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NGA Unveils TV Commercial To Call Out Power Buyers

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The National Grocers Association has unveiled a new TV commercial that shines a spotlight on the unfair and discriminatory tactics of dominant food retailers that harm the ability of Main Street businesses to compete and serve communities throughout the U.S.

“For decades, dominant firms in the grocery marketplace have leveraged their buying power to demand special treatment through access to products, promotions and better prices from suppliers that are not offered to independent community grocers,” said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO.

“This unchecked anticompetitive behavior leaves independent store owners and their customers with less choice, fewer options and paying more for goods and products. Independents aren’t looking for a free handout. They’re just looking for a level playing field to compete.”

The commercial, paid for by NGA, appeared March 29 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”

NGA represents more than 1,800 independent grocery retailers who account for nearly 9,000 storefronts across the country, including at least one in every congressional district and in Puerto Rico. These stores and their independent wholesalers are the backbone of American communities. They compete to offer low prices, higher food quality, better service, more accessible and convenient locations, a greater variety of products and good jobs.

But in today’s marketplace, four big chains control 69 percent of the market share, and they systematically use their power to push smaller competitors out of business. Independent grocers have been competing on an uneven playing field over the years as dominant chains ignore antitrust law and abuse their buyer power to coerce suppliers provide discriminatory prices and more favorable supply terms, special package offerings and product availability, leaving independent grocers to pay the price. They not only set favorable terms for themselves, but they also effectively ensure that smaller grocers pay more and get less.

“Independent grocers have been feeling the financial squeeze from these anti-competitive tactics for far too long,” said Chris Jones, NGA SVP and counsel.

“As families continue to feel the negative impacts of high inflation, dominant food retailers are squeezing suppliers and as a result, forcing higher prices and fewer products on independent grocers and their customers. Lawmakers must stand up for Main Street businesses to demand an end to these discriminatory tactics and restore a competitive marketplace that benefits the local economy and grocery shoppers alike.”

Independent grocers and grocery wholesalers aren’t the only ones feeling the negative impact of economic discrimination; it’s bad for their customers, who are often people living in urban and rural areas who are forced to pay higher prices or travel farther to get the staples they need.

According to a USDA Economic Research Service report, from 2005-15, the number of independent grocery stores available in rural and minority communities has increased, while access to big chain stores has decreased, so it is vital that these independent stores be allowed to compete fairly. And ultimately all consumers are worse off when independent competition is eliminated and grocery becomes even more concentrated.

The ad opens with an independent grocer saying, “This is the only place you can buy fresh groceries for 20 to 30 miles.” A narrator in the ad follows with, “Independent grocers are the backbone of countless communities. But big chains are using their market share to squeeze suppliers and box out competition. Americans face higher prices, less choice and access to fresh food. Existing Antitrust laws have been ignored for a generation.  It’s time for a change.”

Click here to view the ad.

The ad comes as the FTC appears to be considering Robinson-Patman enforcement:

  • On March 27, FTC Chair Lina Khan remarked the agency is preparing to move forward with RPA enforcement actions in “short order;”
  • The FTC is poised to finalize a 6(b) study into the grocery supply chain authorized by a 4-0 vote in November 2021; and
  • A November 2022 FTC adopted a Section 5 policy statement that called out “price discrimination” and “exclusive dealings” as antitrust law violations.

NGA is asking its independent grocers, wholesalers and their customers to contact the FTC and urge the agency to enforce the antitrust laws that are already on the books. For more information, visit nationalgrocers.org/antitrust.

For more association news from The Shelby Report, click here.

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