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03/29/2022

Independent Grocers Testify Against Marketplace Consolidation

Charley, Pena speak on behalf of NGA in FTC/DOJ forum
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Tom Charley Stop 'N Save
Tom Charley, co-owner of Charley Family Shop N’ Save, gave remarks at a March 28 forum held by the FTC and the DOJ Antitrust Division.

Independent grocers Tom Charley and Anthony Pena have testified on behalf of the National Grocers Association (NGA) on the anticompetitive tactics by major players in the grocery marketplace that result in unfair conditions for indies. Charley and Pena offered their remarks in a March 28 forum held by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division. This issue is a major priority for NGA.

Charley, co-owner of Charley Family Shop N’ Save, based in Greensburg, Pa., and Pena, owner of City Supermarkets, based in Norwalk, Conn., spoke about how consolidation in the food retail marketplace has led to unchecked buyer power in which a few big companies are able to set favorable terms, prices and product allocation for themselves. These tactics are prohibited by antitrust laws that haven’t been enforced by regulators in decades.  

“Independent grocers don’t shy away from a challenge,” noted Charley, a fourth-generation retailer who operates three Shop N’ Save stores within a 15-mile radius of Pennsylvania – the only independent grocery stores in the area – in his oral testimony. “But I want to address a challenge that’s gotten bigger over the years. That’s a few enormous, dominant retailers using their power to get around the rules designed to protect competition.”

“Merger policy shouldn’t forget about the benefits that my stores bring to consumers,” said Pena, a second-generation operator with almost 10 stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island under the Super Fresh and Save-A-Lot banners. “You should look at service. You should look at accessibility and the convenience of locations.”

“America’s independent community grocers and other Main Street businesses play a vital role in local economies, providing access to quality products, nutritious food, essential services and creating jobs,” observed Chris Jones, SVP of government relations and counsel at Washington, D.C.-based NGA, the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale community grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. “As described in today’s testimony from Tom and Anthony, ensuring a diverse, competitive food and ag sector benefits independent community grocers, and stakeholders throughout the food supply chain, including wholesalers, manufacturers, suppliers, farmers and consumers.”

The forum, which focused on food and agriculture, took place as part of a series hosted by the FTC and DOJ to hear the experiences of those affected firsthand by mergers and acquisitions in those industries. 

In January, NGA member Michael Needler Jr., president and CEO of Findlay, Ohio-based Fresh Encounter Inc., which operates 100 grocery stores in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law on the adverse effect of food supply chain consolidation on independent grocers

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