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The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. announced late Friday that it plans to close 25 of its 429 stores, or about six percent of its fleet, in five of the eight states in which it operates.

The 25 stores reportedly in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, but A&P has not yet divulged specific locations.

According to the company, the closures are part of “the implementation and execution phase of its comprehensive turnaround.” The company said that “the affected stores include locations in close proximity to other Company stores, those facing real estate and cost issues, and underperforming non-core stores.” The closures are expected to be completed during the third quarter.

The announcement quoted A&P’s CEO, Sam Martin - who joined the company from Office Max just three weeks ago, replacing Ron Marshall, who served for seven months, who replaced Eric Claus, who had the job for four years - as saying, “As part of our turnaround, we have initiated a detailed review of our store footprint and have decided to close these 25 locations ... We are moving forward aggressively to advance our turnaround and position A&P for a strong future. Even as we reduce our store base and drive efficiencies across our Company, A&P continues to remodel stores and take other important steps to enhance our customers’ experience across our store formats. To this end, we are set to re-open two newly remodeled stores in the coming month.”

A&P’s announcement said that the turnaround initiative “is designed to generate sustained profitability and cash flow, drive sales growth, restore competitive margins to the business and strengthen the foundation of the Company for the long term.”
KC's View:
In the end, A&P is going to have to provide shoppers not just with a reason to go into its stores, but a compelling reason to leave the places where they already are doing their shopping. It is hard to see how, in this environment, A&P won’t be caught, yet again, a day late and a dollar short. It always seems to be playing catch-up while most of its competitors are trying to move in to the future.

I remain unconvinced. The best that A&P probably can do is stabilize the situation so that the chain is a little more attractive to a potential buyer.

One thing. I got the following email from an MNB user last week:

We love the Morning News Beat, but remember when you keep picking on A&P, you are hurting 35,000 hard working and innocent associates for the sake of making fun of the company.

This seems to be a reference to my “dead company walking” line...and I get that the folks who work for A&P wouldn’t find me to be as funny as I sometimes think I am.

No disrespect is meant to the rank and file who go to work each day trying to do their best in a bad situation. A&P’s problems are long-term and systemic...but I’ll try to be a little more sensitive to people who may not be to blame for the big issues the company faces.