Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

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Ephrata1966
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Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by Ephrata1966 » 09 Jun 2010 18:18

This 1972 political comic says it all: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42444189@N04/4046391036/

I am really surprised how early these chains (except Pathmark) began to die off. Even in 1972, the "supermarket war" had been raging for a while. The discount concepts here were all launched during the 60's. Funny that I never even heard of "Dale's" before. Penn Fruit I thought never really had a discount format. They were the smallest player here. And I believe some Food Fairs were converted to Penn Fruit during the 70's.

But my question is, why did these stores have to decline/close so soon? Penn Fruit and Pantry Pride were gone by the 80's. All these "outdated" supermarkets should have lasted into at least the 80's, it would seem. Discount formats were spreading to whole chains while they were still building their trademark stores, such as the Centennial A&P. Could it have to do with increased crime in the region perhaps?

Decline by chain:

Acme: "Super Saver" introduced 1969, last "A Frame" stores built 1972

A&P: remodels/expansions of 50's stores began 1968, "A Mart" introduced 1969, "WEO" introduced 1971, store closings 1974

Food Fair: "Pantry Pride" change gradual, circa 1968-1974, Penn Fruit acquisition 1975 (a few of the same stores converted to Penn Fruit), Chapter 11 1978

Penn Fruit: Chapter 11 1975, some store closures 1975-1976, soon went down with Food Fair/Pantry Pride and J.M. Fields.

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Andrew T.
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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by Andrew T. » 09 Jun 2010 22:32

This piece is well worth reading; if you haven't seen it already. It's a newspaper article written by a Penn Fruit executive chronicling the story of the chain's downfall:
http://www.groceteria.com/store/regiona ... enn-fruit/
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

maynesG
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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by maynesG » 10 Jun 2010 19:16

Hi,I am not sure why included Acme as a chainin decline in 1972? They one that war and dominated that market for the next 35 years. The othet chains died from a combination of urban stores,when the population was moving to the suburbs.
Acme saw thetrend and started building in places like Prices Corner or Pikes Creek, where A&P and Food Fair stayed in
Wilmington.
Skags came and gave Acme a transfusion of cash just at the rigth time. The powers to be at Food Fair were corupt crooks who were bleeding the company dry. A&P was permantely stuck in the early1950!s and died from high wages.small stores and hidseous shelf conditions.

Ephrata1966
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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by Ephrata1966 » 12 Jun 2010 01:19

Andrew T: Thanks but I read that article years ago, when I first discovered Groceteria.

maynesG: As you know, Acme still exists and has changed a lot. They have closed HUNDREDS of stores since that time though. Many of the A Frames did not last very long at all. Often they relocated though. These stores were replaced by the former Clovermarket stores next to Clover stores. For example, the Marlton, NJ Acme opened in 1965. In 1975 it was replaced by the former Clovermarket in Cherry Hill. These were not that close together. Both had this type of sign: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_246OMBI86f8/S ... ton_05.jpg

Then, there were "consolidations" where stores were eliminated such as the Chester/Woodlyn/Folsom, PA case. I believe they at one time had one store each in Chester/Upland, Swarthmore, Folsom, and the two in Woodlyn. Now these are all down to one store. The consolidation started when Pantry Pride/Penn Fruit were closing way back.

But as for the "suburbs" thing, just my opinion, but lots of Philadelphia's "suburbs" really are urban. Wilmington seems like a continuation of Philadelphia, in a different state of course. I would consider it a large suburb. But Prices Corner, isn't that a section of Wilmington?

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by maynesG » 12 Jun 2010 11:12

Yes you are correct that Acme closed stores in Philadelphia area , consolidated area like Delaware county all in the mid 90s or early 2,000. The consolidation move from small antiquated stores was the correct move to make. This cost the company little volume, asthe two stores remaining on McDade have been renovated and expanded and have retained the volume of the lost stores and cut labor costs .Four store Managers,Four coManagers, Twenty Department managers,and many rank and file.( Four stores not three you forgot UplandTownship)
But these moves took place in th emid 90!s after Albertsonsandnow Super Valu took over. The supermarket wars of the 70!s were long since over and one by Acme.
Yes Skaggs when thet took over closed divisions of Acme where they chose not to compete and realocated that money in The Philadelphia Market.This fueled Acmes Growth in Share and profitability for thirty years.
As for Prices Corner being in the city of Wilmington, you have been misinformed, Prices Corner is outside of the city limits by about five miles and is in unincorporated New Castle County.You will find that it does have a wilmington zip code. But much of New Castle County that is called Wilmington is not in the City Limits. Pike Creek was one of Wilmingtons first Post ww2 suburbs with the GM plant .Acme in 1958 opened its current store,which is beingagain renovated and expanded once again. In fact Acme once had as many as five stores in the city of Wilmington.It has but one on Dupont Street.

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by werememberretail » 13 Jun 2010 11:33

Funny comic. Acttually Ephrata Penn fruit, though it was the smallest of the four "big" chains in the area- that is Acme, A&P Food Fair and Penn Fruit itself. (not counting Pathmark which before assuming THAT banner was actually the owner of the majority if not every Shoprite in Greater Philadelphia and which had only a handful of stores back then) PF was the most Innovative of the 4 chains, not just because of the famously designed stores (many designed by the "father of the shopping mall" Victor Gruen) but because it was the first chain to introduce discount food stores (ie no trading stamps, contests, etc.) supermarkets to the area the first to offer guarantees on their products they sold, the first to have in store floral departments, etc. More over they actually had not one but TWO discount formats. Penn Fruit, after the CEO being inspired by a visit the Pacific Northwest to study the no-frills warehouse supermarket concept. launched Consumers Warehouse Markets in Pennsauken NJ. and it was THIS format-which grew eventually to a chane of a dozen stores by itself- that triggered said wars. Acme ridiculed the Penn Fruit warehouse concept in its advertising and begane lowering its regular store prices to match Penn fruits Warehouse Market prices,(this probably led to Acme's IMHO Ill-fitting slogan "You're gonna like it here"-more suitable for a bar than a grocery) This ultimately led to the A&P launching the Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeo! (chainwide!) and the rest as they say is history. From the first time I saw the article on Groceteria.com I was always intrigued by this bizarre story, one the likes of which could be considered epic proportions. what interested me more was the aftermath: of course Acme remained top Dog and Pathmark resumed its growth to build bigger and better stores . however the other players began closing up shop. Penn Fruit Liquidated all but 17 stores, A&P (as part of a national restructuring) closes many PA/NJ stores in waves ( first after 1975, second wave around in 1980 and finally the rest in 1982 before being "Born Again" as Superfresh)...

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by werememberretail » 13 Jun 2010 13:45

.....(cont'd) and the biggest failure of them all Food Fair/Pantry Pride/Jm Fields, the one had gobbled up the last, best and strongest Penn Fruits, the only one outside of Acme who actually gained market share during the war, a victiim of corporate corruption by its founding family, pulled up stakes and cloesd 94 stores.( some were gobbled up quick. other stores never reopened ex. one Pantry Pride in North Philadephia closed in 1979 and stayed vacant for 15 years collecting dust until Pathmark built a brand new store on the site in 1995 ,along with Acme's consolidation, more than 200 stores closed. this opened the door for not only Shoprite's return, but also the small chains like Clemens and Genuardi's in the suburbs and the independent groups like Thriftway (which ironically supplied Genuardi's and Clemens at this time) and Shop N Bag. IGA, not much if any of a factor prior to 1975 also came into the market around this time. many of the indys were owned by old A&P managers and execs, old Food Fair guys old Penn Fruit guys. Unfortunately most of the independents did not have profitable enough stores to update and expand like the big guys and even the better small guys. and they closed or sold out. The IGA's are a distant memory, many have been succeded by Great Valu and Fresh Grocer and Thriftway and Shop N Bag is a much much smaller. in 1982 there were 130+ Thriftways and Shop N Bags, today there are 28. By comparison Shoprite is within spitting distance of #1 of Acme

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by maynesG » 13 Jun 2010 19:02

Hi,Thriftway,Clements, Genuardis were suppliedby Fleming foods.Shop & bagwas the Frankford QuakerCo_Op and was then purchased by Fleming.They ran both operations seperately for about a year and then came the strike that lasted months Fleming lost Genuardis,Foxs , several large independents and alarge Shop & Bag owner Browns left Frank Ford and on the heals of that another 12 store group( I can!T Remember the name) went I.G.A FrankFord was merged into Fleming Oaks.
The Freidlander group went belly up due to coruption by the former Food Fair owner. Oaks closed and the operations went to North East Md with buying in Glassgow de. It has always amazed me how many crooks were involved in Philadelphia supermarkets from pen Fruit to Food Fair to Pickwell and the Thriftway& Shop& Bag coupon thieves The GodFather was correct more money has bee stolen with a briefcase then with a gun.

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by werememberretail » 13 Jun 2010 21:42

Gerry, I don't ever recall Penn Fruit being involved in corruption. Their problem had seemed to be over innovation and bad investements, not to mention the fact that it was up against 800 pound gorilla Acme Food Fair on the other hand. seemed like the Friedlands family "bank" (proving it's never a good thing to play around with thousands of people's lives ) and that comment you made reffering to the Godfather line was dead on priceless! from Food Fair to Phar Mor to Enron to AIG Citibank and Bank of Americs. yeah it holds true today. you have the wolves in wolves clothing ( mafia, Crips/Bloods other gangs) abd the wolves in "sheeps" clothing (corporate hacks)
Back to the subject it seems to me I wonder if Penn Fruit had not failed and were around today they probably would have been building massive Wegman's type stores in the suburbs

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by maynesG » 26 Jul 2010 18:50

Yes I noticed that comment to. I guess what a lot of people from out side the New York-
Philadelphia market is that this is the largest in terms of Dollars, most diverse market and most competitive market in the country. Chains in places like Maine or Iowa or South Dakota, more then likey would not make it in this market place. Where real estate prices. the cost of business is high and you have to be many different things to verry different customers
who may only live four miles a way.
As my Dad a verry wise Grocer used to say to me, !! The Market is llittered with the crosses of Chains who tried to make it here!!
Gerry

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by rich » 27 Jul 2010 16:54

Philly's chain environment isn't that unique--places larger and smaller, more and less diverse have had their choices narrow over time. The best example in the region would be DC. At one point in the 1960s, the roster of chains in DC invcluded an unrivaled combination of regional and national operators, not to be duplicated elsewhere: A&P, Acme, Giant-Landover, Food Fair, Grand Union, Kroger, and Safeway. After Kroger left, Shop-Rite briefly was represented. Giant was already #2 and ultimately surpassed Safeway; both of them outlasted everyone else except A&P which has a token number of Super Fresh Stores.

Outside of the Mid-Atlantic, there are places like Toledo, which because of its proximity to larger cities attracted but failed to embrace and impressive set of competitors between the 50s and the present: Allied (Wirgley/Packer & K-Mart Foods), Big Bear, Farmer Jack (twice--as Borman and as A&P), First National (Edwards), and National Tea. Farmer Jack, under Borman, was the closest thing to a success with one very large warehouse/upscale fresh foods store in an old Topps, which lasted over a decade.

Lack of succession by families, price wars, lack of capitalization, outside acquisition, decision by chains to only keep markets where they had large share--singly or in combination, these have affected almost everyplace.

Ephrata1966
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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by Ephrata1966 » 27 Jul 2010 17:30

rich wrote:Grand Union, Kroger, and Safeway.
Awesome awesome awesome! What can I say? That sounds like market saturation with all those chains combined. Grand Union, Kroger, and Safeway are under-represented in Greater Philadelphia. Then again, the "suburbs" of DC could be called Greater Philadelphia too. The DC Grocery site seems to support this. Take Fairfax, Virginia. Given all the various retailers there, I would think I was in West Philadelphia if I didn't know better! Acme (A Frame), Food Fair/Pantry Pride, Loehmann's, Five Guys restaurants, etc.

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by maynesG » 28 Jul 2010 07:45

Hi, The Philadelphia Market died in the late 80!s and was left with only one corporate hq, Acme. The Philadelphia Market is simply part of the New York Market with influence from the Harrisburgh Market. The history of this market and its demise is extremly interesting. Family in fighting and greed, corporate mistakes, and don!t forget computers, the change from rail to Trucking simply shrank the world.
At one time Philadelphia had 14 Key Accounts today Acme is the last of the Mohicans. Phily R.I.P.

Ephrata1966
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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by Ephrata1966 » 14 Sep 2010 20:38

maynesG wrote:Hi,I am not sure why included Acme as a chainin decline in 1972? They one that war and dominated that market for the next 35 years. The othet chains died from a combination of urban stores,when the population was moving to the suburbs.
Acme saw thetrend and started building in places like Prices Corner or Pikes Creek, where A&P and Food Fair stayed in
Wilmington.
Skags came and gave Acme a transfusion of cash just at the rigth time. The powers to be at Food Fair were corupt crooks who were bleeding the company dry. A&P was permantely stuck in the early1950!s and died from high wages.small stores and hidseous shelf conditions.
The Ridley consolidation began in 1978-1979 with the Food Fair/Penn Fruit bankruptcy. Acme jumped from Upland and Woodlyn Shopping Center to the old Penn Fruit in Woodlyn (now Bally Fitness).

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Re: Philadelphia "supermarket wars", 1972

Post by maynesG » 14 Sep 2010 22:03

Hi, Toledo is that the best you could do? Finast in that area was a marketing decision by Pick & Pay who had purchased First National Stores of Boston Mass. Thier stores in Ohio had
dekayed and had a miserable reputation. So! Put up Finast Signs!
But in all due seriousness comparing a Small market like Toledo to a Major market like Philadelphia ( Most people would agree that philadelphia was merged in to The New York DMA about twenty years ago) realy isn!t possible. The population is huge and is diverse. Only verry well healed , flexible, Savy supermarket opperators would have a chance at survival in our market place. Give credit where credit is due , Acme has prospered and has survived often while carrying debt loaded parent companies like Alberstsons and now has the chalenge of having the pea brained wholesale executives form SUPERVALUE do thier level headed best to wreck this company.
As for the Baltimore Washington Market pl;ease keep in mind none of the Major players are controled in this market. Super G is run out of Boston by Stop & Shop. Shoppers has its own office still in the area is owned by Super Valu but lost so much money that it is under
a shorter lease then its Acme cousin. Safeway has a local office with a great deal of leeway but at the end of the Day answers to Pleasonton. This market dosen!t have a home grown Key Account to its name.

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