The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, 1859 – 2015?
Back in 2008, I wrote a post that noted that while the Krogers and Safeways of the world were complaining that Walmart was putting them out of business, the Krogers and Safeways themselves had done their best to put even older companies out of business. After all, you can’t have a supermarket unless there was a market before that.
And one of the oldest of those markets, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, may be about to close its doors.
Back when A&P started, it only stocked tea and similar items, and only fulfilled purchased via mail order. In other words, it was a 19th century Amazon.
Eventually A&P not only began letting people actually come to its facilities, but actually let them wander up and down the aisles and select products themselves. As a result, A&P got big. Very big.
How big? Almost as big as General Motors. Courthouse News Service tells us that A&P was judged to be too big.
By the early 1950s the company’s dominance prompted federal regulators to step in and breakup what they feared was fast becoming a monopoly.
So A&P wasn’t quite as big, but it was still a going concern. When I was growing up in Virginia in the 1970s, I remember a small A&P store that was near my house. It was a small store – only four aisles – and nowhere near the size of the Safeway and the Giant Food down the street.
However, its old-timey size wasn’t the thing that doomed A&P. It was good old acquisition.
Although changing tastes and the market entrance of new competitors like Whole Foods proved challenging to A&P, most analysts say it was the company’s 2007 purchase of the Pathmark chain, right before the global economic crisis, that doomed it.
Since 2007, A&P has filed for bankruptcy twice. In its latest filing, the company states that if it is unable to sell 120 of its 300 stores to three competitors, it will be forced to liquidate.
Maybe it can return to its mail order roots and sell tea via Amazon.