Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today we’re finally bringing the Randall’s Sugar Land saga to a close, as the store prepares to shut down permanently this Saturday, June 4th, 2022. For those who have been keeping track so far, HHR broke the news back in Mid-April that the Sugar Land store was slated to close by the summer (Thanks to an anonymous tip!). By May the going out of business sale had begun, and now a little over a month later, the store is finally set to close. The signage has been completely removed from the building, parts, and pieces of equipment scavenged for other stores, this Randall’s sits a shell of its former self. We already discussed why the closing of this store was a bit different for Randall’s and signals a change in direction to what Albertsons initially considered a rescue mission for the Houston division. After speaking with some current and former employees at a few different locations, I have a bit more insight to add as to what the future holds for Randall’s. For many years, Safeway kept Randall’s living in the cupboard under the stairs. The conditions weren’t going to allow the chain to thrive, but they weren’t killing them off either. Immediately after the Albertson’s merger one of the first tasks was to dissolve Safeway as a company and integrate it as a Supermarket Brand under Albertsons. This meant shrinking oversight for Safeway’s subsidiary brands, and was considered by most I spoke with to be some of the best recent times at Randall’s. However, just as quickly as things turned upwards for Randall’s, Albertson’s pulled them right back down to Earth. By 2017, Randall’s as a subsidiary company essentially ceased to exist. The Randall’s and Tom Thumb stores were rolled under the supervision of Albertson’s Southwest division. According to one of the upper-level employees I spoke with, this was one of the first times that numbers had directly compared between Dallas and Houston on the regular. With weaker sales in HEB-rich South Texas, we then saw a mass culling over the last 5 years or so of “underperforming” locations, although those numbers were in comparison to stores in Dallas, which at the time were mainly competing against Kroger and each other.
Those in the HHR “inner-circle” all agree that this store’s departure probably does mean an end to Randall’s as we know it. The question then becomes what is Albertson’s long-term plan here? While they still have DFW as a stronghold, the pending HEB invasion is already creating tension among customer bases, who fawn over the new stores. Why even bother hanging onto these 15 stores in Houston? It was tossed around that the Albertson’s banner could make a reappearance in Houston, however, I’m doubtful about this. Albertson’s operations wouldn’t likely be any better off than Randall’s. They would have limited brand recognition, and similar if not identical pricing to Randall’s. We’ll likely see the last stores hang on for a bit longer, before eventually being sold off to another competitor. The locations Randall’s has are largely successful because they’re nowhere near HEB stores. They may be passed off to a non-traditional competitor like Aldi or newcomer GFS However, there’s no telling what will actually happen to these stores. In the meantime, I don’t recommend making your way out to this store. The merchandise is almost out, and the discounts on remaining stock, stink. Thankfully we’ll have a more positive Randall’s story coming up soon!