Fulton Grocers Produce Pricing Perspective at Public Hearing

FULTON, NY – Local Fulton grocers concerned about competing against a big retailer with deep pockets in an industry with already low profit margins spoke against granting special permit status to property on the city’s east side.

John Struppler, owner of Struppler's Sure Fine Supermarket, speaks during Tuesday's council meeting.
John Struppler, owner of Struppler’s Sure Fine Supermarket, speaks during Tuesday’s council meeting.

During Tuesday’ public hearing on the special permit for the proposed ALDI’s Food Store at the former Nestle’s site, John Struppler, owner of Struppler’s Sure Fine Market, and John Hart, Save-A-Lot franchisee, each stepped to the podium to speak to councilors and the mayor about the already intense local food market competition.

While Struppler and Hart each expressed a desire to see the former manufacturing site transformed into an asset again, they both asked councilors to consider whether introducing a new store into an industry that already has many competitors operating at such low profit margins is good for the community in the long run.

“With all due respect, I know you guys spend a lot of time running the business of the city and really not too involved with the grocery industry in general, but having spent more than  35 years in the business I can assure you that probably, by putting another store in this market, people are going to go. There just isn’t room,” Struppler told the councilors.


“This isn’t just somebody crying, ‘Oh there’s more competition,'” Struppler explained. “We’ve got competition. We already have two budget floor plans – you have Walmart low pricing and you have Save-A-Lot, and then you have the conventional floor plans like Price Chopper and myself.”

Then he added, “We beat each other to death every day.”

Alluding to ALDI’s ability to out-compete small businesses by virtue of its buying power, and to sustain suppressed pricing due to the company’s size, Struppler called the foreign-owned grocery chain an 800-pound gorilla.

“There aren’t a lot of little grocers left anymore. They’ve been trashed by the big companies,” Struppler said. “Connect the dots. You had Walmart come here, P&C went and eventually KMart went. You’ve got Kinney’s over there in what is a great spot, but you lost the Rite Aid over where the community college used to be and the Rite Aid up the street. We put ice cream places in all over and Sweet Inspirations is gone. Sunshine Produce is gone. That’s my argument – people will go.”

In its January edition, Stores Magazine lists ALDI as the ninth largest global retailer with 2012 sales of $73 million. Walmart is first on the list at $469 million in sales for 2012.

According to a December press release, ALDI plans to invest $3 billion to open 650 new sites across the US in the next five years at a rate from 80 to about 130 stores each year.

Struppler explained to councilors that his customer base radius is already limited by competition from surrounding communities which compress his market area.

“If you head toward Oswego you’re going to lose business to Price Chopper, Walmart Super Center, ALDI, and the Paul’s Big M there,” he said. “You go back the other way to Clay you have Wegman’s, you have BJ’s, you have ALDI, you have Price Chopper, and shortly you’re going to have that Walmart become a Super Center. Clay has formerly P&C’s Tops and Baldwinsville has Tops. So, you leave the Fulton market in any direction – you don’t have to go very far really – before it goes to another market.”

Save-A-Lot franchise owner John Hart at the podium during Tuesday's Common Council public hearing.
Save-A-Lot franchise owner John Hart at the podium during Tuesday’s Common Council public hearing.

Next to speak at the hearing was Save-A-Lot franchise owner John Hart.

He opened the Save-A-Lot franchise in the Neighborhood Plaza on West First Street about 10 years ago.

“Save-A-Lot has been hurt the past two years because of the bridge being worked on,” he said. “We rely a lot on walk-in traffic. We lost all that because now customers walk down to the other bridge, and Price Chopper is right there. We’ve had a lean past year-and-a-half or so.”

Hart said one difference between his store and the ALDI Inc.’s model is customer service.

“ALDI’s runs a very low payroll, I’ve heard it’s around 2 percent,” Hart said. He noted that at his five stores he spends about 6 percent of the gross sales on employee payroll expenses.

“We have from 22 – 26 employees (in Fulton),” Hart said. “In our meat departments we have several well-paid people. Meat cutters are hard to come by and you have to pay them well.”

The local grocer added, “I could almost guarantee that there will be at least one less grocery store in town if ALDI’s comes to town, and there will be a net loss of employees.”

Hart said his Save-A-Lot stores average size is about 16,000 square feet.

The store proposed at the former Nestle’s site by ALDI Inc. is 17,600 square feet.

Mayor Ron Woodward reminded the retailers during the hearing that the purpose of the special permit was to get the property back into play.

“If ALDI’s went away tomorrow, (the property owner) still needs that zone changed,” Woodward said. “Right now it’s manufacturing so unless you get another Nestle’s in there the property is worthless. You can’t use it for anything.”

Struppler and Hart each said after the meeting that they spoke their piece and would not pursue the matter any further.

“You can’t blame your consumer for trying to save money,” Struppler said.


  1. Strupplers & Save a Lot need to stop complaining.Did they whine when P&C was here?? NO.Bottom line is people do comparison shopping & in this economy saving to put good healthy food on the table is a priority !!When Strupplers was not affiliated with Shur Fine,I feel his prices were much more reasonable,and I did more shopping there than now.When save a Lot first came in,they were reasonably priced also but now,you can go in one day and see one price on a item,then return in less than a week & prices have jumped tremendously.I personally do a lot of shopping for everyday “staples” i.e. cereal,rice,vegetables at Aldi’s to save money.I buy quality fresh meat at Strupplers.Not all in fulton rely on food stamps(which is the bulk of save a lots customers).My husband & myself work hard for our income and we save where we can.I am excited to see Aldi’s coming into Fulton !!

  2. we have enough grocery stores in Fulton. There is only so much business to be had in Fulton. Consider the grocery business a whole pie. If you add another mouth to feed the portions get smaller. If Fulton thinks they are gaining tax revenue, employment and sales tax they are wrong. If one or two of the other stores closes then those employees will be unemployed and you don’t get sales tax from a closed store. I have been part of these poor decisions over the years. I hope this does not happen.

  3. How many Fulton families travel to Oswego or Clay to shop at Aldi’s? With an Aldi’s coming to Fulton these families will be able to avoid the trip out of town and keep the tax dollars in Fulton. While Fulton people are out and about in Clay or Oswego, they are not just spending their pay checks at Aldi’s. They are making other stops and supporting other out of town businesses. Maybe we will see other Fulton businesses have increases in sales once we get our own Aldi’s?

  4. Fulton has been in dire need of another grocery store since Tops left and PC moved in. Folks on the west side had nothing until Wally World came to town. Now the East Side is getting something new and the old timers which have a grip on things are afraid. Boo Hoo. They’ve known about such a possibility since Walmart sent feelers out years ago. Evolve or go the way of the dinosaur. The Nestle site needs to be leveled so other businesses have a clean slate to work from. No manufacturer is ever moving back in. The old timers are stuck in the business model which existed in the 80s. Save a Lot is reliant on the foods tampers and those folks could care less what prices are since it’s taxpayers money feeding them anyhow. Where I live now there are at least a dozen different grocers, all stacked on top of each other. They all bicker but they all fill a niche and do okay. Embrace change or get out of the way.

  5. omg stores get a life the east side dont have stores except the cauga st which it starting to be a dept store instead a grogery older folks and people that dont have money for taxis it is hard for them to get food across the river on the west side i think we need a food store there and the cauga st store is to high the food sucks i have had spoil meat from there . but back to the problem and they cant take the bus cause u cant bring your monthly grogreys on there so i say the hell with the others stores and bring in aldis it good for jobs as well . save alot prices is getting high . and eerytime a stores remodel they raise the prices so we have to paid i have seen it time after time
    i vote for the store

  6. If it’s a choice between sav a lot or a lids, we need to keep Sav a lot. That’s an easy choice. Regarding those that leave town to go to Aldis, it’s much further to find a sav a lot! Sav a lot employs Fulton residents, who have families, and need this income to survive. I’m sure our mayor doesn’t shop there, so he has no idea, but we need to keep our employers in town, not drive more away! I personally shop at both places, but if it’s an either or situation, I would keep the one we have and only travel 10-12 miles to go to the other. I’m not even sure where another Sav a lot is!

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