Many people come to Manhattan for business or pleasure, and there is no question that the Manhattan Retail Tour offers a unique perspective on food retailing as progressive retailers attempt to maximize sales in a space-constrained environment with sky-high rents.
Yet one can’t really understand the dynamics of the market if that is all one knows. Going out to the suburbs and seeing different kinds of stores is essential.
This year, the New Jersey Retail Tour was laid out especially by Paul Kneeland, Vice President of Produce & Floral for Kings Food Markets and President of the Eastern Produce Council.
We asked Pundit Contributing Editor Keith Loria to catch up with Paul and let us know what the tour had in store:
Vice President of Produce & Floral
Kings Food Markets
Q: As someone who has been directly involved with The New York Produce Show and Conference since its origins, why do you think this is such an important event for the industry?
A: There is just nothing like it in the area. Incredible seminar programs, student programs, media program, tours of the region. A substantial event, but intimate at the same time. It is like family getting together with brilliant guests from all over the world.
It is great timing too, right before the holidays, leading up to New Year’s, it’s a good time for retailers and other buyers as well as exhibitors and vendors to plan for the upcoming year.
Q: You were tasked with the responsibility to organize this year’s New Jersey Retail tour. Give me a little preview of what people can expect.
A: We had some repeats last year of the same stores so this year we decided to change things up with the tour. We decided to stay on the Coast, so as the busses come out of Manhattan, we will go to Jersey City first, which is kind of an eclectic town. It’s an up-and-coming area with a lot of professionals from Manhattan choosing to live there. The first store we’re going to see is a Morton Williams store and that’s going to be a real treat.
Q: Guide us on the journey. Where do you go next?
A: From there we go to a newly renovated Pathmark store up in Edgewater, a very cool town with outstanding views of Manhattan. When you go up to River Road, you can see the skyline perfectly. The Pathmark is a great store for people to see. From there we go up the road a little bit to the Whole Foods in Edgewater, a smaller format Whole Foods with all the bells and whistles you would expect.
Q: Sounds like a great tour so far, what’s next on the trip?
A: We’ll head to Fort Lee to an H Mart, a Korean grocer up there. Very different merchandising with a lot of focus on Asian vegetables and fruits; bulk merchandising. They put the pallet right on the floor and just let people grab stuff. It’s a very active and busy store and it’s really cool. They have several locations and are headquartered in New Jersey.
From there we’re going to go to King’s in Cresskill, continuing up the county. A very kind of cool store; high-end and upscale and serving a different kind of customer than H Mart obviously. It’s a smaller, affluent community, and the store has been newly rebranded with all the bells and whistles.
Q: From looking at the list, that seems to end the New Jersey part, but you have one more stop planned—although not in New Jersey itself. Can you explain?
A: We’re going to loop around to Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers as we make our approach back to the city. This is a totally different store, more of a farm-stand-type of store, big, open with lots of open air displays. After this we will be heading back to the hotel.
Q: What goes into creating a tour that’s interesting and will appeal to attendees of the show?
A: The blend of stores that we chose this year offers a great mix of every type of merchandising you would see in the state of New Jersey. You get a good feel of competition and you get to see different areas.
Q: With several great tours being offered to guests at the show, what would you say to convince them that the New Jersey Retail Tour is the one they should choose?
A: We’ll be in the city for the show for three days and we do have an outstanding tour set up for New York as well, which includes the Chelsea Market and Grand Central Market and some other cool places like Gotham Market. You can get a good taste of New York with those. But for people who want to venture out more and see more of metro New York, which is what we call New Jersey basically, this is a great way to do that.
Q: What do you hope those taking the tour will walk away with?
A: The idea that the global market strategy of all of these retailers is totally different, so there’s opportunities for many different sellers of products… you can quickly see where you can sell to. As a buyer, you get to see the door-to-market merchandising of these different stores. Store executives will meet us at each of the stores and do a quick explanation of the customer focus.
Q: From year’s past of people taking this tour, what has been the response—what do you hear most when people leave the bus?
A: They are often amazed. I think a lot of people have a negative connotation of New Jersey but it’s completely not true.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about this year’s New York Produce and Conference?
A: I’m very excited about being at the Javits Center. I’m looking forward to the Global Trade Symposium, where there’s always incredible programming. And the expanded amount of exhibitors will be incredible. I’m looking forward to the whole thing.
As are we all and the tours are a big part of the event.
If you are already registered and would like to add the New Jersey Retail Tour to your registration, just let us know here.
You can register for the whole event, including the New Jersey Retail Tour, right here.
We can help you with hotel rooms if you let us know what you need right here.
Get one of the last booths available by contacting us here.
And consider sponsoring one of the tours or other parts of the event right here.
We look forward to seeing everyone in New York…and New Jersey!