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New Jersey supermarkets forced to close or adapt

New Jersey is dotted with supermarkets that have fallen victim to a tough business environment and a rise in competition. The supermarket landscape is evolving in the Garden State, and part of that evolution is the permanent closure of once-popular grocery store locations.

Stop & Shop Manalapan, supermarket
Stop & Shop on Route 9 in Manalapan is scheduled to close in July (Photo by Sherie Flammia)

The final Foodtown location in Ocean County, at the intersection of Routes 37 and 166 in Toms River, closed its doors June 20. The Stop & Shop on Route 9 in Manalapan is on its last few weeks, due to “operation performance.”

Linda Doherty, president of the New Jersey Food Council, said the supermarket business is one of low margins, with grocers making about a penny on the dollar, and the unwelcoming business climate in New Jersey doesn’t help.

“It’s a difficult state to do business with,” Doherty said. “A high tax rate, overregulated, wealth is leaving the state; it’s a challenging business environment.”

Add to that the mounting pressures from big box stores, dollar stores and drug chains, and grocery store closures aren’t so shocking. Doherty said online giant Amazon is also trying to get in the mix and take potential business from local markets.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, on the supermarket front. According to Doherty, certain chains, such as ShopRite and Whole Foods, are making big strides in New Jersey, but “you don’t see that in the news as much.”

Still-standing grocery stores are trying to adapt to the increased competition, pulling out all the stops to retain and attract customers.

Features such as digital couponing and home delivery can grab shoppers at both ends of the age spectrum.

Doherty said stores’ food options are going through a transformation as well.

“You’re seeing supermarkets now offering healthy food choices, helping customers prepare food at homes, offering recipes,” she said. “Grocery stores now have dietitians in them.”

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