As the Market Basket grocery chain endures a workers’ revolt that has left its stores with barren shelves and empty aisles, its competitors are reaping the benefits.
Scarborough-based Hannaford Bros. Co. supermarkets is moving some of its workers from Maine to New Hampshire, where 30 Market Basket stores compete against 34 Hannaford stores. In some cases, the Maine workers are being put up in hotels.
The additional Maine staff will provide some relief to the New Hampshire Hannaford workers, some of whom are unable to work the overtime required to handle the surge in customers, said Michael Norton, a spokesman for Hannaford. He said the additional workers are being brought in primarily for the weekend, the busiest time of the week for food shopping.
“This is a short-term common-sense step to make sure our associates aren’t overtaxed and our customers are being served,” he said.
The board of Demoulas Supermarkets Inc., the Massachusetts-based company that owns and operates Market Basket grocery stores, enraged many of its roughly 25,000 employees last month by firing their beloved longtime CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas. In a decades-long family feud, he was deposed by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, and co-chief executives from outside the family-owned business were installed. Workers fear the new management will not look out for the welfare of employees or customers as the company seeks to increase profits for shareholders.
For more than a week, warehouse workers and drivers have refused to make deliveries to the chain’s 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine; eight supervisors were fired in response. Many customers have boycotted the stores to support the workers, and thousands of people have attended rallies in support of Arthur T. Demoulas, including some of Massachusetts’ top politicians.
The chain’s competitors, like Hannaford, benefit in the short term because customers have nowhere else to get their groceries, said David Livingston, a supermarket analyst based in Wisconsin. They also have an opportunity to impress those customers for the long term by offering prices and service that will keep them coming back even after the management crisis at Market Basket is resolved, he said.
That’s why internal strife poses such a threat to Market Basket’s future, he said.
“Once people get used to shopping someplace else, it’s sometimes hard to get them to come back,” he said.
Market Basket has 70 stores between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and one store in Biddeford, which opened a year ago.
Hannaford has 186 stores in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Shaw’s Supermarket, Stop & Shop Supermarket and Wal-Mart also stand to gain a lot of new business, Livingston said. Wal-Mart is especially well positioned to benefit because, like Market Basket, it is focused on low prices, he said.
The turmoil at Market Basket may be nearing a turning point. Arthur T. Demoulas has offered to buy the chain, and the company’s board is considering the bid, along with several other offers, according to The Boston Globe.
The company’s board hired the investment bank JP Morgan Chase & Co. to help evaluate the offers, the Globe reported Friday.