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We had a piece yesterday about Ahold’s Tops selling off 31 stores. The company said that it wasn’t a performance issue, but rather because it wanted to focus on its core New York market, which it described as being “west of I-81.”

To which one MNB user rejoined:

"Not a performance issue?" Any time stores are closing it is a performance issue. Believe me, if these stores were contributing to the bottom line, not only would they be left open, they would be building more of them.

And another, geographically-savvy MNB user noted:

Someone needs a geography lesson. At least two of the stores being sold to Price Chopper, Oswego and Owego, are west of I-81.

So maybe it wasn't a performance issue. Maybe Tops just couldn't find the stores.

We wrote yesterday that "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."

To which one MNB use responded:

What a perfect analogy, it couldn't have been said any better. I worked for Ahold in Carlisle from early 2001 until recently. When I started there Ahold was a growing empire and once the accounting scandal took place the gradual dismantling began and it was sad to watch and experience. I have to wonder what the company would be like had that incident not taken place.

We were pretty critical the other day of both the old leadership at Kmart and Winn-Dixie, noting that utter mismanagement had managed to sink the savings of countless investors – who continue to be screwed, especially by consultants and lawyers who get rich even as the vultures pick at these companies’ carcasses.

To which one MNB use responded:

People seem to forget Fleming since it has been 2+ years since they filed. The consultants and law firms are still there racking up BIG $$ while others will be lucky to get 10 cents on a dollar. At least the employees were able to get their severance.

The only winners are the consultants and law firms.

One MNB user chimed in:

The cost in the Winn-Dixie case will be a lot higher – you are only seeing the “tip of the iceberg”. Some committee members estimate at a minimum $15 million a quarter over the next 2 years. Imagine how Winn-Dixie could of used that money to clean-up stores, train managers in customer service, etc.

Regarding the troubles being experienced by Fresh Brands, MNB user David Livingston wrote:

I know I have picked on Fresh Brands a lot over the past couple of years. They are trying anything and everything to stay afloat. Typically their stores offer better service, fresher perishables, and they are excellent one-store town operators. However when the competition opens stores 70 to 100% larger and has prices 15-25% lower, there isn't much more they can do.

They can't go upscale because they are not in upscale areas. I think they have given it their all and it’s time to stop whipping the horse down the stretch. For the most part they have good stores and good retailers, but two multi-billion dollar chains have just ganged up on them. They have nothing to be ashamed of. Sure they made a few mistakes - acquiring some stores right before the big Wal-Mart expansion, opening a couple of stores that were not demographically suited for the area, not getting into pharmacy, and perhaps getting a bit overextended with some troubled retailers. But certainly nothing different than what most other wholesalers have experienced. I think its time for them to unlock the value of their wholesale business and see if they can get something back for their shareholders. And I think they can and will.

On the subject of a new Kmart campaign pushing back-to-school items, one MNB user wrote:

I haven't seen a Kmart commercial in months although I have seen a few for Sears. At my most recent trip to Kmart I saw empty shelves, dummied up shelves, and the same items spread out in numerous area of the store. I must have seen the same display of crayons in 10 different places in the store. There was only one register open and no waiting.

It was obvious there is no attempt to make any improvements. The atmosphere was surrealistically quiet as if I were in a museum or library on a slow day. Sure Kmart might actually convert a few stores but I think for the most part they will be shutting them down or will do nothing at all. It boggles my mind how they can keep these stores open at such low sales levels.
KC's View: