For sale: several vintage supermarket brands, slightly distressed, refurbishable. Asking price: make your best offer.
A&P-owned stores are shutting down all over, as the bankrupt grocer winds down its operations. But A&P and its other banners and brands may ultimately live on. That’s because, in A&P’s going-out-of-business sales, everything must go – including the A&P name itself.
A&P is marketing its A&P, Pathmark, Waldbaum’s, Super Fresh, Food Basics and Best Cellars store names and making each of them available to the highest bidders. Also up for grabs are A&P’s private label product brands, like America’s Choice, Woodson & James and Jane Parker.
Unlike the auctions held so far, in which winning bidders bought the actual buildings and had to change the name out front, this sale offers a name without a building. Winning bidders will also get the stores’ websites, social media profiles and trademarked slogans, such as Waldbaum’s “The Best Value In The Neighborhood” and Food Basic’s “The Savings Never Stop.”
And if you have a loyalty card, or used digital coupons at an A&P-owned store, your information is now for sale as well. Buyers of any of the store names will also get their hands on the contact information and purchasing data of millions of customers. Pathmark and Waldbaum’s got rid of their loyalty programs last year, but A&P and Super Fresh kept theirs. Now, the data associated with those programs could prove to be a much-needed moneymaker for the bankrupt retailer – A&P and Super Fresh have information on a combined 5.5 million customers, as well as 719,000 email addresses.
The intellectual property seller Hilco Streambank is managing the sale process. “The A&P banners, trademarks and brands have longstanding and strong recognition by consumers in the Northeast as well as other markets throughout the country,” Hilco Streambank’s David Peress said in a statement.
A&P is the country’s oldest grocery chain, founded more than 150 years ago. Waldbaum’s has been around for more than a century, and Pathmark for nearly 50 years. A potential buyer could bank on that history, and appeal to shoppers’ brand loyalty and nostalgia, by opening their own stores with the old company’s name. Or they could buy a set of stores that are still available for sale, keep the old name out front, and continue running the stores as though that pesky bankruptcy never happened.
The same could prove to be true for A&P’s store brands. Similar to the way that investors bought A&P’s Eight O’Clock Coffee brand more than a decade ago and transformed it into a successful national brand, a buyer could see value in a legacy brand like Jane Parker and market its own line of products under the former store-brand name.
Curiously, one store banner that’s not included in the sale announcement is Food Emporium. With A&P’s mainstream banners floundering, its newer, more upscale Food Emporium was once considered the company’s best chance for success. But now, A&P has little use for the name anymore, since the majority of the Food Emporium stores have already been sold at auction to other retailers. There have been unconfirmed reports that one of those retailers is interested in acquiring the Food Emporium name, which could explain why it’s not being marketed for sale, for now. (Update: court documents filed on November 3rd state that Key Food has bid $1.75 million for the Food Emporium name, website, mobile app and e-commerce business.)
So as A&P struggles to find buyers for dozens of stores that are about to close forever, it can take some solace in the knowledge that its name may yet live on. That is, if shoppers and potential bidders recall the A&P their grandparents knew and loved. If that positive image is overshadowed by the retailer’s more recent troubles, it could be that A&P – along with all of its stores – may just fade away for good.
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