WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned witnesses during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Protection hearing titled, “Examining the Competitive Impact of the Proposed Kroger-Albertsons Transaction.” Durbin questioned Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen about the impact this merger will have on rural America.
“I think of my hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois, Kroger has been in that area for a long time. And I think of the efforts that I tried to put in, and a lot have joined me, to try to reestablish a grocery store in a town of 20,000 people... It is a battle, I have it all over my state: in rural areas. How can this help these communities by having fewer stores?” Durbin asked.
Mr. McMullen responded that their vision is to “serve America and when we look at serving America, that’s every community, and every community is important to us.” He further stated that not only is it part of their business, but that they “enjoy serving rural communities.”
Durbin then challenged Mr. McMullen to think about the future of supermarkets and consider what is going on in rural areas.
“The markets are closing, but dollar stores are opening. And sadly, the groceries that are available to people in those dollar stores are limited, expensive, and really don’t embrace things like fresh produce… Can you imagine a model where a dollar store offered something that was reasonable for food pricing? In a rural area or a small-town area? Could that work?” Durbin continued.
Mr. McMullen responded that they are testing smaller stores in rural communities and adjusting their delivery infrastructure systems. He reiterated that they are trying different approaches when it comes to competing in areas where dollar stores are prevalent.
On October 14, Kroger announced its planned $24.6 billion purchase of Albertsons with the transaction expected to close in early 2024. Currently, each company has a significant presence in Illinois: Kroger operates 104 retail stores in the state, including more than 44 Chicago-area Mariano’s stores and about 10 Food 4 Less stores, with over 14,000 associates; Albertsons operates 188 Jewel-Osco stores, most of which are in the Chicago area.
Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.