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Wal-Mart Joins Market Competition

Last summer, Wal-Mart amped up the supermarket competition in Levittown, opening a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Hempstead Turnpike—the first in New York State, according to the company's website. 


Both eager customers and angry protestors showed up to the spot formerly occupied by Waldbaum's in the Levittown Mews for the grand opening. 


Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets, as distinct from Wal-Mart stores, offer fresh produce and fruit, meat and dairy products, bakery and deli items, household supplies, health and beauty aids and a pharmacy. By now, Levittown residents have had a chance to evaluate the mega-retailer's grocery offerings.  Some are embracing the new competition, although not necessarily for its price competitiveness. 


“Wal-Mart is a great supermarket with great people working there; they are always so friendly when I go,” said Levittown resident Ann Torcivia. “The prices are good, but could be better; they advertise better prices, but they don’t post them.”


Low prices have always been Wal-Mart's selling point, but experts warn that the discounts can snag you. “When you go into the store to buy a low-cost item, you often walk out with a bag full other items that are not low cost,” said Zulima Wiscovitch, executive director of the National Supermarket Association, a trade association for independent supermarkets, point out that not everything at Wal-Mart is cheaper than everywhere else.


Maria Gribbins, a Levittown resident and advanced placement biology teacher at Island Trees High School, said she can validate Wiscovitch’s point: She has purchased items at BJ’s Wholesale for $8.99 that Wal-Mart priced at $12.99.  Like many consumers, she eschews buying some types of item at the mammoth discounter. “I buy my meats at Stop & Shop” and elsewhere, she said, saying she can get similar prices when using supermarket coupons.


Nonetheless, she added, “brand-name prices are really good [at Wal-Mart].” She said she shops for items for her son Ryan, such as frozen pizza and various snacks, and also for low-sugar items for her diabetic husband. “These are usually expensive items,”  and Wal-Mart has them at half the price of regular supermarkets, she maintained. 


Bill Simon, the retailer’s U.S. chief executive officer, said in a recent interview with Supermarket News that Wal-Mart, after several years of unsuccessfully trying to crack the five boroughs of New York City, is now focused on increasing share in existing markets. Wal-Mart has a store in East Meadow, and one in Uniondale. The Levittown market, open 24 hours, employs 90 workers.