Independent Grocers Urge Antitrust Policymakers to Level the Playing Field

Two independent grocers testified on behalf of the National Grocers Association (NGA) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division on how anti-competitive tactics by dominant retailers in the grocery marketplace lead to unfair conditions for independent grocers.

Tom Charley, co-owner of Charley Family Shop N’ Save in Greensburg, PA, and Anthony Peña, the owner of City Supermarkets located in Norwalk, CT, provided remarks on how consolidation in the food retail marketplace has resulted in unchecked buyer power in which a few dominant firms can set favorable terms, prices and product allocation for themselves. These discriminatory tactics are prohibited, but regulators have not enforced antitrust laws in decades.  

Charley, a fourth-generation retailer, spoke about how his great grandfather emigrated from Syria in 1900 and sold produce door to door before opening his own food distribution business.

Tom Charley, co-owner of Charley Family Shop N’ Save.

The family now has three “Shop N Save” grocery stores within a 15-mile radius in Pennsylvania, but they are the only local independent retailer in the area.

“Independent grocers don’t shy away from a challenge. But I want to address a challenge that’s gotten bigger over the years. In his oral statement, Charley said that a few enormous, dominant retailers use their power to get around the rules designed to protect competition,” Charley said in his oral statement.

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Peña is a second-generation Dominican supermarket operator and owns nearly ten grocery stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island under the Super Fresh and Save-A-Lot banners. He described how each of his stores is uniquely tailored to the communities they serve.

Anthony Peña, owner of several grocery stores under the Super Fresh and Save-A-Lot banners.

“Merger policy shouldn’t forget about the benefits that my stores bring to consumers. You should look at the service. You should look at accessibility and the convenience of locations,” Peña said during the forum.

Meanwhile, Chris Jones, NGA SVP of government relations and counsel, said, “America’s independent community grocers and other Main Street businesses play a vital role in local economies, providing access to quality products, nutritious food, essential services, and creating jobs.”

“As described in today’s testimony from Tom and Anthony, ensuring a diverse, competitive food and ag sector benefits independent grocers and stakeholders throughout the food supply chain, including wholesalers, manufacturers, suppliers, farmers, and consumers,” added Jones.

Monday’s forum, which focused on food and agriculture, was held as part of a series hosted by the FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice to hear from those who have experienced firsthand the effects of mergers and acquisitions.