Richmond grocery store wars claim Gayton Crossing Martin’s

Posted at 6:58 PM, Aug 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-29 19:11:42-04

SHORT PUMP, Va. (WTVR) -- There are two dozen Martin's locations across Richmond. That is the same number since the company took over Ukrop's in 2010, but that will change on Oct. 26.

West End shoppers like Deane Smith will have less choice to grab groceries come fall.

"I've always enjoyed shopping here," said Smith, who lives in Henrico. "I was not surprised by the announcement it was closing because it was not that busy."

The Martin's at Gayton Crossing in Henrico's West End is closing for good. Martin's management said sales are lagging and the store is underperforming.

In a statement, a Martin's company spokesman said all 60 part-time workers will be offered positions at other locations.

However, the 37 full-time workers will just be offered part-time work at other Martin's stores. If they don't accept, the company said it will offer what they're calling "transition support."

CBS 6 News spoke with one full-time employee, who did not want to be interviewed on camera. The unidentified worker said the Martin's staff is in shock by Monday's announcement and that she will not agree to the part-time work offer and will likely retire.

University of Richmond School of Business Professor Tom Arnold said the grocery store landscape in Richmond has grown awfully tight in recent years with the addition of Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Fresh Market.

While customers have many choices, stores are fighting for the same amount of shoppers like Karen Kane, who said she is "not particularly too loyal to any one grocery store."

Arnold, who said companies always close underperforming stores,  would not be surprised to see the grocery wars claim other victims.

"It's become very crowded. If the population is not expanding, then that market is not really expanding," said Arnold. "And at some point you've got to shake off the stores that are bringing in profit for you."

Back at Gayton Crossing, the Martin's stores days are numbered. But customers say they'll keep shopping till the lights go out.

"It's very, very sad, but what is done is done," said Henrico shopper Kofi Howng. "I'm going to miss them."

A spokesman told CBS 6 News that there are no plans to close any others store locations in Richmond. Martin's will open a 74,000 square foot location in Midlothian next year.