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 do not believe that the Tops purchase of the P&C at East Hill Plaza in Ithaca constitutes anti-competition or a monopoly. Tops is never going to dominate Wegman's, for example, even though Wegman's has only one local store. And there was apparently no problem with having three P&Cs in Ithaca for decades until the chain's recent bankruptcy. But now three Tops stores are suddenly said to be a problem. The P&C has local competitors that provide customers a wide range of options: Wegman's, Aldi's, Maine's, and GreenStar, plus smaller stores such as Oasis and Ludgate's. Wal-Mart is opening a grocery store in mid-October, and a new grocery store will open soon at the former P&C on Hancock St. Tops has kept the original P&C in nearly the identical state it was before the purchase. Most of the same products are available as before. This store is also different overall than other Tops stores. Although there are now house brands by Tops that replaced the former P&C house brands, there continues to be a large selection of competing brands to choose from, many of which are different from those at the Tops stores. The layout and whole retail approach is the same as the former P&C, including the personable customer service. There would be no gain for Tops to turn the store into a clone of other Tops stores; this P&C store has always been profitable, even when the other P&Cs suffered losses in recent years. The store is well matched to its customers--a point that is undoubtedly not lost on Tops. Tops has also kept the entire staff of employees, which not all alternative companies that showed an interest in the store were prepared to do. This includes the employees with disabilities whom the P&C has had an excellent record of hiring. There is no guarantee that a grocery store would replace the Tops at East Hill if it is forced to close. Closing the store would mean that thousands of customers living in the eastern part of Ithaca, such as myself, will have no nearby store at which to shop. I have been shopping at the store since 1977 and appreciate the fact that it requires only a short drive. Its closing would present a hardship in particular for the residents of the apartment complex for the elderly located next door to the P&C, who are able to walk to the store or drive a short and safe distance. Any alternative to Tops in the East Hill location will likely be of lower quality. Residents of the east Ithaca area and surrounding areas should not have to pay the price in poorer quality for some very tenuous issue of monopoly or oligopoly. Tops has maintained the unique character of the P&C, giving consumers a true choice.