100 YEARS OF FOOD RETAILING
A colorful decade defined by materialism and noted for quirky trends like neon bracelets and the invention of MTV, the 1980s was also full of significant changes in retailing that would forever influence the way that Americans think about supermarkets.
The competitive landscape was heating up like a Madonna song, and by the end of the decade, Wal-Mart and Kmart had made meaningful inroads into grocery operations. At the same time, quick-service restaurant operations were taking away more retailing dollars, especially as women in the workforce increased and Americans became more accustomed to fast-paced lifestyles.
Meanwhile, under President Ronald Reagan’s watch, the stock market saw explosive growth, deregulation took hold and there was less rigid enforcement of antitrust laws.
- In 1980, wholesaler Supervalu purchased Cub Foods, a five-store warehouse store operator, for $10 million.
- Also in 1980, John Mackey and three business partners opened the first Whole Foods Market, in Austin, Texas.
- In 1981, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) acquired Fred Meyer, and A&P purchased 17 Stop & Shop supermarkets in New Jersey.
- The National Grocers Association held its first Annual Convention and Industry Expo, in San Francisco in 1983.
- Also in 1983, Wal-Mart opened its first Sam’s Club, in Moore, Okla. (BJ’s Wholesale Club was founded the following year in Massachusetts.)
- In 1984, American Stores acquired Jewel.
- In 1985, A&P acquired Dominion Stores, Dominick’s bought Eagle Food Stores, and Supervalu acquired the West Coast Grocery Co.
- In 1986, A&P acquired Waldbaum’s and Shopwell Inc., the latter of which included 26 upscale stores named The Food Emporium, and KKR engineered leveraged buyouts of Safeway and Beatrice Foods.
- In 1987, Ukrop’s Super Markets launched the first loyalty card program in the country.
- To fend off a hostile takeover, Kroger restructured in 1988, borrowing more than $5 billion and issuing to stockholders a $40 dividend, and a five-year note valued at $8.69. That same year, KKR acquired Stop & Shop, and Fleming became the nation’s largest wholesaler with its purchase of Malone & Hyde.
- Also in 1988, American Stores, from the Midwest, bought Lucky on the West Coast in a notable transregional merger.
- In 1989, A&P acquired Borman’s Farmer Jack, a chain of 79 stores.
The 1980s was distinguished by plenty of deal-making activity.