Once one of the biggest baggers of groceries in the US, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) has been reduced to a shrinking portfolio of regional grocery chains. It now runs about 300 supermarkets in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and three other eastern states. In addition to its mainstay 80-store A&P chain, the company operates five banners: Pathmark, Waldbaum's, Superfresh, Food Emporium, and Food Basics. A&P acquired its longtime rival in the Northeast, Pathmark Stores, for about $1.4 billion, but the purchase failed to reverse A&P's lagging fortunes. Indeed, A&P in 2012 emerged from 15 months in Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a financial restructuring and closing 75 stores.
A&P's December 2010 Chapter 11 filing capped years of struggle for the money-losing grocery operator. Bankruptcy documents listed $2.5 billion in assets and $3.2 billion in debt for A&P as of September 2010. In fiscal 2011 (ends February) A&P posted a net loss of nearly $600 million, marking its fourth consecutive year of unprofitability. The grocery operator exited bankruptcy in March 2012 as a privately-held company following an agreement with Yucaipa Companies, among others, that provided the grocery chain with $490 million in debt and equity financing.
Under the leadership of CEO Sam Martin, who joined A&P in 2010 and saw the company through its restructuring, A&P is pursuing a comeback strategy focused on localization. It involves tailoring each store's product offering to the neighborhood and sourcing fresh-made and locally-grown produce and foods whenever possible. Martin plans to remodel more than half of the company's stores by mid-2017, with the aim of showcasing a neighborhood positioning for each store. Recent remodels include three Food Emporium supermarkets in New York City, that cater to upscale tastes, and a pair of Pathmark stores in New Jersey, one of which caters to Hispanics while the other has a stronger kosher focus. The grocery operator is betting that by renewing its stores and tailoring merchandise and service initiatives to local markets, sales and profits will follow. Still, A&P must contend with fierce competition from nontraditional grocery purveyors (including Costco Wholesale and Wal-Mart Stores), and its customers' changing shopping habits. The company is reported to be considering the sale of its Food Emporium chain in a bid to boost liquidity. Food Emporium stores sit atop valuable Manhattan real estate. – less