Big Apple sees strong retail competition, variety of stores

03/21/2013 03:01:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

NEW YORK — Retail competition remains fierce in The Big Apple.

More than most other metropolitan areas, New York sports a variety of retailers open all hours.

Those stores range from small stores and neighborhood bodegas to smaller upscale stores all the way to the large national chains.

The smaller stores rule in borough neighborhoods, including Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, while larger chains dominate the suburban areas.

Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market, said the market plays a key role in helping keep the neighborhood bodegas and green grocers competitive.

“When you get right down to it, they’re miniature supermarkets,” D’Arrigo said. “Rather than running a Gristede’s or a D’Agostino’s, people will visit a bodega to save time. Produce is their calling card, along with flowers.”

The market maintains a close relationship with those retailers, D’Arrigo said.

“There’s a symbiosis between the small green grocers and the small independent restaurants in this huge market,” he said. “If they weren’t so numerous, we wouldn’t be so big. We at the market are a product of what this town is.”

Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce and floral for Kings Super Markets LLC, Parsippany, N.J., said the region’s retailers do well displaying and selling produce.

“This is one of the best areas of the country to come see fresh produce merchandised,” he said. “New York is fabulous in its city-type stores. Everyone’s kind of unique in who they serve.

“Shop Rite is the market leader here, and they do a great job. If you’re a poor merchant, you won’t last long up here.”

Competition among larger chains in the suburbs and into the boroughs keeps supermarkets competitive.

“The competition here is still pretty fierce,” said Joe Granata, director of produce for RLB Food Distributors LP, West Caldwell, N.J. “The landscape is changing. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there with all these chains being bought and sold. Everyone’s waiting to see how everything falls out.”

Granata cited Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu Inc.’s recent shedding of stores and noted how Montvale, N.J.-based Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.’s Food Emporium, an upscale chain serving Manhattan, is now for sale.

The region’s independent operators are expanding, said Jeff Young, a buyer for A&J Produce Corp.

“The supermarkets are doing fairly well,” he said. “They’re expanding and providing more customer service. The solid chains are expanding. There’s also more depth of product.”

Ira Nathel, president and vegetable buyer of Nathel & Nathel Inc., said there are fewer green grocers in the city.

“They’re not like they use to be,” Nathel said. “You don’t see as much of the just-produce store. We had a big influx ... coming into the retail business 35 years ago. They were selling mostly produce. Now they sell mostly everything else.”

Mike Cochran, sales manager and vice president of Robert T. Cochran & Co. Inc., said retail sales remain consistent.

“They seem to be doing OK,” he said. “People don’t buy as much as they use to though, that’s for sure. It is noticeable.”

Bruce Klein, marketing manager of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., Secaucus N.J., said retail sales are steady.

“They’re doing OK,” he said. “It’s just these high prices. The much higher prices in the stores slow business. Retail movement was certainly better before the January freeze.”

Coosemans New York Inc. sells to a variety of supermarket customers.

“They complain but they’re doing a little better, in terms of sales, than last year,” said Alfie Badalamenti, vice president. “They do a pretty good job displaying and merchandising the product.”



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