Larry’s Asks for Bankruptcy Protection
By George Anderson
Last year, Larry’s Markets was planning to add up to 15 new stores. Yesterday, the Kirkland, Wash.-based grocery store operator filed for federal bankruptcy protection so that it can continue to keep stores open and pay employees until it can sell its six locations.
The upscale grocer, which first opened in 1945, has undergone restructuring and management changes in recent months but the moves were not enough to offset its debt load and deal with increased competition in the markets it serves.
Bert Hambleton, a grocery industry consultant out of Issaquah, Wash., said Larry’s problems may have been the result of the company losing its identity in recent years. With competitors popping up on all sides including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods on one end and Wal-Mart Supercenters on the other, Larry’s tried to keep its specialty image while going to conventional grocery store marketing techniques such as price/item ads.
“They tried too many things, contradictory things,” he told the Seattle Times.
Larry’s CEO Mark McKinney is hoping that an investor will see the equity built up in the Larry’s name and continue to operate the stores under that banner.
“It’s a great opportunity for somebody to come in and make the company even better,” he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Mr. Hambleton doesn’t think it likely that Larry’s will find a single buyer for its six locations.
“I suspect that Larry’s Markets as a brand is probably done,” he said. “They (buyers of the stores) would be doing it so they could get the real estate.”
Moderator’s Comment: What do you think brought Larry’s to this point? What lessons are there for other independent
grocers from Larry’s failure? – George Anderson – Moderator
- Larry’s Markets, upscale icon, loses out to the competition
– Seattle Times
- Larry’s shopping for a buyer – Seattle Post-Intelligencer