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Market Basket: the fragile nature of success

Market Basket: the fragile nature of success

Much has obviously been written already about the Market Basket drama. And, there will be more to come as this soap opera like saga finally plays out. Thankfully, the situation seems to be resolved in the short term, with Arthur T prevailing and buying the company outright from his cousin, Arthur S. Just having spent a day in the Boston market, there are a few details that are perhaps a bit overlooked:

• Market Basket is a remarkably successful chain. It has been a spectacular industry success story: a regional conventional supermarket chain that is growing, prosperous and gaining market share. With sales volumes averaging well over a $1 million per week in their stores, Market Basket demonstrates that low prices, good quality and committed associates can still win very big. This was not a struggling chain but a regional dynamo.

• Success can be a very fragile thing. In the course of the five weeks or so that the family drama has played out publicly with the firing of the very popular Arthur T. Demoulas, Market Basket has gone from a bustling leader to a chain whose very future is in peril. Shelves are barren, customers few and far between and employees loyal to Arthur T publicly boycotting. There is virtually no business being done and competitors are seeing huge increases as billions of grocery dollars are up for grabs.

Without picking sides in the struggle, it is clear that this boardroom drama horribly miscalculated the impact that this would have on the enterprise. Employees (particularly part-timers) are suffering, as are the many suppliers who count on Market Basket for business. Customers (the reason any retailer should be in business) are being used as pawns in the power struggle and are taking their business elsewhere for now.

Even with the apparent resolution, it is not certain that the business quickly returns to the powerhouse it once was. What is brutally clear is that success in retail is earned on a daily basis. There are no guarantees. Was there a better way for the family to solve their impasse? What’s your view?

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