ShopRite was once again the big winner among all food and drug retailers in the $93.1 billion Food Trade News region, according to data published in our 36th annual retail market study.
While it was a challenging year for most merchants, independently-owned ShopRite stores with help from its corporately-owned sister operation, PriceRite, continued its recent string of successes and gained share with strong identical store sales and 10 additional stores that opened during the past 12 months.
ShopRite and its parent firm, Wakefern Food Corp., expanded its lead in the two largest markets in the Northeast – Metro New York and the DelawareValley – and this year’s survey revealed it has nearly doubled the share of its next closest rival, Stop & Shop (13.84 percent vs. 7.69 percent).
The Food Trade News market study covers a 70-county area ranging from Litchfield County and New Haven counties in Connecticut to Franklin County, PA and as far south as New Castle County, DE (see coverage map on page 8). The measuring period of the study was from April 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014.
Once again, most retailers in the region found business difficult as tremendous overstoring, a still unsettled economy (especially for those in the lower middle and lower economic strata) and expanded shopping options continued to gridlock progress. Last November, when food stamps (SNAP benefits) were reduced by 11 percent, sales were also impacted.
Despite the ultra-competitive environment, there were some winners. Besides, ShopRite/PriceRite, Wegmans, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Costco moved the sales needle forward. Companies like Fairway Market, despite poor earnings results which collapsed its stock price, and Acme Markets, which for the past decade has lost market share each year, also noticeably improved sales performance. Among the battle of New York City urban merchants, Key Food fared well.
As for annual losers, a couple of once iconic retailers, the “not so” Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company and Kmart, once again headed that dubious list. Both organizations continued to close stores and hemorrhage sales and share. Other retailers whose regional sales (compared to last year) trended downward included Stop & Shop, Rite Aid, Weis Markets and the independent retailers who trade under the ShurFine/ShurSave banners supplied by AWI.
Of the top 10 retailers, ShopRite/Price Rite increased its lead this year by adding more than $750 million in sales and opening 10 net new stores. Overall volume in the 70-county region was estimated at $12.81 billion with 239 stores, including 227 ShopRite units. The Keasbey, NJ-based firm has at least another half-dozen new stores in the pipeline including the first member owned PriceRites in Garfield, NJ (Inserra) and Camden, NJ (Ravitz), both which should open in the next 120 days.
After several years of positive progress, Stop & Shop hit a sales barrier this year, similar to other operating divisions of Ahold USA. The global retailer’s Purchase, NY-based division operated three fewer stores this year (193) and saw sales drop approximately $15 million as competition in all retail channels impacted the conventional supermarket merchant. For the 12 months ended March 31, Stop & Shop’s sales were $7.15 billion.
While Stop & Shop had a year full of competitive challenges, A&P had another train derailment. The Tea Company operated 19 fewer stores in its core Metro New York-Philadelphia region and saw not only overall volume plummet, ID sales also continued their downward pattern of recent years. During the past 12 months, CEO Sam Martin departed and was replaced by Tea Company chairman Greg Mays on an interim basis. In March, the Montvale, NJ chain promoted former COO Paul Hertz to the chief executive post and also elevated two other existing executives. More than a few trade observers feel the time is close at hand when A&P (Pathmark, Waldbaum’s, Food Basics, Food Emporium, and Super Fresh) will have to sell or close a significant block of stores or consider filing Chapter 11 again. For the year, A&P sales are estimated at $5.72 billion for its 262 stores in the region, down from $6.21 billion a year ago.