Iconic Grocery Chain A&P Is Bankrupt (Again)

It ain't Wegmans.
It ain’t Wegmans. Photo: Richard Levine/Corbis

A&P, the company that operates grocery stores like Pathmark, Food Emporium, and Waldbaums, has filed for bankruptcy protection and hopes to sell 120 of its stores to a competitor. This is the second time in the last five years that the 150-year-old company has filed for bankruptcy, having previously done so in 2010. Approximately 25 stores will close “almost immediately.”

As the Times reports, it’s been a slow fall from grace for what was once a dominant player in the grocery industry. The author of The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America tells the paper that there was a time in the early part of the 20th century when “independent grocers were every bit as afraid of A&P as mom-and-pop retailers are today of Walmart … They were opening stores literally more than one a day during World War I.”

But times have changed and increased competition has taken a huge chunk out of A&P’s market share as customers have sought out bigger stores with large discounts. One market analyst says that A&P “didn’t adapt their store formats the way consumers wanted to shop … They were just so slow and cumbersome.”

At the moment, the company is having trouble attracting a buyer of the 100-plus stores it wants to unload because bidders don’t want to assume A&P’s pension obligations to its employees. A&P’s chief restructuring officer doesn’t mince words, writing in the bankruptcy filing that “The best and only viable path to maximize the value of their business and preserve thousands of jobs is a strategic Chapter 11 filing to facilitate sales free and clear of liabilities.”

A labor union representing many A&P employees sees it another way, of course, issuing a statement that reads, “Our message to any potential buyers of A&P is that our hard-working members are not just employees, they are the heart and soul of these stores … For the sake of the men and women of A&P, now is the time for A&P and any potential buyer to focus on doing what is right for our hard-working members and their families.”


Iconic Grocery Chain A&P Is Bankrupt (Again)