Store Closings Sober Ad Staffers

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Advertising Director Rosa Carnot figured the San Antonio Express-News had dodged a bullet this month when Kmart announced massive nationwide store closings: Of the area’s seven stores, the discounter was shuttering just two.

Last week, the other shoe dropped. Albertson’s Inc. announced it is closing all 16 of its supermarkets in San Antonio. “We haven’t really felt it with Kmart yet — but Albertson’s is going to hurt a lot,” Carnot said. “They’ve been a good advertiser,” she said.

Albertson’s said Wednesday that it would close 116 stores in San Antonio and Houston, and in Memphis and Nashville, Tenn. Newspapers in those markets were still shaking from the local fallout of Kmart’s March 8 announcement that it would close 284 stores nationwide.

In one fell swoop, the Houston Chronicle faced the loss of advertising from all 43 of its local Albertson’s supermarkets and seven of about 20 Kmart locations. “Unfortunately, no one is going to move into the market to replace them,” said Mark Lester, a Chronicle display advertising director. “If their stores are absorbed by other current players, that doesn’t mean those current players are going to spend more with us. It’s going to be a revenue downer.”

Whenever John White, display advertising manager for The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, hears some big retailer is announcing closings, he hurries to its Web site: “It’s kind of like scrolling up a list of crash victims — you hope you don’t recognize anybody.” No Albertson’s stores are scheduled to close in Oklahoma City, but the newspaper is losing all five of its Kmart stores. “I don’t think it’s hit us yet,” White said of the closures, which are expected to be complete by the summer.

Wal-Mart, which competes intensely with Target in the market, has been a “good preprint customer from a dollar standpoint,” White said, “although not as big a customer as Kmart was.”

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