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Supermarket's chain's struggles affecting many businesses

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 09. 2014 10:46PM
Karen Thomson of 1/2 Off Cards says business is up thanks to increased traffic at Hannaford supermarket next door at East Side Plaza in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Karen Thomson is seeing many new faces at her greeting-card store several doors down from the Hannaford Supermarket in the East Side Plaza on Hanover Street.

"They're all Market Basket customers coming to Hannaford's filtering into here," said Thomson, a sales associate at 1/2 Off Cards.

Sales are up about 30 percent in recent weeks since customers started boycotting Market Basket, but the sales uptick is bittersweet, since five family members work for Market Basket.

"We are very sad, but we are the winners," she said.

Market Basket customers flocking to rival supermarkets sometimes also shop other nearby retailers and eateries.

"I don't think it's any secret that Hannaford and Shaw's are benefiting from additional business from Market Basket customers," said Andy Levy, vice president of retail leasing at The MEG Companies, the plaza's property manager and leasing agent.

Main draw

Supermarkets bring people back to shopping plazas every week.

"That's why supermarket anchor tenants are the most desirable," Levy said.

"The anchor tenant is greatly important to the viability of any shopping center," Levy said. "The theory is the other small tenants will feed off that activity, so you need an anchor."

East Side Plaza could get another boost soon if a deal is inked to lease space in the former Building 19-1/8 space.

"There's strong interest from a couple of quality tenants at this time," Levy said.

"There is some extremely meaningful discussions," he said. "If that were to happen, that would totally enhance and change the dynamics of that shopping center."

Empty spaces

Levy said nine of 28 retail spaces in East Side Plaza are vacant, some due to national chains, such as Movie Gallery, going out of business.

Virkram Patel, who owns a Subway restaurant franchise on the other side of the plaza from the Hannaford store, knows what it's like when a major business departs a plaza.

He lost 30 percent of his sales when the Building 19 chain closed last year.

"The parking lot is full over there (by Hannaford). It's empty here," Patel said outside his store Friday.

Since Market Basket workers are picketing their new CEO, Patel said he has picked up five to 10 customers a week who formerly shopped at Hannaford, migrated to the Market Basket on Elm Street and since returned to Hannaford temporarily.

Pizza Market, located between the supermarket and the card shop, hasn't noticed a change in sales in recent weeks, according to a worker there.

Carol McCoubry, who works at East Side Cleaners, said business there has remained steady, but she knows Market Basket customers are coming to the plaza.

"I just see them walking around with their Market Basket bags," she said.

Remains loyal

Regular Market Basket shopper Anne Armstrong of Manchester doesn't like paying more at Hannaford.

"I know when I take something off the shelf, this is 50 cents more or 75 cents more than I used to pay at Market Basket," she said. Armstrong plans to return to her regular store "as soon as they open" fully stocked again.

Jenn Jenkins, a regular Hannaford shopper who lives nearby, pushed her cart through the Hannaford parking lot Friday morning.

"It's insane" at times inside Hannaford in recent weeks, she said.

Hannaford spokesman Jim Norton said the supermarket chain has seen increased business and hired more workers beyond the normal summer attrition, but he declined to cite specifics.

"We're doing more business, and I would assume that is to the benefit to others in the places where we do business or near the places where we do business," Norton said.A Hannaford store manager said he couldn't comment, but one employee there said he didn't mind the business spike. "Not complaining," he said.

More shoppers

More people are coming to the store riding along the Number 2 bus route, according to Mike Whitten, executive director of the Manchester Transit Authority.The MTA has expanded from two to five days a week its "shopper shuttle" that drops off people for an hour at Hannaford at East Side Plaza, while the MTA has dropped the Wednesday shuttle to Market Basket on Elm Street.

"We've rerouted that to Hannaford because no one was riding it," he said.

Cindy Boyd of Manchester normally would drive her motorized wheelchair five to 10 minutes to the Market Basket on Elm Street, but Friday she rode the "shopper shuttle."

She plans to return to Market Basket when stores return to normal.

"I'll be one of the first ones there," she said before catching the bus.

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