, Gloucester, MA

July 18, 2013

Editorial: Demoulas directors should heed calls of workers, customers

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — It may be among the unlikeliest of battles — a grocery chain family taking its internal feud to the public and the public jumping in with both feet.

But the family fight playing out now is one that could concern area consumers, including those in Gloucester and across Cape Ann That’s because 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, and that’s especially the case where the Demoulas corporation salso holds the financial cards for the Gloucester Crossing shopping center as a whole.

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 both they and company workers are very concerned about a potential change of direction.

While there’s been bad blood within the family for decades, the chain has continued to grow, notably through the company’s partnership with Sam Park and the opening of Gloucester’s Market Basket in the fall of 2009.

With that growth has come other new, larger stores and a swelling consumer base loyal to the brand. And loyal, longtime employees wonder what needs changing.

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

Managers and employees took out full-page ads yesterday in the Times and its sister papers supporting Arthur T. Demoulas and pleading with the Board of Directors: “Do not jeopardize our future.”

On the eve of a 2011 Londonderry, N.H., store opening, Market Basket operations manager David McLean summed up the chain’s philosophy.

“We are committed to the lowest prices,” he said. “Shopping here is uncomplicated. There are no gimmicks, no frequent shopper cards or buy one, get one free.”

The Demoulas family has a business to run, a very big business. Tens of thousands of customers and workers anxiously await the decision expected today.

But let’s hope the directors weigh the number of petition signatures, look at how that business grew and consider why consumers and employees are so loyal to the brand before they cast a vote to make such a potentially drastic change.