Stop & Shop has poured $133 million into remodeling some of its Long Island stores, as the battle for grocery turf heats up in the area.
The market leader for grocery sales on Long Island, Stop & Shop has remodeled 21 stores in Suffolk County to “improve the in-store experience for local customers,” the chain said in a statement Friday.
Upgrades, which varied by store, began in January and ended this week, spokeswoman Jennifer Brogan said Thursday. The changes included:
- new flooring and fixtures
- new kitchens on the sales floor of 17 stores to offer sushi bars, stir fry stations, salad bars and hot and cold prepared foods
- expanded selections of cheeses, produce and local and craft beers
- new cafes offering free Wifi and selling smoothies, coffee and food in 10 stores, including those in Smithtown, Lake Ronkonkoma and Riverhead
- expanded Italian sections with specialty sauces, pasta and self-serve olive oil and vinegar stations
- speedier checkout with the addition of Scan It! Mobile Pay, a type of “frictionless checkout” that allows customers to scan items on an app on their phones as they place them in their shopping carts and swipe their phones to pay at designated spots near the cash registers, at 15 stores
- convenience cases with milk, bread, butter and eggs near checkout aisles to allow customers to quickly pick up essential items.
- natural and organic products integrated throughout the stores.
- prices have been lowered on some items storewide
The changes were based on customer feedback, said Bob Yager, senior vice president of sales and operations at Stop & Shop.
“The most important thing for our customers is produce,” he said recently at the Smithtown store, one of the flagship locations for the renovations on Long Island.
The changes also focused on offering a better assortment of products storewide, making it easier for customers to get in and out of stores quickly, and adding more value, he said.
Stop & Shop, which employs more than 8,000 people on Long Island, has hired about 350 part-time workers since early 2019 to support the store changes, Brogan said.
Though no square footage was added, some stores may look bigger because one or two aisles were removed from 15 locations, so produce and hot foods sections could be expanded, Yager said.
Owned by Dutch company Ahold Delhaize, Stop & Shop is a Quincy, Massachusetts-based chain with more than 400 stores in the Northeast.
Stop & Shop is the biggest grocery player on Long Island, where it has 51 stores and accounts for 33.52 percent of the market share among all supermarkets, according to a June report from Food Trade News, a Columbia, Maryland-based publication.
With 16 stores on Long Island, ShopRite comes in a distant second, with 15.85 percent of the market share among all supermarkets.
Stop & Shop’s store upgrades come as Long Island is in the midst of significant changes in the retail grocery industry, including German discount grocer Lidl moving into the area with its takeover of Best Market this year, German discount grocer Aldi expanding into Nassau County with a new store planned for Valley Steam in the spring, and high-end grocer Whole Foods opening its fourth store on Long Island in April.
Stop & Shop's changes are in line with what’s necessary for traditional supermarkets to grow today, when they are losing out to specialty stores known for fresh produce and meat, and supercenters and dollar stores that compete on price, said Jon Hauptman, senior director at North Carolina-based Inmar Analytics.
“Consequently, Stop & Shop is focused on both ends of those spectrums with their renovations,” he said.
In January, Stop & Shop announced it was buying the 32 King Kullen supermarkets and five Wild by Nature natural food stores on Long Island — all owned by Bethpage-based King Kullen Grocery Co. Stop & Shop said the deal was expected to close in the first quarter, but it still hasn’t been finalized as “Stop & Shop continues to work through customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals,” Brogan said.
King Kullen has closed two of its “underperforming” Long Island stores since late June and plans to close a North Babylon location Sept. 26.