Winn-Dixie Stores has decided to sell or close 35 stores as part of a store portfolio review to save the US retailer on the verge of bankruptcy.

The company now expects to emerge from its Chapter 11 reorganisation process, announced in February 2005, by the summer. It said the store closures are intended to enhance Winn-Dixie's financial performance and help position it for profitability.

It is a further reduction to earlier restructuring plans to refine store counts in the US and Bahamas from 913 to 587, announced in June 2005.

Closures would leave Florida-based Winn-Dixie with 550 continuing stores in the US, including 10 which are not currently operating due to Hurricane Katrina.

An active marketing effort is being conducted with outside advisors to identify potential buyers for the 35 stores. Stores that cannot be sold will be closed, Winn-Dixie said. 
 
Winn-Dixie president and CEO Peter Lynch said, "Over the past several months, we have thoroughly reviewed our store base in an effort to ensure Winn-Dixie is able to emerge from Chapter 11 as a healthier and more competitive company. We have now completed this review and identified 35 stores to be sold or closed because they do not meet our financial requirements going forward. 

"We believe the 550 stores in our continuing footprint will provide us with the most solid possible foundation on which to build a more profitable future for Winn-Dixie. At this time, we do not expect any other store closings as part of our Chapter 11 reorganization process."
 
The company said it will try to provide employment opportunities for workers in affected Winn-Dixie stores and that companies interested in buying these stores may offer positions.