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2012 Power 50: No. 16 Joseph Colalillo

It’s been a record year for Wakefern Food Corp., which hit $12.8 billion in retail sales while expanding ShopRite’s reach into new markets.

In the north, the Keasbey, N.J., cooperative’s wholly owned retail operating division, ShopRite Supermarkets, entered New York’s Capital region with two corporate-owned stores in Albany, while Wakefern member Klein’s Family Markets — one of 47 operating 206 member-owned ShopRites — expanded its growing Mid-Atlantic presence with last month’s opening of a Baltimore store. New England also shows promise as Wakefern sees growth in several stores opened in Connecticut in the past two years, Joseph S. Colalillo, chairman and chief executive officer, told SN.  

After capitalizing on the bankruptcy of rival A&P and taking on new competitors, Colalillo is looking for more opportunities in these areas. “We continue to focus on smart growth,” he said.

As a second-generation Wakefern member and president of three ShopRite stores in Hunterdon County, N.J., Colalillo possesses the entrepreneurial spirit with which he credits ShopRite’s success. Despite operating stores in six states, ShopRite’s small independent operators  respond to customers’ needs quicker than most.

“Each and every member of our cooperative is part of a family business. As independent operators, we recognize that every new competitor is looking to put our families out of business. It’s that personal investment that a chain operation simply can’t replicate,” Colalillo said.

Indeed, attention to detail helped ShopRite top Publix, Costco, Kroger and Safeway in a Market Force consumer poll about their favorite grocers (results were indexed by store count).

In the coming year Colalillo will improve on that service by enhancing digital capabilities in-store and online. ShopRite presently offers ShopRite from Home, which allows visitors to place orders for at-home delivery or pick-up at partici pating stores. Though he did not provide specifics, future enhancements may aim to draw new shoppers to its direct distribution model.

“There are consumers out there in our marketplace who don’t even shop our stores but are going online for health and beauty aids, they are going online for diapers — they are going online for all these items that we sell, so we can’t just give up on that customer. We need to find a way to capture that business,” Colalillo told SN in September.

Wholesale is also a growing business for Wakefern, which posted $9.5 billion in warehouse sales in fiscal 2011, and recently began operating a produce warehouse in Newark, N.J. A grocery warehouse in Elizabeth, N.J. is expected to become fully operational by May 2014.

Colalillo is especially proud of the past year’s accomplishments since they  came amidst a transition in leadership. After 16 years in his role as president and chief operating officer, Dean Janeway was succeeded by former Executive Vice President Joe Sheridan. “Our organization has realigned with its new structure and we continue to make changes as we move into a new phase of our company’s history,” Colalillo said. 


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