business news in context, analysis with attitude

Nice piece on this morning as it considers the rumored sale of Ukrop’s and points out the ten things it likes most about the grocer: its White House Rolls, Rainbow Cookies, grocery carryout service, salad bar, fried chicken, local ownership, items placed on sale early in the morning and late in the day, birthday cake, commitment to community and clean restrooms.

And the website makes an excellent point: that while there are things that rival grocery chains do well that also can be appreciated, like the fresh food quality at Wegmans and the online shopping offered by Harris Teeter, it is the unique confluence of qualities offered by Ukrop’s that makes it special if not quite unique.
KC's View:
There are some out there saying that if Ukrop’s is sold, sales can be expected to instantly plummet. Which might happen. On the other hand, you know that the stores will almost immediately start opening on Sunday and selling alcohol, which should give a sales boost. So maybe it’ll be a wash. Time will tell.

It’s an interesting question that can be posed to Ukrop’s ownership. They’ve always resisted the calls to open on Sunday and sell booze as a matter of principle. But now, if indeed the company is in danger of being sold, is there a temptation to compromise a bit on those issues? And what is more important – the principles that keeps you from opening on Sunday and selling booze, or the principles that keep you in business, serving the community, hiring local people, influencing and shaping people’s lives?

I have no answer to this question. And maybe framing the dilemma in such stark terms is overly simplistic. Still, it does strike me as something of a moral conundrum, and you know how we Jesuit-trained folk like considering moral and ethical dilemmas.

BTW, I did have a thought. Supervalu is rumored to be one of the companies in the market to acquire Ukrop’s, though there is some skepticism that it can afford to take on more debt. If it does, however, it would certainly signal something about the new CEO’s intentions.

Another thought – if Supervalu were to acquire Ukrop’s, it should move to somehow merge its operations with those of its Bristol Farms chain and let Kevin Davis run the whole thing. Davis is one of the smartest guys in the business, and he’ll get Ukrop’s in a way that a lot of other people won’t.