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MONTVALE, NJ-The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Inc. has moved forward on plans to divest all 66 Farmer Jack grocery stores located in the Midwest, with a sale of 20 of the Michigan stores to Cincinnati, OH-based Kroger Co. The rest of the 46 remaining Farmer Jack stores are now holding total-store sales as they prepare to close, ending the A&P operations in the Midwest.

The firm, which operates 406 stores in nine states and the District of Columbia, under brands such as A&P, Sav-A-Center and Waldbaum’s, has been working for two years to get rid of the Farmer Jack chain, which it acquired in 1989. In April, Eric Claus, president and CEO, said in the firm’s fourth quarter report statement that the decision is for the best, “given the region’s difficult economy, and A&P’s focus on the development and upcoming expansion of our business in the Northeast.” A company spokesman did not return phone calls for this story.

Now, industry experts such as Wisconsin-based supermarket analyst David Livingston says that the company will have buyers for the remaining 46 stores in “probably the next few weeks. What doesn’t get taken over will sit vacant, but most will be replaced by new owners.”

He says this sell-off is not unusual, as “plain vanilla grocery-store operators” have been shutting down underperforming chains for years. “Look at stores such as Albertsons,” Livingston tells GlobeSt.com. “They’re not able to compete with the giants such as Wal-Mart, Kroger and Meijer in areas like Detroit,” he says.

The Kroger-bought stores will become part of the company’s Great Lakes division, based in Columbus, which operates 244 stores in Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan. The stores bought are Michigan cities such as Birmingham, Dearborn Heights, Dearborn, Sterling Heights, Westland and Imlay City. However, the purchase does not include the two Farmer Jack stores in the city of Detroit, which already suffers from not enough grocery stores, even though most officials believe retail needs to support a hoped-for resident resurgence.

The Kroger purchase will close in July, and terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Kroger has 2,468 stores in 31 states, with names such as Kroger, Fry’s and Dillons..

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