Where Pathmark and Kmart once ruled, now there’s Aldi and Lidl.
The rival German hard discounters each opened a new store this week in Hazlet, N.J., a town of about 20,000 in Monmouth County, near the Raritan Bay.
Aldi’s new store, which opened Nov. 27, replaced an existing smaller unit directly across Route 35 and occupies a portion of a store that once belonged to defunct supermarket chain Pathmark. Twenty-four hours later, Lidl’s newest U.S. store opened in a new building alongside the now-empty former Aldi.
The following photos illustrate the scene around those stores—and others—in a shifting northern New Jersey shore town.
A worker behind the fresh bakery near the entrance of the new Lidl puts some doughnuts on display. This is still the only “service” department in Lidl stores, but it is an offering the neighboring Aldi does not have. A spokeswoman said 50 to 60 workers were employed at the store.
Lidl was bright, busy and a little chaotic on opening morning as shoppers found their way around for the first time. Among the visitors outside were a few dozen picketers representing the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, calling attention to another nonunion employer in the once union-heavy industry.
Directly across Route 35, a newly relocated and larger Aldi was beginning its second day in its new environment. The store occupies one end of a large retail site that once included now-defunct Pathmark and Kmart stores. Parking on this side of the road is plentiful, compared to the old location, and visibility is great thanks to a towering sign in the lot now bearing the Aldi logo that can be seen from a distance.
For stores with a seemingly similar offering, the Hazlet branches of Lidl and Aldi give off decidedly different vibes. Where Lidl’s extremely bright front end, neon pricing signage and digital signboards tends to off come off frenetic and noisy, Aldi is comparatively chill: sedate, quiet and dim in beiges, grays, browns and dark ceilings.
This Aldi had six checkout lanes and no self-checkout. This store maintains Aldi’s customary practices—shoppers release their own shopping carts with a quarter and bag their own groceries. For the opening, Lidl had baggers stuffing paper bags for free, offered a self-checkout option and carts came with no required deposit.
Unique sizes and formulations for store brands make precise comparisons between the discounters—not to mention conventional competitors—difficult to make. But on this day, Aldi had a price edge on 8-ounce bags of kettle chips (95 cents at Aldi; $1.39 for a similar offering at Lidl). Half-gallons of organic 2% milk were also cheaper at Aldi ($2.69 vs. $3.29 at Lidl).
The larger footprint of the new Aldi is giving the store room for more variety, including tiered offerings of nearly all of its grocery products and a larger fresh food section. Lidl by contrast appeared to have tiered offerings only on some products. This selection of Aldi coffee includes organic and fair trade-certified single-origin coffees, the premium Specially Selected German roast, and less-expensive offerings under its Barrissimo label.
The new discounters are surrounded by conventional and unconventional competitors. Just north of the stores on the same road is a modern ShopRite owned by one of Wakefern Food Corp.’s largest independents, Saker ShopRites. The Saker family also owns the unique farm stand, nursery and specialty foods store known as Dearborn Market, just a mile south of the stores in Holmdel. A Costco and a Stop & Shop are also close by on that same stretch of road.
Holmdel is also home to New Jersey’s only Best Market store. As WGB recently reported, Best Market is in the process of being acquired by Lidl, which has plans to gradually convert it—along with 26 other Best Market stores—to the Lidl brand beginning next year.
For this Best Market, a switch to the Lidl format would appear to promise big changes. This store competes on fresh prepared foods, service meat, seafood and bakery departments and a gigantic Boar’s Head service deli. Barring something unforeseen, none of these things would necessarily work under Lidl, indicating Best Market's real estate and not the format, is what attracted its new owner.
This would give Lidl two stores within less than two miles, and combined with recent (Union, N.J., and Eatontown, N.J.) and shortly arriving (Staten Island, N.Y.) units, is building real density in metro New York.
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