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The Buffalo News has a story about how western New York-based Tops Markets is approaching its post-bankruptcy life - “getting back up on our feet,” as CEO Frank Curci puts it.

The story says that “though Tops' bankruptcy reorganization allowed it to greatly reduce its debt load, it still faces $55 million in annual interest payments, according to Bankruptcy Court papers. If interest rates rise, those interest payments will increase. With grocery margins sliding and competition increasing, it doesn't give the company much wiggle room to wait out storms.”

Tops’ approach, the News writes, is focused on remodeling stores at the rate of 10-15 a year, trying to catch up after a period of time during which there was minimal capital spending. In addition, Curci says that the company would like to grow, perhaps through acquisition, “following the same strategy it had before the bankruptcy – adding fuel stations and opening stores that fit into their current footprint. For the most part, that will mean smaller stores than the bulk of its portfolio, especially in Central New York and the Hudson Valley.”

And, the story says, Tops also is redoubling its efforts in the area of meal solutions and private label.

Still, the road ahead is challenging for any company looking to get people into bricks-and-mortar stores. “The model is a little broken,” Curci says. “You have every outlet in the country trying to sell the top 50 items, and they can do it without profit. Then we're trying to sell the whole rest of the store. It’s a challenge … You've gotta give people a reason to come into stores. They can buy laundry detergent anyplace. We're looking at how we can make a customer's life simpler.”
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