DALLAS -- The recent flap over Fleming's buying practices illustrates once again the systemic trade-relations problems in the food-distribution industry. Jonathan Ziegler, managing director in the San Francisco office of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, New York, described the buying process as "extremely inefficient," adding that it impairs traditional food retailers' ability to compete with low-price rivals. He said part of the reason for the success of Wal-Mart Stores and Costco is that those ...

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