The discount supermarket chain ALDI announced an agreement to acquire both Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket locations in a move that will affect shoppers across the South. The German-based company will buy both brands from Jacksonville, Florida-based Southeastern Grocers as part of a strategy to expand its footprint in the region. The deal was billed as a “merger agreement.” “Despite many retailers shuttering stores due to economic conditions, ALDI is doubling-down on expansion plans, supporting its position as one of the fastest-growing grocers in the country,” the company said in a Wednesday news release. “The transaction will bring together three trusted brands that share a long-standing commitment to delivering an exceptional grocery experience.” In total, roughly 400 stores will come under new management. “The time was right to build on our growth momentum and help residents in the Southeast save on their grocery bills,” ALDI CEO Jason Hart said. Hart added, “The transaction supports our long-term growth strategy across the United States, including plans to add 120 new stores nationwide this year to reach a total of more than 2,400 stores by year-end.” According to the company, its aggressive move into the South will see it take ownership of around 400 Winn-Dixie and Harveys locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. “Like ALDI, Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket have long histories and many loyal customers in the Southeast, and we look forward to serving them in the years to come,” Hart said. In the same news release, Southeastern Grocers CEO Anthony Hucker said the move will be a positive for shoppers in those areas. “ALDI shares our vision to provide exceptional quality, service, and value — and this unique opportunity will evolve our business to benefit our customers, associates and neighbors throughout the Southeast,” he said. The company said not all of the newly-acquired stores will become ALDI locations. “ALDI will operate Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket stores with the same level of care and focus on quality and service, as we also evaluate which locations will convert to the ALDI format to better support the neighborhoods we’ll now have the privilege of serving,” Hart said. Hart also said his company will keep the Winn-Dixie and Harveys brands alive. “For those stores we do not convert, our intention is that these continue to operate as Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket stores,” Hart said. The merger is expected to close in the first half of 2024, pending regulatory approval. ALDI did not disclose the financials of the deal. The company opened its first store in the U.S. in 1976 after it was founded 16 years earlier in Germany by the Albrecht brothers. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.