PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia’s retail landscape is well represented by major Northeastern supermarket chains.
Distributors say retail sales remain steady but sales to foodservice buyers are challenging.
Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., said many small independent retailers are faring well.
“You have some retailers in this area doing very well,” Maxwell said. “Others are struggling. It depends on their economic conditions and who they’re owned by.
“Some local independent chains are doing well,” Maxwell said. “They’re nimble. They can react on a dime and not have to wait for corporate buying structures to approve something.”
Supermarket competition remains fierce, said Todd Penza, salesman for Pinto Bros. Inc.
“Retailers are working harder to become more competitive,” he said. “They’re trying to lower their costs and pass the lower costs on to their customers. I think the retailers are finding value in working with wholesalers as opposed to just growers.
“The wholesalers can give them flexible pricing and better control over their inventory to allow the change when they’re busy and to not have the shrink,” Penza said.
Many supermarkets remain in an expansion mode, said Mark Levin, a co-owner of M. Levin & Co. Inc.
“I see more stores opening all the time,” Levin said. “Wegmans is opening more stores, all the large independently owned chains. A lot of independents are expanding.
“This is a good thing, and I give them credit because they’re they day-to-day operators, the ones who go into the stores every day and see what’s happening, unlike some chain stores based elsewhere.”
The area’s foodservice jobbers aren’t reporting strong sales, distributors say.
“Everyone says it’s tough,” said Rich Clark, owner of Jesse Pitt Co. “The economy is affecting everyone, and expenses keep going up. I think people may be going away from expensive restaurants to cheaper ones and are doing more casual dining.”
Martin Roth, secretary-treasurer of Coosemans Philadelphia Inc., agrees that foodservice still lags.
“They’re no different than anyone else,” he said. “They’ve seen the slowdown. Some do better now, during the summer because their business is close to the shore. With all the people on vacation, they’re doing well. But when people finish their summer vacations, these distributors will feel the economy’s effect.”
Many chefs still visit the market to find deals, particularly on specialty produce, said Jimmy Storey, president and owner of Quaker City Produce Co.
Storey said George Perrier, chef and owner of Philadelphia’s Le Bec Fin restaurant, frequently visits the market.
Storey said foodservice jobbers are mixed on the state of their sales.
“Some say business is up while some say it’s down,” Storey said in early August. “They had a good spring. The summer now is very slow.”