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Attorney General Weiser continues his grocery merger listening tour

Glenwood's former Safeway lot (which closed after the Safeway-Albertsons merger) now sits empty, waiting to be developed into new housing or shops.
Hattison Rensberry
Glenwood's former Safeway lot (which closed after the Safeway-Albertsons merger) now sits empty, waiting to be developed into new housing or shops.

In the latest installment of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s grocery store listening tour, his team visited Eagle County to hear from locals about the possible Albertsons-Kroger merger. The next morning, Weiser met with KDNK’s Hattison Rensberry in Glenwood Springs to talk about some of the community’s concerns.

"Weiser:
First, I learned that after the Safeway Albertson's merger, Glenwood went from two supermarkets to one, and that there used to be a Safeway here that closed, and now there's only the city market. The questions that we're asking get to, what did that mean for consumers? What I heard was consumers afraid that that could happen in that community, and the concerns that it means less choice, less resilience.
If one store's out of eggs, they can't go to the other one and higher prices cause they can't compare prices. This workers were concerned about potentially losing their jobs and what it could mean for them. And then we had a person show up who was a small business owner who wants to be able to sell to the stores, and he was concerned too.
So a range of different concerns came up. A second point I would mention that came up last night for some of the, Community leadership and governmental leadership is if you get a grocery store that closes that actually can limit the entire property. You're often the anchor tenant of the mall. The small businesses that are there.
They lose business if the grocery store closes. So there's second order effects that happen from these sorts of closures as well. So the next stop on our grocery listening tour is in Cortez. In a couple weeks, I'll be down in Cortez to hear from community members there. How they see this merger. The actual decision won't come till early 2024 when I will have to decide, do I think this merger violates the antitrust laws? If I think it does, our next step would be to go into court to oppose it.

Rensberry:
Sure. A lot of these meetings so far, these are rural areas. What does this issue look like for rural areas specifically that you feel the need to go and get involved in those areas?

Weiser:
First, it's important to me as the attorney general for the entire state to show up. And to listen to community members on every issue specifically on this issue, one of the questions that came up last night, and it's an issue that will come up everywhere, is what is the relevant geographic market? Because if you don't know the community, you might. Suggest hypothetically, well, people in Eagle County could go to Frisco and shop at a Target there, except nobody in Eagle County thinks that's a remotely reasonable thing to do, and nobody actually does that. It's critical to show up to learn from people. When I went to Gunnison, I learned that people from Lake City go to Gunnison to do the grocery shopping. So we're gonna make a decision based on the actual market realities, and the only way to make that decision is to learn from the people.

Rensberry:
Is there anything else that you'd like to share in regards to this topic in particular?

Weiser:
Whether or not you're able to make it to any of our upcoming community workshops, you can submit your comments at coag.gov/grocery merger."

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.