LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A looming labor strike at three of the Southland’s biggest supermarket chains may mean bigger profits for some of their smaller competitors.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports stores like Gelson’s and Trader Joe’s are starting to look at how they will cope with a surge of new customers from Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons who don’t want to cross picket lines.

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Independent grocers have surged since the last strike in 2004, including traditional alternatives like Stater Bros. and a surplus of new outlets including Food 4 Less, Fresh And Easy, Whole Foods and others.

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Managers want to focus on making new customers comfortable with their stores and marketing strategy, a move they hope will not only provide profits in the short run, but may also lead to some shoppers switching markets for good.

The last time the grocery unions walked out was during the 141-day strike in 2003-04, which cost stores an estimated $1.5 billion.

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Industry experts say the walkout led some customers to make long-term changes to their shopping habits by going to independent grocers and specialty outlets.