"Grandma" at 125

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TW-Upstate NY
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"Grandma" at 125

Post by TW-Upstate NY » 28 Jul 2020 11:14

There's a current E-Bay listing for a 1984 issue of an A+P employee magazine highlighting the company's 125th. anniversary celebration. One of the photos accompanying the listing is a chart of the various divisions and store counts at that time. Found it very interesting and illustrative at how much and how far the company had declined by that point.
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pseudo3d
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by pseudo3d » 29 Jul 2020 17:41

Was Super Fresh only in New Jersey by that point? There were Super Fresh-branded stores in Louisiana but that may have come later. I wonder why Richmond's is unique as a "free-standing division". It wasn't because it was it was isolated, for sure, as Michigan, Atlanta, and New Orleans were all pretty isolated by themselves.

TW-Upstate NY
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by TW-Upstate NY » 30 Jul 2020 12:40

I think Super Fresh initially extended into the Philadelphia area as well. It was a joint labor/management venture where the employees got some say in how the stores were run and a % of either store sales and/or profits if labor costs were kept below a certain level. In exchange for that, the unions accepted a separate labor contract on a lower wage and benefit scale as the conventional A+P's of the day. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong and/or expand on this but didn't A+P either threaten to close all of their stores in the Phila. area or actually went ahead with it and that's how the entire Super Fresh concept came about. I know of at least one closed A+P store in NJ that they did reopen as Super Fresh. As far as Richmond, wasn't that where they bought a bunch of Pantry Pride stores and actually continued to operate them as Pantry Pride for a good while after the acquisition? That may explain the free-standing designation. Our resident Food Fair expert could clear that one up so I'd love for him to chime in on this at any point. I'm just a casual observer of this and have never worked in the supermarket or retail industry so if I miss things (or flat out get them wrong) I very much welcome others filling in the blanks.

Steve Landry
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by Steve Landry » 31 Jul 2020 10:24

TW-Upstate NY wrote: 30 Jul 2020 12:40 I think Super Fresh initially extended into the Philadelphia area as well. It was a joint labor/management venture where the employees got some say in how the stores were run and a % of either store sales and/or profits if labor costs were kept below a certain level. In exchange for that, the unions accepted a separate labor contract on a lower wage and benefit scale as the conventional A+P's of the day. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong and/or expand on this but didn't A+P either threaten to close all of their stores in the Phila. area or actually went ahead with it and that's how the entire Super Fresh concept came about. I know of at least one closed A+P store in NJ that they did reopen as Super Fresh. As far as Richmond, wasn't that where they bought a bunch of Pantry Pride stores and actually continued to operate them as Pantry Pride for a good while after the acquisition? That may explain the free-standing designation. Our resident Food Fair expert could clear that one up so I'd love for him to chime in on this at any point. I'm just a casual observer of this and have never worked in the supermarket or retail industry so if I miss things (or flat out get them wrong) I very much welcome others filling in the blanks.
Yep, from my recollection, you got that right!

:-)


or was it W.Virginia............hmmmm.....might have to look into that.
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BillyGr
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by BillyGr » 31 Jul 2020 13:21

It does seem that Superfresh came about in PA due to issues as described. However, looking at a map, Florence (NJ) is not far from Camden, which is right across the river from Philly, so it might have just been where a facility was already located (close to the city but far enough out to be cheaper/more space available).

The other interesting one is what is listed as Northeast, which later was called New England. For some odd reason, a handful of stores in NY got into that group (we had one lonely one here just outside Albany that stuck around until 1997, and there were a couple further north [Saranac and Tupper Lakes] that went even longer, closer to 2000), where those further south (Pleasant Valley was the most northward that lasted until final closing, not sure if the oddball out in Margaretville was always in that group or with the others in the NE group) were in the Metro group.

rich
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by rich » 01 Aug 2020 08:42

The upstate NY stores in the New England Division probably got combined with the Waldbaum/Food Mart stores they bought. Food Mart was based in Springfield and if they kept their facilities or the old A&P-Springfield operation, it would have been a logical place to source some upstate NY stores. Super Fresh was the name they used in the DC area during their last days there and included a new build in Cherry Hill, MD (near College Park) that opened a few years before they exited the market. Richmond wouldn't have been all that isolated--it probably was a long running division that had the stores south of Metro DC. I think it also had stores in the Tidewater region. They used the Farmer Jack name briefly in Virginia and the Carolinas, I believe.

The things to keep in mind is that even A&P's nostalgia value diminished over time. Their decline began in the 50s and they missed the boat on just about every trend from that point onward. The coffee became non-exclusive in the 80s, the stores were known for being uneven at best and the pricing was often uncompetitive, so, of course they tried new labels and new ways to rejigger things, but they never worked and they ruined the operations they bought from others.

BillyGr
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by BillyGr » 01 Aug 2020 11:26

rich wrote: 01 Aug 2020 08:42 The upstate NY stores in the New England Division probably got combined with the Waldbaum/Food Mart stores they bought. Food Mart was based in Springfield and if they kept their facilities or the old A&P-Springfield operation, it would have been a logical place to source some upstate NY stores. Super Fresh was the name they used in the DC area during their last days there and included a new build in Cherry Hill, MD (near College Park) that opened a few years before they exited the market. Richmond wouldn't have been all that isolated--it probably was a long running division that had the stores south of Metro DC. I think it also had stores in the Tidewater region. They used the Farmer Jack name briefly in Virginia and the Carolinas, I believe.

The things to keep in mind is that even A&P's nostalgia value diminished over time. Their decline began in the 50s and they missed the boat on just about every trend from that point onward. The coffee became non-exclusive in the 80s, the stores were known for being uneven at best and the pricing was often uncompetitive, so, of course they tried new labels and new ways to rejigger things, but they never worked and they ruined the operations they bought from others.
In later years Superfresh was also in MD and DE as well (including one interesting old Centennial store in Newark, DE) and stayed until most of the stores closed, a bit before the final closings. Somehow, they did keep one or two stores, like the one in Ocean City that I think wound up being part of the Acme acquisitions at the end.

One interesting note on the coffee, while many stores now sell the Eight O'Clock brand, they only sell it as a bean or ground coffee. A&P also had it as an instant coffee, and they continued to sell that until the end (we actually got quite a bit post-bankruptcy via stores like Ollie's and Ocean State), but for some reason that instant product never went beyond their own stores like the bean/ground line did.

TW-Upstate NY
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by TW-Upstate NY » 01 Aug 2020 11:41

rich wrote: 01 Aug 2020 08:42 The things to keep in mind is that even A&P's nostalgia value diminished over time. Their decline began in the 50s and they missed the boat on just about every trend from that point onward.
Two of the biggest problems they had (both self-inflicted wounds I might add) were they kept way too many smaller inner-city stores open while at the same time people were leaving the cities and moving to the suburbs. By the time they got their act together on this, the competition was already there and had most of the good locations which left A+P to pick from what was left which wasn't much by that point. They were VERY late to the party there and it cost them big-time. There was also the issue of the Hartford Foundation which held a majority of company stock at that time which meant they controlled the board of directors. They constantly continued to authorize overly generous dividends which starved the company of funds which could've been used to improve the stores. They made so many unforced errors during this time that I'm amazed they lasted as long as they did. It was as if they were in free fall all that time but in slow motion if that makes any sense.

rich
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by rich » 03 Aug 2020 14:03

The suburbs thing has always been cited but is probably overblown. Virtually all of the chains that floundered in the 60s and 70s were said to have had too many inner city stores or not moved to the suburbs and, really, you just have to look at the spreadsheets here or drive through the suburbs and spot old prototypes of chains to know that this not true. The business press, esp. that part devoted to retailing, was loath to make specific criticisms of chains. Beyond the suburbs thing, they might make note of prices that were too high but they never really looked at how management screwed-up. There were chains that became choked by hiring do-nothing members of the owners' families, there were chains that simply sold poor quality perishables, there were underdeveloped or absent house brand programs. There were many reasons that chains declined in that period, particularly given that virtually every major market was saturated by super markets by then.

A&P went into shopping centers very early on---they were in the first shopping centers in DC, along with Safeway, back in the 30s. They did the same in Cleveland, that far back. They built lots of suburban stores pre-Centennial, often larger than the typical Centennials, and replaced the small neighborhood stores with supermarkets more quickly than some of their competitors like Acme, National Tea, and even Kroger. The centennials went-up 1957-early 70s and there were lots of them, almost all in the suburbs although they had an abbreviated 13K sf version for small towns and urban neighborhoods. OTOH, they ran stores on the cheap---they were very late in adding service departments (not until the 70s and even then it might have been a rotisserie chicken stand) and slow to build out stores beyond a typical 16-19K sf footprint. They were late to trading stamps and got no benefit from them--just higher costs. They built the world's largest food processing plant around the time that their sales were dropping and were stuck filling their stores with house brand merchandise because of the overcapacity, which meant they were not the best store for finding new items or a good range of national brands. They really missed the boat on just every trend from the mid-50s onward and were lucky that their cash flow carried them forward, BTW, inner city shoppers were loyal to them which is part of why kept a lot of those stores. They also did well in the Southeast well after they cratered in places like the Midwest. They could have closed shop in the inner city in 1960 and they still would have been running on fumes 15 years later.

Steve Landry
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by Steve Landry » 04 Aug 2020 09:52

And no mention of Food fair, as usual............

Just kidding, no one ever does.

;-)

LOL
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pseudo3d
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Re: "Grandma" at 125

Post by pseudo3d » 06 Aug 2020 19:26

I think that A&P could've saved itself by focusing more on the acquisitions they had, and by the early 1980s, Kroger was buying Dillon Cos., which added some decidedly non-Kroger names to their portfolio. Their purchase of Borman's in Michigan gave them Farmer Jack, which they eventually rebranded the Michigan A&P stores to, and of course, Super Fresh was proving to be a better name than A&P was in its region.

By 1995, A&P could've reinvented itself as a company that had a bunch of bright, modern stores under a variety of names and could've really been a top performer in the East Coast before moving west. Unfortunately, as we all know, the acquisitions it did were all handled poorly (gutting regional management, buying chains in isolated markets, etc.), problems went unfixed, and even after divesting the Southern (New Orleans) division, they aggravated their problem by buying Pathmark.

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