Kennedy: Independent grocers urge lawmakers to enforce antitrust laws
Walmart has long been the enemy of the independent grocer, especially after installing large supermarkets in its supercenters, which has helped grocery sales reach more than half of the grocery giant’s annual revenue. retail.
Lately, however, there is a new enemy: “dollar stores” – like Dollar General and Family Dollar who have added supermarket staples such as frozen foods, cereals and dairy products to their shelves. general merchandise at low prices and are building new stores at a breakneck pace.
What the two retailers have in common is girth that can be thrown away with vendors, leaving independents in need.
Jimmy Wright, owner of Wright’s Market in Opelika, a town of 30,000 people in eastern Alabama near the Georgian border, says dollar stores may require vendors to specialize in packaging sizes that independents can not get.
The so-called “cheater size” puts fewer products in packaging that can be sold for a lower price, appearing to beat the independents in terms of value. Suppliers say the special size is allowed because dollar stores are “in a different business channel” than independents.
“These tactics aren’t just unfair – they’re illegal,” says Wright. But the laws in force to combat such anti-competitive practices “have not been enforced for years”.
Wright appeared at a press conference in March hosted by the National Grocers Association, a trade group representing independents – the private, often family-owned operations which, along with wholesale partners, make up nearly 1% of the U.S. economy. in general. terms of sales, taxes and employment.
The event coincided with the publication of a white paper by the group that berated big box stores and e-commerce giants – “power buyers” – for practices labeled “economic discrimination” as the pandemic of coronavirus has only gotten worse.
Walmart, for example, imposed a 3% penalty last September on suppliers who failed to deliver 98% of orders on time. The policy came as some product shortages linked to the pandemic persisted, putting other food retailers at risk.
The white paper urged Congress and regulators to build on existing antitrust laws or draft new ones.
Chris Jones, the association’s executive for government relations, said part of the problem with the laws is that anti-competitive practices have been tolerated for too long in the name of corporate efficiency.
“[E]efficiency has nothing to do with it, ”he said at the press conference, stressing that suppliers“ are obligated to accept ”the terms of electricity buyers in order to reach consumers. .
He said Capitol Hill’s interest in curbing Big Tech’s anti-competitive practices could help the efforts of independent grocers, noting that Amazon would be seen as a power buyer in the grocery store.
A spokesperson for the association told me this week that the white paper has generated some interest from lawmakers “because antitrust has been a significant issue in recent months.”
“We hope to see some movement on this in Congress this summer,” she said.
Marlene kennedy is a freelance columnist. The opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach her at [email protected]
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