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In Buffalo, Business First reports that Ahold’s Tops Markets in western New York State will sell 31 stores – six of them (in Fulton, Oswego, Oneida, Owego, Sidney and Tupper Lake) to Schenectady, NY-based Price Chopper.

The deal is slated to close in September.

Tops said it had identified “anything west of Route 81” as its core market – and these 31 units did not fit that profile. There apparently are some two dozen other Tops stores that no longer are part of its ‘core market,” and are up for sale.

"Performance was not an issue," Denny Hopkins, Tops vice president of advertising and public relations, told Business First. "This is just a matter of getting down to our core market."

It was just a few months ago that Tops sold off its Wilson Farms convenience store division. Business First writes that “Tops currently has 152 supermarkets under its own name and another two under the Martin's moniker. Once the sale is completed and a handful of other locations are switched to the Martin's brand name, the Amherst-based supermarket chain will have 118 Tops and five Martin's.”

The Albany Times Union this morning reports that Price Chopper plans to use three of the six stores to replace aging units that are nearby.
KC's View:
We suspect that Hopkins isn’t being disingenuous about the performance issue, at least when it comes to the half-dozen stores being sold to Price Chopper, since our knowledge of its ownership and management is that they are very tough in these kinds of negotiations.

We also think that the customers at the six stores becoming Price Choppers are in for a treat – since this company runs great stores with which we’ve always been impressed.

Neil Golub tells the Times Union that he isn’t sure how many Tops employees will be retained, because he wants to make sure that Price Chopper’s employees are steeped in the Price Chopper culture. He’s serious, because keeping the company on the right cultural track is very important to him. It’s his brand, and he knows it.

That said, we continue to be saddened at the gradual dismantling of what was the Ahold empire in the eastern US. It used to be a terrific group of brands…and now, it is more a matter of wondering which stores will be sold off next.