The Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, has reached an agreement to purchase 18 Raley's stores in Las Vegas. The transaction should close within 30 days.

The majority of the stores, which average 46,000 sq. ft., will operate under the Smith's or Food 4 Less banner. Smith's currently operates 19 stores in Las Vegas, while Food 4 Less has five existing stores in the area and two stores under construction.

Smith’s president James Hallsey remarked, "Las Vegas is an important market for Smith's. The addition of these stores will provide outstanding growth opportunities for our business and added convenience for our customers." Dave Hirz, president of Food 4 Less, expressed similar excitement about the transaction. Hallsey added that many Raley’s employees would be interviewed for continuing work under the Smith’s name.

At the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2002, Kroger operated 2,429 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 32 states. According to Salomon Smith Barney equity research analyst Lisa F. Cartwright, Las Vegas ranks 21st among Kroger’s top 100 markets. The company expanded its Vegas presence from 28 to 30 stores between 2000 and 2001; concurrently, however, its market share decreased by 0.8%.