Friday, September 25, 2015

Grocery Chain Haggen's Bust May Have Little Effect on Competitors' Prices

Grocery chain Haggen Inc., which spent approximately $1.4 billion last year in a dramatic expansion along the West Coast, was forced to file for bankruptcy this month, undoing everything it had accomplished over the past several months. While Haggen believed that its buy-outs of several dozen Albertsons, Vons, and Safeway supermarkets would help the Northwest-based company grow, in Shan Li and Andrew Khoury's L.A. Times article, it is explained why their business plan may have been flawed from the start.

According to experts, Haggen's purchases were doomed to fail from the beginning. Not only was the cost of purchasing and converting 146 supermarkets of various brands remarkably high for the 18-store chain, but Haggen's prices were seen as too high for the quality of produce being provided. According to the founder of DJL Research, a research firm specifically for supermarkets, no one believed that Haggen had any chance of success with their large acquisition.

Analysts go on to claim that Haggen's prices were determined too much by the prices already in place at the purchased supermarkets. Instead of doing their own research, they chose prices similar to those of rivals like Albertsons or Safeway. Haggen is known for its higher quality meats, seafood, and organic produce, which would normally be reason enough to qualify higher prices than their competitors'. However, complaints from customers seemed to all point to less than fabulous service and produce of lower quality than advertised.

Perhaps the lack of proper business planning in the stores was due to the stresses Haggen experienced because of the buy-outs. Albertsons, one of the former owners of some of the stores, broke off their tenuous business relationship shortly after the purchase. Albertsons opened lawsuits against Haggen, stating that $41 million worth of inventory had not been paid for, and in response, Haggen sued Albertsons, claiming that the competitor was consistently working behind the scenes to push Haggen out of the market. Perhaps Haggen's legal struggles interfered with its ability to run its newly obtained markets properly, Now that Haggen plans to pull back and keep only its 37 stores in Washington and Oregon, its reputation for high-quality may one day be restored.

For the over 8,000 Haggen employees in California alone, the bankruptcy will hit hard, The Local 324 United Food and Commercial Workers Union is rightfully upset, especially after having filed recent grievances against Haggen for layoffs and reduced hours. For others in the community who do not work for Haggen, however, economic analysts and regular shoppers alike do not expect to be affected by the closures. Since there is enough competition going on in the community, between Ralphs, Wal-Mart, and other stores, they believe that prices will not likely rise significantly. Who knows? In the end, perhaps Haggen will earn enough money from the sale of the closed stores to get back on their feet in their Northwest home base.

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