New York…It is almost a decade since Pomegranate first opened in Flatbush. It set a new standard for kosher shopping with its modern design, quality foods and upscale offerings. Since then, independent kosher supermarkets with at least 20,000 square feet of space have opened in many heavily populated Jewish areas. It also prompted many existing kosher grocers to significantly upgrade their stores, often offering convenient parking and adding many new categories. “The idea,” said one retailer, “was to create a one-stop kosher shopping experience.” However, the independents have faced increased competition, as Kosher Today reported in recent months and 2018 appears to be shaping up as a continuation of what one owner called “the squeeze.” Not only have the independents faced competition from other independents, they also have to contend with a growing kosher presence in the discount chains such as Costco and some even say that Amazon has cut into their business with their ever-increasing offerings of kosher foods.
In 2018, several new independents are scheduled to open, some under the Seasons brand and rumors are rife that the heavily discounted Bingo chain will also open in Lakewood and Monsey, two primary kosher destinations. Referred to by some as a kosher Costco, the store is part of the Osher Ad chain in Israel which by the end of 2018 is scheduled to have 20 stores in Israel. Although it does not offer the variety and quality of the independents, it is particularly popular with Orthodox Jewish large families because of the significant savings it offers. “With rising costs and increased competition, “it will be anything but a walk in the park,” said the retailer about future prospects for the independents. Of course, one beneficiary of the increased competition will be the customer, particularly those that live in densely populated Jewish neighborhoods. He points out that “all of us will be forced to slash our margins and significantly increase our marketing expenses.” All in all the independents are hoping that their progressive model of focusing on good food, variety and a good shopping experience will help them maintain their market share in 2018.