September 29, 2014

Club and Discount Stores Raise the Bar on Kosher, Led by Wal-Mart

CHICAGO — It was nearly two years ago that a Wal-Mart spokesman revealed that the mega discounter carried kosher products in more than 500 stores, part of a growing trend where Club stores and discount chains like Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, and BJ’s were investing more in kosher. For Wal-Mart, its emergence as the nation’s largest grocer meant that it was only a matter of time that the mega discounter would challenge supermarkets with an emphasis on kosher. Every summer Wal-Mart becomes a serious competitor in kosher at its Catskills stores where sales are said to approach $3 million for just the 10 short weeks of the summer when tens of thousands of Jews descend on the Upstate New York resort area. But in its new store in Skokie, Wal-Mart is raising the bar on kosher with hundreds of kosher products, including Cholov Yisrael products and glatt kosher meats. Most notable in the new store is its rather impressive large signage of kosher aisles, special refrigerators and freezers and even bakery. Its average kosher section in many stores is about 12 square feet compared to 100 square feet for the Skokie store.

It is interesting that in Skokie, Wal-Mart will be taking on the impressive Kosher Marketplace in Jewel-Osco, the city’s largest interdependent exclusive kosher supermarket, Hungarian Kosher and the small Kol Tuv market. Soon to come will be a new Marriano’s supermarket that has already announced its intention of including a robust kosher section. But Wal-Mart is not alone in its quest for a share of the kosher market, as Costco continues to upgrade its kosher offerings as is Target and BJ’s. While many kosher purveyors expressed delight at the Wal-Mart development, they acknowledge that “it is still very much an experiment for them.” Said one: “They admit that they are learning a very complex subject but in the end the customer will decide just how far Wal-Mart goes.”