Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Volume 2, Number 17: The Death of Farmer Jack

(Note: This is a re-posting of an entry I made in June 2007 on a Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)

Earlier this week, I read that A&P has resolved to sell or close the 66 stores in the Farmer Jack supermarket chain by July 7. To that end, they have begun liquidating store inventory, starting at a modest discount (10% on most items) and increasing that discount as the deadline approaches.

This story is not entirely new--back in April, A&P announced its intention to sell Farmer Jack because most of the stores were struggling to post a profit, and the chain (as a whole) had been up for sale for two years. The big difference is that now, Farmer Jack will not exist in one month's time. When the year started, A&P had hoped to sell the chain to a company that would be thrilled to take on the Farmer Jack name and image, the way A&P itself was when it bought the chain in 1989. Nope--not anymore.

I stopped by my local Farmer Jack yesterday to see if anything had been marked down deeply enough to warrant a purchase. Nope--not yet. Most of the stuff is 10% off, which is unimpressive; I rely on the tag team of sale prices and coupons (where I save 40-50% on most of my receipts). Now, A&P is supposed to be putting really deep discounts on America's Choice and other "house brand" products, but I haven't seen that happen yet at my store.

As things stand right now, there are really only two major chains left in the metro Detroit supermarket landscape: Kroger (who I still hate for buying Great Scott! in 1990) and Meijer (which became my #1 supermarket not long after I moved to Royal Oak in 2000). I had hoped that another chain (like Albertson's, Nash Finch or Safeway) would join in that fray by buying the Farmer Jack chain, which would keep the competition at three chains and give shoppers an option that previously didn't exist, but I guess that just won't happen.

From what I've read, Kroger will buy a number of Farmer Jack stores, including the one on 9 Mile and John R. Now, I'm glad that location is becoming a Kroger. Why? For one thing, that location is closer to me than the current nearest Kroger locations (12/Dequindre and 13/Woodward; the latter is just not a convenient location for me at all).

I've read that Spartan Stores may buy some stores as well, which they would then franchise to independent operators. I hope for two things from Spartan, then: One, that they buy the 12/Campbell location, and two, that the franchisee promotes the same "double coupons up to $1.00" policy that several Spartan franchisees do.

The death of Farmer Jack means yet another Michigan-based chain of stores will pass into memory. The following were either assimilated or put out of business by out-of-state companies:
  • Arbor Drugs (purchased by CVS)
  • Perry Drugs (purchased by Rite Aid)
  • Great Scott! (purchased by Kroger; as an aside, I still mourn its passing much more than I ever will Farmer Jack's, as Great Scott! was the greatest supermarket chain ever)
  • Hudson's department stores (now Macy's)
  • Let's not forget two appliance stores--Highland and Fretter--both of whom ultimately fell behind the times and wound up being supplanted by Best Buy and Circuit City

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