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Expert breaks down what potential Martin’s sale could mean for RVA

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Since the reported merger of the companies that own Martin's and Food Lion and the potential sale of 20 Richmond-area Martin's stores as a part of the merger plan, some loyal customers have said they are worried about what their grocery future may hold.  However, local business experts said shoppers should not be concerned, but instead, excited about new possibilities for Richmond consumers.

"It should be a good thing," said Dr. Adam Marquardt with the Robin's School of Business at the University of Richmond.

Marquardt said the Ukrop's-Martin's sale in 2010 set the stage for the grocery shuffle Richmond customers are seeing now because,"it opened up business that wasn't there before."

Construction is well underway on two Wegman's stores, one in Midlothian and one in Short Pump, that will be the popular grocer's initial foray in the Richmond Market.  Publix announced in February it has signed on to open the company's first Central Virginia location off Nuckols Road in Henrico.

The number of grocers are growing in Richmond, but federal regulators do not allow one company to possess a larger than normal share of an area through a merger, according to industry experts.  That is where the planned sale of 20 Martin's stores comes into play.

Dr. Adam Marquadt with the Robin's School of Business at the University of Richmond.

Dr. Adam Marquardt with the Robin's School of Business at the University of Richmond.

"Those stores would seemingly represent an overlap issue for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which has yet to make its divestiture list public before we went to press," wrote supermarket publication Food World when the potential sale was first announced in March.

"The combined Food Lion and Martin's merger takes the combined company up to the break point," said Marquardt, who expects a supermarket chain with a track record of success in other locations to buy the 20 Martin's stores.

"For a company like Publix, this is an ideal market for them to enter," said Marquardt when asked what company he sees as the most viable option.

The growing grocery competition in Richmond means more options for consumers, according to experts.

The review process of the potential merger is still underway, and there have been no public comments made about possible purchasers of the Martin's holdings.  The parent companies of Food Lion and Martin's expect their merger to be finalized by the middle of 2016, according a statement released in March.

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