Taking Stock

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Local Notes

When you read the Gilberts v. Dollar Tree Tree story on page 1 of this issue, it’s important not only to note the courage and perseverance of the Gilbert family, especially patriarch Harry Gilbert, who could have easily just licked his wounds and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and five years of stress by just accepting what is a growing problem among supermarkets. Harry set an example for all retailers who see the terms of their leases violated or compromised. Nothing against Dollar Tree, one of the most successful and fastest growing merchants in the country and the best run, in my opinion, dollar store operator in the industry. Dollar Tree has a great operating model, but to deny that its store on Sackett Street in Northeast Philadelphia is not competing with the Gilberts’ Mayfair Shop ‘n Bag unit is profoundly absurd. In the end, neither Dollar Tree nor the landlord could provide a credible defense to the court, but as so often happens, big publicly-traded corporations believe their best strategy is to throw more money into the process hoping to deter the little guy. Unlike a lot of retailers (particularly independents), who face these types of competitive threats to their businesses and understandably find the field of battle too costly or exhausting to engage, old warhorse Harry Gilbert would have none of this attempted power play. Sure, Dollar Tree will appeal (it’s only the shareholder’s money) and wishfully the Appellate Court will once again rule in the Gilbert’s favor. And hopefully, this legal precedent will set the standard for other retailers to fight back and defend their tenant rights…in other independent news, McCaffrey’s Markets later this month will reap the harvest of hydroponic produce it has grown at its 50,000 square foot greenhouse. The project, in conjunction with New York City based BrightFarms, will yield enough leafy, baby greens, baby romaine, baby kale, baby arugula and spring mix to service its four stores and have additional product available to be wholesaled to non-competing customers…another top-flight Delaware Valley merchant, Jeff Brown drew more than 1,000 people to a preview event for his new 71,000 square foot ShopRite unit which will open this summer on the site of the old Tastykake plant in Hunting Park section of Philly, which will be the most arid of food desert locations in which Brown operates. In other Wakefern/ShopRite news, the proposed new 90,000 square foot store to be built by member Glass Gardens in Brooklyn, NY is officially a “go” and should be open by the fall of 2014. And the Garafalo family, operator of four ShopRite locations in Connecticut, will open its fifth unit in East Haven this fall, a 59,000 square foot supermarket that in another life was an A&P…Weis Markets has named Wayne Bailey, VP-supply chain and logistics, a new post at the Sunbury, PA retailer. Bailey, who’s spent his entire career at Weis, is well-suited for this emerging and important post, having previously served as VP-merchandising and most recently as a regional VP in store ops. We wish Wayne all the best as he gets fitted for a new Weis hat. The company also announced that two of the three A&P (Super Fresh) stores it acquired last year will open on March 3 in Towson, MD (55,476 square feet) and Woodlawn, MD (Security Blvd-58,027 square feet). Weis invested $14 million in the two stores. The third unit in the A&P acquisition, in Hillsborough, NJ, should open later this year…down the road in Carlisle, Ahold USA’s Giant division will cut the ribbon on its new Kutztown, PA (in the heart of Weis country) on February 27. Also, parent firm Ahold has elected to sell its 60 percent stake in Scandinavian grocer ICA to its partner in the joint venture, Hakon Invest, for a healthy $3.1 billion. The reasons: it could not gain full control of the enterprise and the Amsterdam based retailer can now use the proceeds to invest in future acquisitions (did I hear somebody say Harris Teeter, with a few Acmes, Shaw’s, A&Ps and Pathmarks sprinkled in?)…a couple of non-industry deaths to report. Passing on last month was Andre Cassagnes, 86, the French electrical technician who invented the Etch A Sketch, one of the greatest toys ever created, especially for people like me with limited artistic chops and a short attention span to boot. Cassagnes, who invented his device in the late 1950s, subsequently sold his meal ticket invention to the Ohio Arts Company, which still owns and produces Etch A Sketches for global pleasure. Also  abruptly departing this planet was John Alleman. Stumped you on this one, didn’t I? John Alleman was the spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill, the Las Vegas restaurant which features the “Quadruple Bypass Burger” (9,983 calories). Sadly, Alleman dropped dead of a heart attack earlier this month. He was only 54…some quick takeaways from the recent National Grocers Association (NGA) convention held this month inLas Vegas. First, it was the best NGA show I’ve ever been to and who would have thought Natan Tabak, senior VP and CIO at Wakefern was such a funny guy? Also, Joe Sheridan, Natan’s boss and this year’s NGA chairman, proved once again that he’s an enlightened and charismatic industry leader. Both appeared in an industry conference entitled “Growth Opportunities for Independents: Four Major Trends.” Also on the panel was Tom Furphy, CEO and managing director of Consumer Equity Partners. Clearly, a man with a 30 pound brain, Furphy previously was VP-consumables for amazon.com, which included AmazonFresh, where he supervised the Internet giant’s emerging grocery, HBC and fresh business. His message to traditional bricks and mortar retailers was daunting and somewhat scary, predicting exponential growth for online shopping in a short period of time…and, just before presstime, we learned that Jim Perkins, who formerly worked for Albertsons for more than 30 years and was most recently with Giant/Landover, has joined the new Cerberus AB operations team and has been performing some due diligence at Acme. You can bet there’ll b e a lot more changes at the Malvern, PA based unit (and also at Shaw’s and Jewel), once Bob Miller and his team get settled in over the next few months.

Jeff Metzger can be reached at jmetzger@best-met.com