Wakefern Food Corp. turned in slightly higher retail sales for its 2019 fiscal year, executives said yesterday at the retailer-owned grocery cooperative’s annual shareholder meeting.
For the 52 weeks ended Sept. 28, sales for the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer and Dearborn Market supermarket banners totaled $16.6 billion, a 0.7% gain from about $16.5 billion in 2018.
"It's a time of great change and challenge in our industry, but we're excited for the journey ahead,” Wakefern Chairman and CEO Joseph Colalillo told about 800 shareholders, store management and staff gathered at event, held in East Brunswick, N.J. “With every new program we roll out, we are committed to providing the best shopping experience for our customers and creating the supermarket of the future.”
In fiscal 2019, Wakefern members opened six new ShopRites, including locations in Cromwell, Conn. (Garafalo Markets LLC); Port Jefferson, N.Y. (Gallagher Family Markets LLC); Wyckoff, N.J. (Inserra Supermarkets Inc.); Shrewsbury, N.J. (Saker ShopRites Inc.); Cortlandt, N.Y. (ShopRite Supermarkets Inc., a replacement store); and Riverhead, N.Y. (K Thompson Foods LLC).
Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern also added a new retail banner during the fiscal year: Gourmet Garage. The independent food retailer, acquired in late June by Springfield, N.J.-based Wakefern member Village Super Market Inc., operates three small-format specialty markets in Manhattan.
Giving an update on in-store initiatives, Wakefern Executive Vice President Chris Lane said the ShopRite banner next month plans to introduce two new store brands, Bowl & Basket (food) and Paperbird (household products). The new labels, both of which offer value pricing, will usher in a transformation of ShopRite’s own-brand lineup.
On the value front, ShopRite also recently instituted the “Right Price Promise,” a commitment to everyday low prices on items that customers buy most frequently. The strategy is designed, in part, to help position ShopRite as a one-stop shopping destination.
"With these pioneering launches, we are truly elevating the ShopRite experience for each and every customer who walks through our doors," Lane said at the meeting. "We are ready to deliver to the next generation of shoppers the products and store experience that will make ShopRite their market of choice for their family meals, foods on-the-go and grocery needs."
Technology, too, is playing a key role in Wakefern’s efforts to provide an enhanced shopping experience in stores and online, according to President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Sheridan.
In late July, Wakefern and automation partner Takeoff Technologies opened a robotics-driven warehouse in Clifton, N.J., to help fill online grocery orders. The micro fulfillment center (MFC) will serve ShopRite stores in North Jersey and New York operated by Wakefern member Inserra.
Online service enhancements include the ability for customers to design custom cakes, order catering and deli items and chat with ShopRite dietitians.
"We are embracing change because customers are embracing change — the way they shop, the way they work and the way they live," Sheridan noted. "We are pairing high-tech with a human touch to provide the very best shopping experience. Today's customers want great online shopping options, but they also want a personalized experience. Our promise is that we will deliver all of that to our customers."
Also at the meeting, Wakefern shareholders re-elected board members and officers, including Colalillo as chairman and CEO; Larri Wolfson, Dominick Romano and Irv Glass as vice chairmen; Lawrence Inserra Jr. as trreasurer; Jeffrey Brown and Sean McMenamin as assistant treasurers; Richard Saker as secretary; and Ned Gladstein, Nicholas Sumas and Shawn Ravitz as assistant secretaries. In addition, Sheridan was re-elected as president and COO and Lane as executive vice president.
Overall, Wakefern’s 50 members own and operate 352 supermarkets under various banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia.