Regarding the May 29 Business article “Ralph Ketner, Food Lion co-founder, dies at 95”: I do not know whether any graduate business school published a case study about the demise of the supermarket chain Winn Dixie, but if they did not mention Ralph Ketner and Food Lion’s role, then they have been negligent.
Winn Dixie was the dominant supermarket chain in the Southeast for years, if not decades. That dominance gave it great pricing power, at least until Ketner and his competitive pricing strategy for Food Lion came along. Complaints about the prices Winn Dixie charged intensified as more people migrated to North Carolina during the 1970s and ’80s, so much so that the late NC Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Graham had to publicly defend Winn Dixie, saying the prices were high because they had to truck everything in. Because of its pricing power, Winn Dixie allowed its cost structure to grow unfettered.
Along came Food Lion with a low cost, low price strategy and the rest is history. Ketner benefited his shareholders, employees and communities as an enlightened capitalist through competitive endeavors. The only constituents not mentioned are the customers who shopped Food Lion and left with more money in their pockets than before Food Lion came to town.
John L. Schmidt
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