Alabama retailer represents NGA on pandemic’s impact on small food businesses
Independent grocer Jimmy Wright testifies before U.S. House Committee on Small Business
Independent grocer Jimmy Wright, owner of Opelika, Alabama-based Wright’s Market, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, on behalf of the National Grocers Association (NGA), to discuss the effects of the pandemic on food businesses in a hearing titled, “How COVID-19 is Impacting Small Businesses Across the Food System.”
Wright said the pandemic has demonstrated how the economic playing field is tilted against small independent operators in several ways: lack of antitrust enforcement, dominance of power buyers in the marketplace, and limited ability to sell products to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) customers online.
“These are key competitive issues that will impair our ability to succeed in the grocery marketplace unless the federal government acts to stand up for Main Street grocers,” Wright testified. “Dominant retailers use their size and scale to impose discriminatory conditions on manufacturers and suppliers in a way that disadvantages smaller independents, which impedes our ability to compete,” he told the committee.
Expanding on his experiences with the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot, Wright said, “The technical barriers and costs of participating in SNAP online make it difficult for small retailers, who must also work through an extensive application and testing process. My store remains the only single-store operator to launch. [...] Independents need a quicker approval process, less technical barriers and lower implementation costs to compete.”
Wright concluded, “A level playing field is critical to preserving a thriving and vibrant independent grocery sector.”
Wright was one of four business leaders scheduled to testify virtually before the committee. Also addressing the House committee were Kimberly Gorton, president and CEO of Slade Gorton & Co. Inc., testifying on behalf of the National Fisheries Institute; Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union; and Collin Castore, owner of Seventh Son Brewing and president of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association (OCBA).
View a video of the hearing here.