LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Albertsons and Smiths locations dominate the grocery industry in Las Vegas, and in an age where groceries are costing families more, concerns remain about cost, workers and competition if a proposed merger goes through.

The Albertsons-Kroger merger was announced nearly a year ago with intentions to close by early 2024. There are more than 20 Albertsons in Southern Nevada, along with over 20 Smiths, which are owned by Kroger.

What will happen to them if the merger continues? Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford says, “That’s the question.”

He joins at least 16 other states investigating the $24.6 billion merger, which Kroger says is to compete with the growing grocery success of Walmart and other companies. 15 of 46 Kroger-owned stores in Nevada would be sold to an east coast-based company, C&S Wholesale Grocers (owner of Piggy Wiggly and Grand Union), via a divestiture plan to sell 413 stores nationwide.

“Which stores will be divested? We don’t know,” Ford said during an interview with 8 News Now Wednesday morning.

Ford invited Las Vegas Valley residents to voice their concerns during a listening session Wednesday morning inside Henderson Town Hall. Little showed any support for the merger.

The Las Vegas Valley community gathers inside the Henderson City Council Chambers Wednesday morning to voice concerns about the pending Albertsons-Kroger merger with the Nevada State Attorney General and Federal Trade Commission Chair. (KLAS)

“Northern, south – we cannot afford this,” Marlene Drozd said to Ford. “D.C. doesn’t have a clue of what middle America wants.”

“Walmart is the largest retailer in the world, but they’re not a conglomerate as this would be. This would be specifically controlling groceries, and potentially pharmacies as well,” Matthew said.

“If you consolidate the bargaining power from four different companies down to one, they’re going to bargain what’s best for them,” another woman said.

“I want to be able to go to three different stores to get the best produce I can find,” her friend added.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan attended the session. The antitrust enforcement agency, along with the state, has the power to take the merger to court.

She vocalized skepticism while referencing previous mergers that did not uphold commitments and promises made prior. The Safeway-Albertsons merger of 2015, for example, included a divestiture plan that sold off stores to another company to ensure competition, which ended in a loss of competition when that company went bankrupt and closed those stores.

Outside an Albertsons in Henderson (KLAS)

“Agencies have been unlikely to actually follow through,” Khan said during an interview with 8 News Now after the session. “If there’s a merger that is presenting a lot of risk of reducing competition, may even create a monopoly, you know, we need to weigh those risks, and especially given that some of these remedies in the past have failed.”

“We should learn from my mistakes, and we should be able to, again, consider that in our informed decision-making process to ensure that if there are promises made, that there are ways to enforce those promises so that you aren’t burned,” Ford said to 8 News Now.

United Food and Commercial Workers, the union representing grocery store workers, asked if a “no closing and no-layoff clause” would be included in negotiations to ensure workers in Nevada stores maintain job security. Khan, instead and broadly speaking, mentioned the companies have made promises and commitments.

While the merger is intended to close in just a few months, it will likely take months longer if a lawsuit is filed in federal court. Khan says it typically takes six to eight months for judges to hand down a decision.

Attendees also referenced these sessions as a “foregone conclusion” with expectations the merger would not be challenged by FTC or the state regardless of community feedback. 

“We’re also hearing folks who actually support the merger. So again, the purpose of these meetings is to listen and to hear, and then to act upon that as we deliberate on this important issue,” Ford said.

Five other listening sessions are scheduled throughout the Las Vegas Valley with the state attorney general through the end of September:

  • Sept. 14, 2023 (7:00 pm) – Mt. Crest Community Center 4701, N. Durango Drive, Las Vegas NV 89129
  • Sept. 18, 2023 (6:00 p.m.) – Parkdale Recreation Center, 3200 Ferndale Street, Las Vegas, NV 89121
  • Sept. 20, 2023 (6:00 pm) – Doolittle Community Center 1950 J Street, Las Vegas, NV 89106
  • Sept. 21, 2023 (7:00 p.m.) – Desert Breeze Community Center, 8275 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas, NV 89117
  • Sept. 27, 2023 (7:00 p.m.) – Paradise Community Center, 4775 McLeod Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89121

Secretaries of Colorado, Arizona, Vermont, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maine and New Mexico sent a letter to FTC Chair Khan in August asking her to block the merger.