EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

July 18, 2013

Editorial: Demoulas directors should consider brand loyalty before ousting CEO

(Continued)

Store employees at Market Basket stores in Londonderry and at Haverhill’s Central Plaza set up tables outside the stores on Tuesday and asked customers to sign the “Save Market Basket” petition.

Kristi Cunningham, a Haverhill resident and mother of three, was eager to sign.

“I don’t want them to raise prices,” said Cunningham. “I pay enough to feed my family.”

Steve Burke, 60, a 41-year Demoulas employee who is now meat manager at the Haverhill store, was among those gathering signatures in support of Arthur T. Demoulas.

“The man has made a lot of money,” said Burke. “But he’s done a lot for the people along the way.”

Those who oppose the possible cousin switch fear the company would change — that the supermarket chain’s concern for employee well-being might diminish and prices rise.

Despite the longtime family feud, the grocery store chain has flourished at a time when storefronts are filled and vacated with alarming regularity.

It was a banner day in June 2011, when the new Londonderry Market Basket opened, all 108,000 square feet of it. Lemieux was justifiably proud of the new store, the largest New Hampshire had to offer.

But he made a point then, too, of speaking to the loyal employees, including the deli manager who had started working for Market Basket 20 years earlier, when still a high school student.

That kind of loyalty is tough to build and, once lost, close to impossible to regain.

On the eve of the Londonderry 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.

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 change directions.

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