merchandise they want, at a price they can afford, complete with lots of tender, loving care.”
Other major milestones of the 90s included the launch of the “Dear Albertsons” advertising campaign, the introduction of our Specialty Breads and many other Albertsons Brand items, award-winning efforts in recycling and environmental activities, our first fuel centers and self-checkout stands, and the start of our on-line shopping service.
The decade closed with our American Stores merger which brought the food and drug banners of Acme, Jewel-Osco, Osco Drug and Sav-on drugs to our organization as well as Lucky stores in California. By the end of 1999, the company was comprised of more than 2,400 stores with over 200,000 associates serving customers in 38 states.
Back to my own account:
On 23 January 2006, Albertsons was purchased by a consortium of investors including Supervalu (which acquired 1100-plus Jewel, Acme, Shaw’s, and Albertsons stores in Southern California, the northwest, the intermountain areas, and Florida), Cerberus Capital (which acquired 600-plus Albertsons stores in Northern California, the Rocky Mountains, Florida, and Texas), and CVS (which acquired all standalone Osco, and Sav-on phramacies).