Trouble Stalks The Aisles At A&P

When James Wood took over as chief executive of Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. back in 1980, the supermarket chain seemed ready for the check-out line. A&P's stores were overdue for a face-lift, and the chain's financial position was precarious. Enter Wood, a onetime grocer's apprentice from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, who quickly shuttered 600, or 38%, of all A&P stores. He then spent the next nine years on a $2 billion acquisition and modernization drive, buying chains such as Kohl's Food Stores, Shopwell, and Waldbaum's. The payoff: A&P's earnings grew by 27% annually from 1986 to 1990.

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