Wholesalers vie for retail sales - The Packer

Wholesalers vie for retail sales

08/28/2013 01:44:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

The retail landscape in the nation’s capital remains thriving.

Distributors that send produce to the region’s many supermarket chains characterize business as highly active with retail chains competing for shoppers’ and wholesalers’ business.

“The retail market here is very competitive,” said Tony Vitrano, president of the Tony Vitrano Co., Jessup, Md.

Edward G. Rahll & Sons Eggplant on the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market at Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc., in Jessup, Md. Distributors say the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area enjoys a highly competitive retail scene.“The market does a fair amount of business with the many smaller chains and independent grocery chains. They continue to support the market well.”

Vitrano said the area enjoys a large variety of retail chains.

New entrants include Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Charlotte, N.C.; Wegmans Food Markets Inc., Rochester, N.Y.; Trader Joe’s Co., Monrovia, Calif.; and Whole Foods Market Inc., Austin, Texas, he said.

Those chains join the traditional retailers, including Giant Food Stores Inc., Carlisle, Pa.; and Safeway Inc., Pleasanton, Calif., that do strong business, Vitrano said.

“Everyone is represented here,” he said. “The retail end is holding up well.”

The presence of those major chains helps keep orders moving, distributors said.

In January, Magruder’s, a five-store retail chain based in Rockville, Md., announced it was selling all of its locations, at least one of which would stay open under the Magruder’s name, according to The Washington Post. The Post cited increased competition from larger retail chains as a reason for the sale.

‘The retail business is highly competitive, particularly for the traditional fill-in business,” said Jerry Chadwick, vice president of sales and marketing for Lancaster Foods Inc., Jessup. “The retailer needs the product but is calling other wholesalers too, so the wholesalers have to be competitive with the pricing.”

Sal Cefalu, owner and director of Jessup-based CGC Holdings, the parent company of G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc. and Capital Seaboard, said distributors are enjoying favorable retail demand.

Cefalu said there are pockets in the region that aren’t as strong in demand but in general, the better chains appear to be doing a good job and selling much produce.

“They have gotten more to the point to where they’re trying to merchandise their produce more as if they are in a fruit stand scenario,” Cefalu said.

“That may be more appealing than it was years ago when their merchandising was more generic.

“They looked at canned goods and they looked at produce. It was there but not as appealing. Today, when you walk into these produce departments, they do jump out at you. The way they merchandise fresh, it makes you feel more inviting as if you were walking into a farmers market. It’s a good thing on their end and they’re much more inviting than they were 20-30 years ago.”

Cefalu distributes produce to retail and wholesale customers through Cefalu & Bro. and serves its restaurant clients through its Capital Seaboard foodservice operation.

T.J. Rahll, operations manager of Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc., Jessup, said retail and foodservice produce sales remain strong.

“It’s been good,” Rahll said.

“It has been a decent year for us. Everyone always says things could be better but in this part of the country, as always, there’s always a lot of demand and a lot going on here. People are always wanting produce here. Same with the region, the Northeast. There are many people here and it makes for strong demand.”



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