Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter of Tops Markets LLC, a limited liability company, Morgan Stanley Capital Partners V U.S. Holdco LLC, a limited liability company, and The Penn Traffic Company, a corporation. FTC File No. 101 0074
I believe that Tops should be allowed to keep the Lockport and Cortland, NY stores. In Lockport, the distance for customers living east of the location would be up to 12 miles from the closest supermarket which would place undue hardship on residents, especially in the winter months. The argument the FTC uses is that there are 2 other Tops locations in close proximity to the Lockport store proposed to be sold. While Tops has 2 stores 4-6 miles west of the store proposed to be sold, residents east of the store would be traveling much farther. The drive to another Tops location would be up to 12 miles which would force customers to drive to Medina, NY, outside of Niagara County. That would be unacceptable. Apparently when the supermarket chain Bells was in business back in the early 1990's (which was purchased by Penn Traffic), they were allowed to operate 3 locations in Lockport (Newfane-Wrights Corners, Rochester Rd which is proposed by the FTC to be sold, and South Transit Rd). 2 of these were in close proximity to Tops locations with the Rochester Rd store being the farthest from either location. Why the FTC has an issue with Tops operating 3 stores is surprising as it clearly did not back in the 1990's. The main competitor to Tops, Wegmans has no interest in Lockport, NY. Independent operator Budwey's just reopened the former Bells store in Newfane-Wrights Corners in the past 3 years. They are not currently pursuing expansion as they want to focus on their existing 3 stores. Besides those 2 full-service chains, there are no options that would provide the services that customers have come to know and expect. This basically contradicts the FTC argument of selling to a full-service supermarket. How can Tops sell to a full-service chain if there are no other full-service chains? In Cortland, Penn Traffic had closed their other Cortland location a few years ago due to restructuring, which caused those residents to visit the current P&C store proposed for sale by the FTC. People in this area of Cortland want this store to remain open as it is vital to that neighborhood. Essentially Tops with both stores would have 1 on each end of town, which is what residents including myself would want and need. With both of these locations, there are also many older people that do visit these stores, and they are sized appropriately in both cases. I urge the FTC to allow the Lockport and Cortland stores to remain open under Tops management and not be sold in any way. These stores fill specific needs for these neighborhoods and are too valuable to the communities they serve. In addition, these stores will preserve good jobs which are sorely needed in both of these locations. As for the remaining stores proposed to be sold in Bath, Sayre, I do not see an issue with these. Bath, NY has a Tops store less than a 1/2 mile from the P&C location. Same goes for both the Ithaca, NY and both Sayre, PA stores being in close proximity. This would be an easy transition for residents in these communities. In addition, there are viable competitors that can assume operations of these stores (Price Chopper, Weis, Giant Eagle.) Therefore, I do agree with the remaining 5 stores proposed by the FTC to be sold.