Saturday, July 19, 2008

Small-Format Food Retailing Special Report: Global Small-Format Food and Grocery Retailing News and Notes

The International Small-Format Food and Grocery Retailing Revolution Marches On

United Kingdom

On July 16, Britain's Co-operative Group and the Somerfield supermarket chain jointly announced they've entered into an agreement for the Co-operative Group to acquire the 900 store Somerfield chain for ~1.6 billion-p (British Pounds).

The Co-operative Group operates small-format food and grocery stores throughout the United Kingdom (UK), along with banks, insurance agencies, travel agencies and related businesses. As the name implies, the Co-operative Group is a cooperative-owned enterprise. In fact it's the largest multi-retail format Co-op in the world in terms of total annual sales in its food stores and other businesses.

The acquisition of Somerfield, which operates fairly small-format but conventional rather than convenience-oriented supermarkets, will transform the Co-operative group into the UK's fifth-largest food and grocery retailing chain, just behind number four Morrisons. Tesco is the nation's leading retailer, followed by Wal-Mart-owned Asda and Sainsbury's.

With the Somerfield acquisition, the small-format Co-op chain will have annual sales of about ~8 billion-P (British Pounds), with an 8% share of the nation's total food and grocery market. Number one Tesco has about a 31% share. Number two Asda has an approximately 16% markets share, followed by Sainsbury's with about 14.5%, and Morrisons with about 10%. The remaining market share is fought over by Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and a handful of other key players in the UK.

Two small-format discount grocers, German-based Aldi and Lidl, also are becoming major players in UK food and grocery retailing with their no frills, limited assortment little discount dynamo grocery stores.

While the Aldi and Lidl small-format stores are price-focused, as both Germany-based international retailers stores are throughout the world, small-format food retailing is a format explosion in terms of styles and offerings in the UK.

For example, Tesco's Tesco Express small-format stores (currently about 800 in the UK) are fairly middle-market food and grocery stores with an emphasis on convenience.

Sainsbury's Sainsbury's Local small-format stores are similar, but a bit more upscale and specialty-oriented than the Tesco Express stores.

At the higher-end, Marks & Spencer's small-format Simply Food stores are much higher-end and feature the retailer's popular specialty and gourmet store brand food and grocery items.

Waitrose is joining the higher-end small-format segment in two new ways: with its new 3,000 -to- 5,000 square foot Market Town food stores positioned for smaller cities and towns in the UK, and with its just recently announced new convenience food and grocery store operation, which will feature approximately 15,000 square foot food and grocery stores positioned in cities and suburbs.

The Co-operative Group's small-format stores offer basic groceries and lots of natural foods, including organic and locally-produced foods. The stores also are positioned as environmentally sustainable, selling lots of Fair Trade products, focusing on animal welfare issues and practicing green retailing as a way of doing business.

Eastern Europe: Romania

France's Carrefour, the second largest retail chain in the world after number one Wal-Mart, Inc., is growing its small-format Carrefour Express food and grocery store count in Eastern Europe, with a particular focus at present on Romania.

Carrefour will open two Carrefour Express grocery stores in the Romanian cities of Lugoj and Bistrita next week.

The launch of the two new Carrefour Express small-format grocery stores is part of the French retailer's plan to remodel the Artima supermarket chain, which the French retailer took over in October 2007. Artima's 21 stores acquired by Carrefour are being converted to the Carrefour Express format, which can range from stores as small as 3,000 square feet in urban regions to about 15,000 square feet. Thus far nine of the 21 Artima stores have been converted to Carrefour Express stores in Romania.

The two Carrefour Express grocery stores will reopen on July 23 and July 24 respectively, according to Carrefour, which means crossroads in French.

Carrefour paid 55 million euros for the 21-store Artima supermarket chain.

The France-based global retailer now operates two formats in Romania: large hypermarkets and the small-format Carrefour Express grocery stores. Carrefour currently operates 15 hypermarkets in Romania, along with the nine Carrefour Express stores, with 13 remaining Artima supermarkets set to be converted to Carrefour Express small-format grocery stores.


The India-based blog Twenty22--India On the Move, which stands for the year 2022 when independent India will be 75 years old, has a well-researched and written piece about food, grocery and other format retailing in the nation with world's second-fastest growing economy, after China.

A key focus of the piece is about India's Reliance, which is a huge, multi-format retailer. Among Reliance's fast-growing food, grocery, soft goods and hard goods retail formats, is its about 4,000 -to- 6,000 Reliance Fresh small-format food and grocery store chain.

The piece also talks about India's Tata Group, which is another multi-format retailer, including operating a small-format grocery chain, along with other companies in India's fast-growing retail sector. Click here to read the piece from Twenty-22.

United States

An Iowa mayor opens a small-format specialty food store on main street

The small-format food retailing revolution in America seems to be becoming so popular that it's even drawing politicians into the business. The mayor of the Midwestern USA city of McGregor, Iowa, Roger Knott, and his wife Lora, have opened a small-format specialty-focused grocery store on main street in the Iowa city he runs as mayor.

The new independent grocery store is named McGregor's Top Shelf. At about 5,000 square feet it features specialty, natural and gourmet food and grocery items, an upscale deli, specialty wines, spirits and craft beers, fresh produce and fresh, prepared foods, and high-quality fresh meats from a nearby purveyor, Edgewood Meat Locker, in Edgewood, Iowa.

According to his honor the mayor and the grocer, the main street building is brand new but is designed to look like an old fashion general store. Above the food store, the independent grocer/mayor and his wife Lora, build a small Bread & Breakfast Inn, which features a two-bedroom apartment, and balcony deck which is available for nightly or weekly rental. Bed & Breakfast tenants get fresh gourmet coffee and pastries from the small-format McGregor's Top Shelf grocery store as part of their rental of the two bedroom apartment.

McGregor's Top Shelf opening on the city's main street also is part of a growing trend in the U.S. in which grocers are opening smaller format stores in city neighborhoods and in downtown districts. This includes urban stores focusing on both basic groceries as well as on specialty foods and groceries.

A small-format gourmet rose for East Harlem, NYC

Speaking of urban America and small-format specialty foods-oriented stores, an Ottomanelli Brothers New York Grill will open soon at 1325 Fifth Ave. at 111th Street in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood, according to the owners of the family-owned, 100-year-old New York chain, best known for its prime cuts of meat, reports the New York Sun newspaper.

Known for its freshly ground meat, grass-fed beef, poultry, and game, Ottomanelli's operates five butcher shops and restaurants in the city. Nicolo Ottomanelli, who with his brother Joseph is chairman of the company, said his grandfather founded the business in 1900 with a pushcart on Delancey Street. Another Ottomanelli's store, on Bleecker Street, is owned by cousins, he said.

The new, 28,153-square-foot Ottomanelli's, situated on a tree-lined block not far from the Duke Ellington memorial, will feature a sidewalk café facing Central Park, the New York Sun reported last week.

East Harlem is going through a gentrification process in which the historically low-income neighborhood is becoming home to higher-income professionals who are flocking to the new residential developments being constructed in the neighborhood. In turn, these changing demographics are bringing in lots of higher-end retailers of all formats.

Will Tesco's Fresh & Easy feel the no-booze sales blues?

As we've written about before, Tesco's small-format Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery chain, which currently has 63 combination basic grocery and fresh foods markets in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, has self-service checkout in all of its stores. Shoppers scan their own grocery purchases and the checkout lanes, then bag the groceries themselves. The stores only except debit and credit cards, and cash. But not paper personal checks. Nor do the small-format Fresh & Easy stores cash payroll or government checks like nearly every American supermarket does.

The stores also offer what the retailer calls "assisted checkout," which means that if a shopper wants help checking his or her order they can request help from a store clerk who will either assist the customer or do the checkout for them. However, the shopper has to ask. In other words, the default checkout system is self-service.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy grocery markets also sell wines and beers in their stores, including a selection of their own specially-blended wine varieties, similar to what Trader Joe's grocery stores offer.

If a California State Assemblyman from Southern California has his way however, stores like Fresh & Easy which offer only self-checkout lanes rather than a mix of full-service and self- checkout like other chains in California do, will not be able to sell alcoholic beverages in the stores unless they dedicate at least one checkout lane in each store to full-service, according to a report in the blog Fresh & Easy Buzz, which focuses on covering and writing about Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA. Customers buying alcoholic beverages in the store would have to use that lane.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy is the only food and grocery chain currently in California that has self-service-only checkout lanes. Obviously, should this proposed legislation pass, at best it would require Tesco to add a full-service checkout lane in each of its stores. The worse case scenario if it chose to not do so, would be that the stores could no longer sell wine and beer. We think they would choose the former rather than the latter, as the specially-blended wines are a significant part of the retailer's merchandising strategy.

If the legislative bill, AB 523, proposed by California Democratic Assemblyman Hector De La Torre advances in the Assembly it will be interesting to see if the California Grocers Association (CGA) takes a position for or against it.

The CGA is the state trade association for California's food and grocery retailing industry and counts among its members California's leading supermarket chains like Safeway Stores, Inc., Kroger Co.'s Ralphs, SuperValu's Albertsons, Save Mart, Raley's and most others, along with nearly every major independent grocer in the Golden State.

None of these member chains or independent offers self-service only checkout lanes in its stores. In fact, only a handful even have a mix of self-service and full-service checkout lanes in their stores. Those few that do, like some of the Ralphs new "Fresh" format supermarkets and Safeway's new small-format "the market by Vons" in Long Beach, California, have just a few self-service checkout lanes, compared to a higher number of full-service lanes per-store. Read the full story from Fresh & Easy Buzz here.

Hardball on and off the court

Fresh & Easy Buzz also has an interesting feature story about former NBA basketball all-star Kevin Johnson, who's running for Mayor of Sacramento in a highly contested runoff election with the city's current mayor this November.

Johnson, who is a native of Sacramento, moved back to the city after retiring from the NBA. He then launched a career as a developer, along with founding and running a successful non-profit community development organization called HOPE.

As we reported in Natural~Specialty Foods Memo earlier this year, Johnson the developer is bringing a Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market to Sacramento's historically low-income Oak Park neighborhood, the very same Sacramento neighborhood he was raised in.

Fresh & Easy Buzz reports that Johnson, the driving force behind bringing the Fresh & Easy grocery store to the Oak Park neighborhood, which is underserved by supermarkets, is being attacked on multiple fronts in an aggressive campaign by a local labor union, which supports incumbant Sacramento mayor Healther Fargo, who Kevin Johnson is challenging. Tesco appears to be somewhat in the middle of the current mayors' race, and the attack campaign, by virtue of the fact its Oak Park neighborhood store is going on land owned by Johnson.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy also has union problems of its own, as the United Food & Commercial Workers union is waging an aggressive campaign against the chain in order to get Tesco executives to sit down with union leaders and discuss the potential unionization of Fresh & Easy store-level employees. Read the Fresh & Easy Buzz feature story: "Fresh Feature: A Former NBA All-Star Who Wants to Become Mayor, A Trade Union, And A Future Tesco Fresh & Easy Grocery Store In Sacramento, California ."

Small-format innovation: Dillions and Kwik Shop to create combination small-format grocery and convenience store in Greensburg, Kansas

From the Dodge City, Kansas Daily Globe: July 18, 2008

By Cherise Forno
Dodge City Daily Globe
Jul 18, 2008

Greensburg leaders, government officials and Kwik Shop and Dillons’ representatives gathered on Thursday to break ground for the new grocery store in Greensburg.

The new Dillons will be built next to the existing Kwik Shop to create a combination convenience and grocery store. This expansion will increase the Kwik Shop to 8,000 square feet, which is three times its current size.

"It is encouraging to see progress and growth as Greensburg rebuilds, and we are humbled to be a part of the journey," said Dillons President John Bays. "Greensburg and Kiowa County residents have supported Dillons and Kwik Shop for over 70 years, and we are pleased to continue this relationship."

Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson said he was inspired by the city's progress over the last year.

"What I see here is amazing," he said.

The Kwik Shop, located at 203 W. Kansas Ave., has been providing Greensburg residents with fresh produce, meat, dairy products, fuel and household items since a Level F5 tornado devastated the city in May 2007.

The addition of a Dillon’s grocery store will double the selection of fresh produce available and provide more selections for all grocery items.

The store will also feature a deli department with an assortment of home-style hot foods. The Kwik Shop will continue to meet the city's daily needs for items such as fuel, fresh-brewed coffee, newspapers and Kansas lottery tickets.

This grocery and convenience store, expected to be completed in early 2009, will be the first of its kind.

The Dillons store will be built in accordance with the city's dedication to the environment and sustainability, said Jeff Parker, president of Kwik Shop.

Some of the "green" features of the building include a white-reflective Thermoplastic-Polyoflefin roof with extra insulation; skylight coverage of the roof to provide natural daytime lighting; low-water demand landscaping; and highly efficient systems for cooling, heating and refrigeration equipment.

"This is an opportunity for the world to see Dillons through Greensburg's eyes," Mayor Bob Dixson said.

Dillons' decision to build the store in an eco-friendly manner is one of many ways in which the city is fulfilling its commitment to improving the environment.

"We want to educate people about going green," said Levi Smith, a Kwik Shop employee and member of the Green Club. "It's not a radical change. We want to teach people how easy it is."

Smith and other Greensburg High School students established the Green Club to make the process of "going green" easier for the community.

Last holiday season, the students went through the neighborhood collecting Christmas trees to recycle. More than 50 trees were turned into mulch for Greensburg's trees and plants instead of being dumped in the trash.

The club also participates in a lightbulb program, in which club members provide residents with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs in exchange for their old bulbs.

End Piece: Trader Joe's says 'no' to Palm Springs despite petition drive

It appears that 6,000 signatures on a petition to bring a Trader Joe's small-format specialty grocery store to the Southern California desert region city of Palm Springs just isn't enough for the Southern California-based chain, which is owned by members of the same German family that own no frills, small-format discount grocery chain Aldi International.

This despite the fact after all that Palm Springs was good enough for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., collectively known in the 1950's and 1960's as the "Rat Pack," along with such former residents as the late eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and the girlfriend to two Kennedy's, President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, Marilyn Monroe.

For well over a year members of a community coalition of Palm Springs residents have been meeting and organizing in an atempt to lure a Trader Joe'stores to their city, which is a popular upscale resort mecca, as well as having a considerably fast-growing year-round resident population.

ButTrader Joe's which has stores in three nearby cities--next door Palm Desert, Cathedral City and La Quinta--has just told the good citizens of Palm Springs it won't be bringing one of its quirky small-format grocery stores to the city anytime soon; although it appreciated the petition drive which resulted in 6,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, Tesco's Fresh & Easy, which also has stores in the three cities mentioned above, will soon open one of its small-format combination basic grocery and fresh foods stores in Palam Springs. The Fresh & Easy and Trader Joe's stores have many similarities, although Fresh & Easy sells an assortment of basic grocery products while Trader Joe's focuses on specialty and natural food and groceries items.

If we were running Tesco Fresh & Easy's marketing department, the first thing we would do is get a copy of that petition to bring a Trader Joe's to the city, and mail each of the 6,000 names and addresses on the petition an invitation to the Palm Springs' Fresh & Easy grocery store grand opening, along with a couple of the retailer's $5 -off (on any order of $20 or more) coupons.

In other words, make TJ's loss Fresh & Easy's gain, as well as making the 6,000 residents who wanted a Trader Joe's feel welcome at the new Fresh & Easy store, perhaps converting them to Fresh & Easy shoppers. You can read a report here from the local Desert Sun newspaper.

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