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Facing Tough Competition, A&P Seeks Bankruptcy Protection


A former giant in the supermarket industry has taken another fall. The supermarket chain A&P, once known as the great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, has filed for bankruptcy for the second time in five years. This time, A&P has agreed to sell more than 100 stores. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has more.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: It's an American brand with roots going back before the Civil War with history its owners have used in TV ads.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Of all the supermarkets in America, there's one that's seen more daybreaks, opened more doors and shared more hellos than any other.

MARC LEVINSON: It was a pioneer in the supermarket industry. It was a pioneer in discount retailing.

WANG: Marc Levinson wrote the book "The Great A&P And The Struggle For Small Business In America."

LEVINSON: It was really a huge, iconic corporation in its day, and it didn't keep up with the changing times.

WANG: Levinson says A&P, which is based in New Jersey, made some strategic mistakes over the years, like expanding too slowly from city to suburbs and not fully tapping into the California market. Now he says, A&P has to compete with Wal-Mart, Target and neighborhood drug stores.

LEVINSON: This is a warning to people in the retail business that you've got to keep changing. And if you stand still, you're going to be road kill.

WANG: A&P isn't road kill yet, but its brand has been fading with consumers like Iris Guadalupe of Brooklyn, N.Y.

IRIS GUADALUPE: Well, I haven't seen an A&P in years.

WANG: Guadalupe stopped by a Pathmark in Manhattan. The supermarket is owned by A&P, which has so far more sold more than 100 stores for about $600 million. The company is also closing two dozen stores in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Guadalupe says she's worried about losing the Pathmark in her neighborhood.

GUADALUPE: We don't have no supermarkets. It's bad. And the bodegas are so expensive. How could we do that?

WANG: For Jose Diaz of Manhattan, losing a supermarket would mean more than losing a source of affordable groceries.

JOSE DIAZ: We need Pathmark because a lot of us poor people that live in the neighborhood could work here. So it will do us a lot of damage if it goes somewhere else.

WANG: In a written statement, A&P's CEO Paul Hertz says selling its stores would be the best way to preserve as many jobs as possible and maximize value for all stakeholders. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.

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