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More disruption in grocery: Earth Fare closing all stores

Earth Fare

Earth Fare has been done in by debt and ongoing disruption in the retail grocery marketplace. 

The natural and organic foods grocery chain announced that it is beginning liquidation sales as it prepares to close its stores and corporate office. It is the third specialty grocer in recent weeks to seek a buyer or shut down operations, following in the steps of New York-based Fairway Market and Boulder, Colo.-based Lucky’s Market, both of which have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Earth Fare has implemented numerous initiatives in recent years aimed at growth and expansion and enhancing the customer experience. But the grocer, which operates approximately 50 stores in 10 states, said its efforts were not enough.

“While many of these initiatives improved the business, continued challenges in the retail industry impeded the company's progress as well as its ability to refinance its debt,” Earth Fare stated. “As a result, Earth Fare is not in a financial position to continue to operate on a go-forward basis. As such, we have made the difficult, but necessary decision to commence inventory liquidation sales while we continue to engage in a process to find potential suitors for our stores.”

Private equity firm Oak Hill Capital owns an 80% stake in Earth Fare, which was founded in 1975. The retailer said it has notified all employees of the impending closures and will continue to pursue a sale of assets, in whole or in parts, during the liquidation process. 

Earth Fare sells foods and products that it says are free of hormones, antibiotics, preservatives and artificial ingredients. In line with its focus on “clean food,” Earth Fare stores feature products and programs to make it easier for shoppers to incorporate a better-for-you eating strategy into their lifestyles.

It has been challenged by increased competition in recent years, not only from online players and specialty grocers in its sector, but also by more traditional ones such as Kroger, Publix and Walmart, which have increased their natural and organic assortment.

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