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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jun. 26, 202002:30 PM EST

Winn-Dixie parent company not ruling out a name change

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Southeastern Grocers says there are no immediate plans to change the name after TMZ.com reported the company is considering it.

Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers Inc. said it has no immediate plans to change the name of its Winn-Dixie grocery store banner after a TMZ.com report June 25 said that it will.

However, Southeastern Grocers didn’t rule out an eventual brand change for the current 366 Winn-Dixie stores or future locations.

“Our Winn-Dixie banner has proudly served our communities for nearly 100 years, however, many things have changed during that time,” said a late June 25 statement from Joe Caldwell, Southeastern Grocers senior manager of corporate communications.

“While we have no immediate plans to rename this banner, we have always been and will continue to be responsive to the needs and concerns expressed by the communities we serve.”

Caldwell’s June 25 email also said:

“At Southeastern Grocers we’re committed to cultivating an inclusive culture and community that promotes belonging, inclusion and diversity. As such, we stand against racism and support the Black Lives Matter movement across our country.”

The TMZ.com news site reported that Winn-Dixie is considering a name change to drop a reference to the Old South through the Dixie name.

“One of the largest supermarket chains based in the Southeast is considering dropping its name after nearly 100 years ... a move triggered by the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement,” TMZ.com reported June 25.

It said sources at Winn-Dixie told TMZ.com the chain is considering the name change because, “just like The Chicks, it deems the term ‘Dixie’ as problematic due to ties to the old south and its way of thinking.”

The country band The Dixie Chicks posted on its website it will be called the Chicks. “We want to meet this moment,” it said in a caption.

TMZ.com said Winn-Dixie is “billed as a southern heritage brand serving Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.” 

TMZ.com said the grocery chain doesn’t have a new name chosen, “but based on the folks we spoke with it looks like it may only be a matter of time before making a switch.”

Winn-Dixie’s roots stretch back to 1925, when W.M. Davis bought a grocery store in Miami. The Davis family opened four more stores in 1927 and changed the name of the company to Table Supply.

The Winn-Dixie name began taking form in 1939 when the family bought 51% of a grocery chain called Winn and Lovett and adopted that name. It moved the headquarters to Jacksonville in 1944.

In 1955, the company acquired 117 Dixie Home Stores and changed the name of the company to Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.

Southeastern Grocers was formed in 2012 when Winn-Dixie merged with the Bi-Lo supermarket chain.

Southeastern Grocers, which has supermarkets in seven states, operates 366 under the Winn-Dixie brand.

It recently acquired eight Florida

locations that previously were Earth Fare and Lucky’s Markets that will be converted to Winn-Dixie stores.

After Southeastern Grocers was formed in 2012, it expanded with stores under the Harveys and Fresco y Mas brands.

The company recently demonstrated a willingness to change names when it announced June 3 it will be discontinuing the Bi-Lo brand name. Bi-Lo was founded in 1961. 

It agreed to sell 62 Bi-Lo and Harveys stores in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to Food Lion.

Supermarket News reported this month that Southeastern Grocers said its sale of Bi-Lo stores and planned phaseout of the Bi-Lo supermarket banner are part of a five-year business transformation strategy since the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring in mid-2018. 

Winn-Dixie and its successor have twice gone through Chapter 11 reorganization.

Winn-Dixie stores filed for Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville in February 2005 and emerged in November 2006. 

Southeastern Grocers filed a prepackaged Chapter 11 debt restructuring, with agreement in advance from its creditors, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware in March 2018. It emerged from bankruptcy in May 2018.

Jacksonville marketing and branding experts say that Winn-Dixie – or any company – considering a name change should understand why it would do so.

Jacksonville University management professor Julius Demps said June 26 it is important to know the history of a name “and making sure the people know how the organization obtained its name.”

Demps is the chair of Management and Decision Sciences at the JU Davis College of Business, named for the Davis family.

David Bonner, chief creative officer of  the On Ideas marketing and advertising firm, said he works with branding.

“Rebranding is a huge decision, is multifaceted and it can be very, very costly,” Bonner said June 26.

“It also can be very costly if you don’t understand rebranding. Obviously there are times when there are negative equities existing in a brand that need to be addressed,” he said.

“What’s important is that during a rebranding you assess what your positive equities are and leave behind the ones that no longer are relevant or could be problematic.”

Contributing Writer Mark Basch contributed to this story.

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