Over the course of the last year, a sign of the bubbling tension at Market Basket has been evident in Revere, Attleboro, and Waltham: Completed stores standing unused in the first two locales, and a period of stalled construction on a planned Waltham store.
On Monday, Arthur T. Demoulas—Market Basket’s new boss (who is, of course, the same as the old boss)—suggested the company would get the projects moving along again. He had previously said so earlier this week after reaching a deal to buy Market Basket. But Demoulas offered a little more detail Monday according to WCVB, saying he is hopeful at least two new stores will open before the end of the year. Demoulas also said Revere would come first, WCVB reports.
With the already-finished Revere store a stated go for the end of the year (and the also complete Attleboro location probably a safe guess as to who has second dibs), Demoulas said that the company may have to scale back on its short-term expansion plans as it works to recover financially from the summer’s events. Even beyond the tens of millions of dollars lost during a customer boycott and operational shutdown in July and August, Demoulas must now manage the debt he took on to buy out the chain—a figure The Boston Globe reports is somewhere near $1 billion, and is said to include private equity financing and a mortgage loan.
Following Demoulas’s agreement to buy Market Basket, some have suggested the company may need to raise prices or cut worker compensation in order to deal with the new financial circumstances. Some analysts have disagreed, and said that lying low on capital projects is another option. It’s one Demoulas seemed aligned with Monday. “If we have to cut back on some of our new store expansion from four or five stores to two or three stores, we’ll do that as well,’’ Demoulas said.
Another Market Basket store is slated for Littleton, as is one in Athol. Plymouth has also been considered a likely site for another store in the near future.
Demoulas’s June firing as CEO can be tied in part to new store openings in the past few years. Among the issues raised by shareholders supportive of his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas was that several new stores in recent years served to benefit Arthur T.’s side of the family, whose real estate and development companies have been deeply involved in their construction. The Revere and Waltham locations both have those sorts of ties.
Such connections accounted for just one of the many conflicts that inflated the long-time rivalry at Market Basket, which exploded over the past year—and especially the last two months. Prior to his firing, Arthur T.’s management team said it was holding off on opening the Revere and Attleboro stores due to the behind-the-scenes tension with the board. The Waltham store’s development was also held up for similar reasons earlier this year.
The delays in Revere and Attleboro have not pleased officials, with the mayors of both cities writing letters to the company calling for the stores to open soon.
Arthur T. took questions from reporters outside the Chelsea store Labor Day morning. He also reflected on the corporate strife over Market Basket’s leadership and future that carried through the summer. He said his “first order of business’’ was to “say thank you millions of times over’’ to the employees and customers that protested for his return.
He also spoke of the ongoing efforts to get the company back up to speed, saying stores were about 75-80 percent back to normal, and would be at 90-95 percent in a few days. Several Market Basket managers have told Boston.com this weekend that customer counts are normalizing to their pre-boycott levels, and echoed Arthur T. in saying they expect to be close to fully stocked by the end of the week.
Market Basket currently operates 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.