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Workers recently were busy renovating a former Fairway Market in Manetto Hill Plaza in Plainview. The plan reportedly is to open Long Island’s first Amazon Fresh supermarket at the site.

“We missed having a supermarket in the shopping center,” said a worker at Optical Image, in the shopping center near the vacant store.

While Long Island has long been a land rich in supermarkets, it is now the center of a kind of global food fight over suburban shopping dollars. In a time of supermarket shuffles, more players are jumping into the fray.

German grocery retailer Lidl is growing and Aldi has arrived from Italy, and now Amazon, after acquiring Whole Food Market, reportedly prepares to open its first Long Island Amazon Fresh in a shopping center owned by Kimco Realty Corporation.

That decision, first reported in Newsday, which cited building department documents, was then reported by Progressive Grocer, although Amazon has declined to comment.

“It’s a competitive marketplace. King Kullen is a player along with Stop & Shop and you have ShopRites out here,” Marcum National Food and Beverage Practice Leader Louis Biscotti said. “Those are all significant players. I think it will get even more competitive.”

Walmart as well as specialty players such as Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace vie for a share of the Long Island market and the territory of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner table.

“It’s nice and clean and the people are friendly,” Mark Marajh said as he exited a fairly new, massive ShopRite near a Lidl.

Another shopper minutes later exited a Lidl, where a ShopRite had been until it moved to a larger location. “I love it,” the shopper said as he left Lidl. “The pricing is good. Lidl brands are great.”

On the most basic level, demographics are driving a grocery gold rush on Long Island as loyalties are tested, toyed with, and changed.

“There’s a place for everyone. Look at Costco and the Kirkland brand,” Biscotti said of Costco’s private label. “It depends on the consumer and what they’re looking for.”

Suffolk County in 2019 had about 1.5 million residents, including 489,000 households, while Nassau had 1.4 million people and 448,000 households. A lot of players want a piece of this massive shopping cart, which only seemed to grow during the pandemic.

Lidl, which operates around 11,200 stores in 32 countries, has grown to 125 stores in the United States, since entering the market in 2017. Lidl said it’s offering $200 to employees to get vaccinated, as supermarkets seek to stay safe and attract consumers in-store.

“Lidl has made it a priority to adapt our policies to work better for our people during this pandemic,” former Lidl US CEO Johannes Fieber said of the chain that operates more than 10 stores on Long Island

Lidl on May 19 converted a Best Market it acquired in Westhampton Beach to its Lidl brand. “Best Markets was a big acquisition for them,” Biscotti said. “That was a good inroad in the Long Island marketplace.”

Aldi has grown to more than 2,000 stores in the United States. Since opening in Bay Shore in 2011, Aldi has grown to more than half a dozen on Long Island and roughly 15 in New York City and Long Island combined.

“Long Island is an important market for us,” an Aldi U.S. executive told Supermarket News in August 2020.

Longtime local presence ShopRite, a cooperative including individual owners operating under the ShopRite banner, has been growing. New Jersey-based Wakefern Food Corp., the cooperative’s merchandising and distribution arm, reported $18.3 billion in retail sales for the 53-week fiscal year ending Oct. 3, 2020, up 9.75 percent from the prior year.

“Our customers turned to us for reassurance and for the things they wanted and needed for their families during this challenging time,” Wakefern President and COO Joe Sheridan said.

The Greenfield family, led by father and son Jon and Seth Greenfield, own and operate the 68,000-square-foot ShopRite of Country Pointe in the new Country Pointe center in Plainview and four other ShopRites on Long Island.

Meanwhile, Amazon Fresh, which operates stores smaller than the typical supermarket, reportedly will take 33,000 square feet of the 55,000-square-foot former Fairway, relying on big data and smaller stores.

“There’s a big debate on that,” Biscotti said of store size, as some retailers seek to target tastes with big data, while others seek to go big.

Amazon in 2017 bought Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion and opened a chain of Amazon Go convenience stores with high-tech check out.  “When they bought Whole Foods, Amazon had a vision,” Biscotti continued. “They’re trying to ramp it up.”

Amazon opened its first Amazon Fresh store in August 2020, in Woodland Hills, Calif., and operates roughly a dozen and reportedly plans to open nearly 30 more with automated checkout technology.

“Supermarkets must have up-to-date technology. You go into a store and promotions can be downloaded directly to your phone,” Biscotti said of tech becoming more common. “It will direct you to the shelf.”

He said retailers need to tailor selection to neighborhoods, using data and artificial intelligence to better serve shoppers. Supermarkets also are “adding ancillary service and things that attract the consumer,” Biscotti said.

In addition to beefing up delivery, supermarkets sometimes offer pharmacies, financial centers, sitting areas to eat, restaurants and, now and then, live music.

Amazon could shake up the supermarket industry, but the company doesn’t have a monopoly on the Midas touch. Amazon in 2016 launched the 365 by Whole Foods Market chain, but by 2019 converted the stores to Whole Foods stores.

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