PORT JEFFERSON STATION, N.Y. -- Advantage Stores, the new club-like supermarket here, is off to an impressive start, operating at a 5% higher margin than anticipated.
Brian Robinson, Advantage's president, said the store, which opened June 22, has been operating on a 32% margin.
While not a traditional supermarket, Advantage certainly is competing for grocery dollars, particularly in Center Store. It offers Long Island consumers a club-type atmosphere, without charging a membership fee or forcing them to buy bulk. Displaying products on pallets, the store offers conventional-size products, covering all the major categories in grocery, health and beauty care and general merchandise. Approximately 50% of the store's inventory is made up of grocery products.
Robinson said stores operated by Melmarkets, Garden City, N.Y., and King Kullen Grocery Co., Westbury, N.Y., are the two closest supermarket competitors, with a Waldbaum's unit not far away. Between 1,200 and 1,300 customers visit Advantage a day and the average sale is about $18, said Robinson. "That's low by supermarket standards, but we don't have meat or produce. We have a lot fewer stockkeeping units than traditional grocers."
Advantage is using low milk prices to draw in shoppers. "We run it every day at 89 cents for a half-gallon. And sometimes we run coupons for 80 cents (limit two)." Another successful promotion has been offering a 32-ounce Gatorade for 90 cents.
Advantage, which is situated in a low- to middle-class neighborhood, accepts MasterCard and Visa and has recently been approved to accept food stamps as well.
In newspaper ads Robinson runs each week, he has adopted an aggressive stance by comparing Advantage's prices with the likes of Edwards Super Food Stores, based in Windsor Locks, Conn., and Waldbaum's, Central Islip, N.Y. In a recent week, an Advantage ad featured items such as a 48-ounce Parkay Spread at $1.44, compared with $3.12 and $2.99 at Edwards and Waldbaum's, respectively.
While other area retailers may be apprehensive of Advantage, Robinson said suppliers are generally happy to have the new outlet.
"They're looking to support us in terms of special promotions, keeping us abreast of deals, and helping us with point-of-purchase signage and displays, which is really what the whole concept is all about."