DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

Opinion

July 18, 2013

Editorial: Risking brand loyalty

It may be among the unlikeliest of battles. A grocery chain family takes its internal feud public and the public jumps in with both feet.

There’s a family fight playing out now that consumers across New Hampshire and Massachusetts believe they have a real stake in.

The outcome of the Demoulas family battle, which pits cousin against cousin, could have an effect on consumer spending throughout the 71-store Market Basket chain.

The chain’s board of directors is expected to vote today on whether to replace CEO Arthur T. Demoulas with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

Ordinarily, family in-fighting is no concern of ordinary citizens. But Market Basket customers are a loyal bunch. And they’re loyal for one primary reason: low prices.

Threaten people’s pocketbooks and their ears perk up.

There’s been bad blood within the family for decades, but the chain has continued to grow. And with that growth have come new, larger stores and a swelling consumer base loyal to the brand.

Add in longtime employees who fear what changes may come under a new CEO and you have a very public fight.

An online petition to “Save Market Basket” had nearly 40,000 signatures Tuesday afternoon. Store workers and others have stationed themselves outside the grocery stores this week to collect more signatures to present to the directors in advance of their vote.

Some employees, including Londonderry store manager Mark Lemieux, have stepped up to speak, presumably at some employment risk should the directors opt to replace one cousin with the other.

But, Lemieux said this week, Arthur T. Demoulas has had his back for 36 years “and now he needs me. He needs us.”

Those who oppose the possible cousin switch fear the company would change — their concern for employee well-being may diminish and their prices may rise.

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