David Hill shopped at the Martin’s Food Markets store on Forest Hill Avenue in South Richmond on Wednesday afternoon aware that the grocery store will be closing Aug. 2.
“We work at the school a couple of blocks away. So this is really the most convenient grocery store for us,” said Hill, who was shopping with a friend. “I don’t know where we are going to shop once Martin’s closes.”
Martin’s Food Markets announced that the eight remaining Martin’s stores in the Richmond area and one in Williamsburg not being sold to Publix Super Markets will close July 10 and Aug. 2.
Employees at the stores were told Wednesday morning.
The four stores that will close July 10 are:
- 6401 Centralia Road;
- 5201 Chippenham Crossing Center;
- 11361 Midlothian Turnpike; and
- 4660 Monticello Ave. in Williamsburg.
The following stores will close Aug. 2:
- 253 N. Washington Highway, Ashland;
- 12601 Jefferson Davis Highway;
- 200 Charter Colony Parkway;
- 7045 Forest Hill Ave.; and
- 5700 Brook Road.
“Throughout this difficult process, our top concern has been to take care of our associates and treat them fairly and with respect,” Tom Lenkevich, president of Giant/Martin’s, said in a statement.
“We know our associates’ continued dedication to our customers will provide excellent service in the coming weeks. We are also making a best-in-class commitment to take care of our people with a strong severance package,” he said.
Martin’s previously announced that another store that Publix is not buying — the store at 10001 Hull Street Road in Oxbridge Square Shopping Center in Chesterfield County — will close June 30 when the store lease expires.
Florida-based Publix is buying 10 Martin’s stores, seven of which have already closed and are undergoing renovations before reopening. The first renovated stores are expected to open this summer.
A manager at the Martin’s store on Forest Hill Avenue had no comment about the pending closure. Customer traffic at the store was steady Wednesday afternoon, with many customers aware that the closing date had been announced.
Customer Nathaniel Kimball said he lives in New Kent County but works nearby so he often stops in for lunch and prefers Martin’s over a Food Lion located less than a half-mile away. A Target store is in the same shopping strip as Martin’s, and Aldi and Walmart have stores nearby.
“That would leave Food Lion as the other major (grocery) store in the area if a Publix doesn’t come in here,” Kimball said. “Aldi is all right, but there is a lot of stuff you can’t get there so it’s not really the same like a Kroger or a Martin’s.”
Martin’s tenure in the Richmond market was relatively short.
The grocery chain’s parent company, Royal Ahold NV, bought the former Richmond-grown Ukrop’s Super Markets chain in February 2010 and converted those stores to Martin’s. The family-run Ukrop’s chain had operated in the Richmond area since 1937.
Last year when Royal Ahold NV merged with the parent company of Food Lion, Belgium-based Delhaize Group, federal antitrust regulators required the merged entity to divest itself of stores in markets where their business overlapped. Ahold Delhaize sold 10 Martin’s stores to Publix and put the others up for sale.
Jeff Metzger, publisher of the grocery industry publication Food World, said Richmond’s extremely competitive and oversaturated grocery market made finding buyers for the remaining area Martin’s stores difficult.
Aldi has opened 11 stores in the Richmond area since April 2015. Wegmans opened two stores last year, and market newcomers Publix and Lidl will begin opening stores here this summer. German-based Lidl on Wednesday announced that some of its first U.S. stores will open as early as June 15.
Food Lion recently announced that it was spending $110 million to remodel 71 stores in the greater Richmond region. Kroger and Walmart have made significant investments in area stores, including Walmart opening four of its Neighborhood Market grocery-only stores.
Walmart overtook Martin’s in 2016 as the region’s No. 1 grocery retailer, a spot that Martin’s had held for three years, according to market share data reported by Food World last year.
The challenges facing Martin’s have been “really tough” on the Martin’s employees, Metzger said.
“They have been operating in lame-duck status for about a year, actually more than a year,” Metzger said.
“One could argue they have sort of been in no-man’s land for five years, since shortly after the Ukrop’s acquisition. There really hasn’t been a direction. I don’t think Martin’s did a good job of understanding what was needed of them, what was expected of them. Whatever consumer research they did in terms of transitioning from Ukrop’s to the Martin’s banner didn’t catch on.”
Martin’s competed on price, Metzger said. But the stores never provided the level of customer service that the traditional Ukrop’s customer experienced or expected, he said.
Ukrop’s was facing strong competition from Kroger and Walmart when Martin’s bought Ukrop’s.
“The market was changing. I don’t think Martin’s from the outset was effective in capturing any particular segment, not even the ones who were seemingly gettable as former Ukrop’s customers,” Metzger said.
Hill, who chatted while loading groceries in his car, said the loss of Martin’s is not as profound as the loss of Ukrop’s.
“We would have cared more if it was Ukrop’s, because we liked Ukrop’s a lot better than Martin’s,” he said.
Martin’s did not immediately release a count of employees losing jobs when the stores close — but employee layoffs at the stores being sold to Publix ranged from just under 100 to nearly 200 employees per store.
Kroger, Publix, Lidl and Aldi have all held jobs fairs in recent weeks looking for grocery store employees.