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    Reported Delhaize interest could be lifeline for beleaguered chain

    By Bridget Goldschmidt, Stagnito Business Information

    If, as recently reported by the Boston Globe and long suspected by industry observers, Delhaize Group is seriously interested in purchasing the rapidly imploding Market Basket chain –- latest reports indicate that thousands of part-timers have had their hours cut altogether in the wake of plummeting business -– it will represent the end of an era for the family-owned company, which until a few weeks ago enjoyed an enviable degree of customer loyalty to its 71 New England stores.

    Neither party is talking, but what's certain is that the situation at Market Basket can't go on much longer.

    Notwithstanding ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas' frantic efforts to buy out the rival faction headed by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, and regain control of the company, it might well take the operational and financial abilities of an entity like Delhaize to right this sinking ship.

    Indeed, if the retail conglomerate wants to speed the process of restoring order, consensus in the court of public opinion says it would be wise to hire Arthur T. back as head of a Market Basket division –- as analysts have speculated that prospective buyers might do –- since the move would reassure employees and customers that the chain won't stray too far from its original core values of fostering often lifelong associate loyalty and superior customer service. Additionally, Delhaize would be able to restock and meet staffing needs to get the stores up and running at full capacity in short order.

    Naturally, Delhaize's reported interest stems from the fact that its entrenched Hannaford banner competes with Market Basket in Maine. Thus, if the deal goes through, Delhaize will have a much higher profile in New England, going head to head in a bigger way with such players as Ahold USA's Stop & Shop, and Shaw's/Star Market.

    How this will ultimately shake out is anyone's guess. But this much is clear: if Delhaize -- or any other prospective buyer -- can burnish Market Basket's badly tarnished luster and help it recapture its cachet as a peerless local operator, Market Basket, even as a division of a bigger company based abroad, stands a good chance of surviving.

     

    By Bridget Goldschmidt, Stagnito Business Information
    • About Bridget Goldschmidt In addition to serving as Progressive Grocer’s Managing Editor, Bridget writes many print and digital features encompassing a range of grocery and fresh categories across the store. Bridget also enjoys on-site reporting assignments at such key industry events as the New York Fancy Food Show and the International Boston Seafood Show, in addition to visiting stores for PG’s prestigious Store of the Month feature. In her years with the magazine, she has developed into a knowledgeable voice on grocery industry trends, sought by such distinguished publications as The New York Times.

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