Long Island Grocer Lidl. This shows the Islip store.

Long Island Grocer Lidl. This shows the Islip store. Credit: Lidl

Discount grocer Lidl’s conversion of the former Best Market supermarkets it took over on Long Island should be complete by early 2022, when the German chain expects to have at least 23 stores bearing its name on the Island, a spokesman said.

In addition, Lidl will build its first new-construction store on Long Island, at 450 Commack Rd. in Deer Park, sometime next year, as the chain continues its push to have 50 supermarkets on the Island by 2029, said Will Harwood, spokesman for the grocer.

There are now more than 800 people working at 19 Lidl stores on Long Island, including a store at 155 Islip Ave. in Islip that reopened as a Lidl on Wednesday after being closed as a Best Market about six months ago for a remodel, Harwood said.

"We’re seeing great enthusiasm across the Island for the concept and the savings and the quality that you’re able to bring home," he said.

Lidl entered the Long Island market in January 2019, when the retailer’s U.S. arm finalized its purchase from Bethpage-based Best Market of 27 stores, including all 24 on the Island, for an undisclosed price.

Since then, the discount grocer has been remodeling the former Best Market stores in phases and converting them to the Lidl name. Lidl is spending more than $100 million on its Long Island stores, Harwood said.

As part of Lidl's move onto Long Island, the grocer permanently closed five Best Market stores – in Great Neck, West Islip, Hicksville, New Hyde Park and Riverhead.

In addition, Lidl has opened three new stores in spaces that had been vacant – in Plainview, Center Moriches and Riverhead.

The new Riverhead store, which opened at 1151 Old Country Road in a former Toys R Us space in June, is considered a replacement for the former Best Market at 1088 Old Country Road in Riverhead that Lidl closed in February.

Four more Lidl openings are planned on Long Island:

  • Two former Best Market stores — in Shirley, at 800 Montauk Hwy., and West Babylon South, at 531 Montauk Hwy. — that closed in February for renovations are scheduled to reopen as Lidl stores this fall.
  • A Lidl planned for an early 2022 opening in Garden City Park, in a former Waldbaum’s space at 2475 Jericho Tpke., will be considered a replacement for the closed Best Market in New Hyde Park.
  • A former Best Market in Commack, which was at 84 Jericho Turnpike in the Mayfair Shopping Center, will reopen as a Lidl on the same property, but in a different space, in early 2022.

Owned by the Schwarz Group, Lidl operates about 11,200 stores in 32 countries. After opening its first store in the United States in 2017, it now has more than 150 U.S. stores across nine East Coast states.

Vying for grocery dollars

Competition among grocers continues to heat up on Long Island, where new players are entering the market and traditional grocers are losing some of their foothold on grocery dollars.

For example, Amazon plans to bring its new-concept, high-tech grocer, Amazon Fresh, to Long Island, with two stores planned for Oceanside and Plainview, according to documents the Seattle-based company filed with state and local government agencies.

Discount grocer Aldi opened two Long Island stores last year — in North Babylon and at Green Acres Commons in Valley Stream ­— that brought its total store count on the Island to eight. And the German chain plans to open a Shirley store in October, Aldi South Windsor Division Vice President Chris Daniels told Newsday in June.

Last year, Walmart converted one of its 12 stores on Long Island to a supercenter, which included adding a grocery store. The only other supercenter on Long Island is in Valley Stream, but the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer plans to open its third local supercenter, in Yaphank, by fall.

And Lidl’s acquisition of most of Best Market’s stores in 2019 left one major, family-owned grocery chain on Long Island, King Kullen.

Lidl has the seventh-highest sales among supermarkets on Long Island, according to a June report from Food Trade News, a Columbia, Maryland-based publication.

The chain performs well in upper-income areas like Long Island, despite the area’s high cost of living, said Jon Hauptman, senior director of Inmar Intelligence, a retail industry analytics company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

"The advantage that Long Island has is its relatively strong density of population, so … they don’t need a lot of traffic to do well financially because they have a very efficient business model," he said.

As a limited-assortment grocer, that business model includes having stores that are smaller, carry fewer items and offer more private-label products compared to traditional grocery stores. About 80% of Lidl’s products are from its own private-label brands.

The biggest challenge for grocers like Lidl that focus on brick-and-mortar sales is that millennials and other young shoppers don’t have the loyalty to grocery stores that their parents do, said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food Trade News and a Wantagh native. Young consumers also are doing a growing share of their shopping online, so they won’t be swayed as much by the potential to save money, he said.

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