Thursday, September 18, 2008

Small-Format Food Retailing Memo: First 'Urban Fresh by Jewel' Small-Format Food and Grocery Market Opens Today in Chicago's Lincoln Park Neighborhood

Small-Format Food Retailing Special Report

The Jewel-Osco supermarket chain, which is owned by Supervalu, Inc., the second-largest U.S.-based food and grocery retail and wholesale company, opened the first store (the interior of which is pictured above) of its small-format Urban Fresh by Jewel start up chain today at 1910 N. Clybourn Avenue in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinios USA.

The small-format market is fairly upscale in design. It features an assortment of basic, specialty, natural and organic grocery products, along with fresh meats and produce (including specialty and organic varieties), ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat prepared meals, side dishes and snacks, and gourmet sandwiches and baked goods, along with wine and beer, with an emphasis on specialty wines and craft beers.

The overall focus of the store, even though it carries everyday grocery brands and items, is towards the upscale and specialty, including an emphasis on natural and organic. But the store also is merchandised for shoppers to pick up everyday items offered at about the same price a larger supermarket offers them for.

Urban Fresh by Jewel joins the company of Tesco's Fresh & Easy, Safeway's "The Market," (its one the market by Vons store in Long Beach, California thus far) Giant Eagle's Giant Eagle Express and Wal-Mart's soon to open Marketside, which all have in common that they are small-format, convenience-oriented grocery markets offering a limited assortment of basic groceries, fresh foods like meats and produce, specialty-natural items and fresh, prepared foods.

According to a Natural~Specialty Foods Memo correspondent who visited the Urban Fresh by Jewel store today on its opening day, it's very similar in design and merchandising style to Safeway's "The Market" format.

At 16,000 square feet, Urban Fresh by Jewel also is about the same size as the the market by Vons, which is about 15,000 -to- 18,000 square feet.

Urban Fresh by Jewel also is similar in look and merchandising to Canada's small-format Urban Fresh markets, which are owned an operated by the Canada-based grocery chain Sobeys.

The Canadian Urban Fresh stores have been around for sometime, and it appears Supervalu's Jewell-Osco chain liked the name so much it borrowed it for its small-format start-up chain, which the retailer says it plans to use in a urban-oriented retailing strategy in Illinois and Indiana, where the chain is based and operates about 183 supermarkets.

Food and grocery items at the Urban Fresh by Jewel Chicago store are grouped into pods to make for quick pickings of salads and deli items, for example, according to Miguel Alba, a spokesman for Jewell-Osco. This is the very same merchandising format Safeway rolled out in its the market by Vons store in Long Beach, California, which opened in May of this year.

Safeway plans to open its "The Market" small-format stores on a selective basis throughout the U.S. whenever and wherever it makes sense, CEO Steve Burd told Natural~Specialty Foods Memo early this year.

Safeway Stores, Inc. owns the Dominicks chain based in Illinois, so it's possible we will see a the market by Dominicks doing small-format food retailing battle with Urban Fresh by Jewel, which would be interesting since both chain's formats are so similar in store design and merchandising, including both using the the pod-style displays.

Safeway Stores, Inc. plans to use "the market" as the first part of the name of all of its small-format grocery stores, adding the name of the particular banner it uses in a given market as the ending. Vons is Safeway's banner in Southern California and Southern Nevada, for example. It's Dominicks in Illinios, Safeway in other parts of the U.S., and so on.

Additionally Jewel-Osco's Chicago small-format market has 10 checkout lanes, six of which are self-service. Spokesman Alba says this is designed to appeal to the younger, high-income residents in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, who he said the chain thinks will like the option of having a mix of full-service and self-service checkout lanes. Since four of the ten lanes are still full-service, he says he believes the store is offering both options to shoppers. They can use either full-serve or self-checkout depending on their needs at the time.

Safeway's small-format "The Market" format also uses a mix of full-serve and self-serve checkout lanes.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, the small-format start up chain which now has 82 stores in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, offers only self-service checkout lanes in its stores, although store clerks will assist customers with checkout and bagging if asked by a shopper to do so.

Trader Joe's on the other hand, the pioneer small-format specialty grocer in the U.S., has stuck to having only full-service checkout lanes in its stores. Clerks bag a shoppers order as well as scan it out in TJ's markets.

Among the upscale, natural, specialty and organic products in the first Urban Fresh by Jewel small-format market are: whole bean gourmet, organic and fair trade coffee beans displayed along with in-store grinders for shoppers to use; specialty, natural and organic food and grocery items across all shelf-stable and perishable categories; gourmet prepared foods items like Lobster and Shrimp Rockefeller and Hazelnut and Currant-Baked Apples (alongside more everyday items like meatloaf and cheescake); and regular and craft beers, along with basic and premium wines (about 400 varieties total, according to Jewel-Osco).

But there's also a limited selection of everyday grocery brands and items, as we mentioned earlier. There's Campbell's canned and packaged soups in the soup section, Kellogs Corn Flakes and Lucky Charms in the cereal aisle, and Wish Bone salad dressing along with numerous gourmet and organic salad dressing brands in the dressings section, for example.

The store does flip-flop a number of things as part of its emphasis on specialty, natural and organic, while at the same time offering basic food and grocery items to the extent any retailer can do so in 16,000 square feet.

For example, instead of national brand candy like Hershey Bars and Snickers at the front checkout stands, which is prime real estate, the store merchandises premium and organic confections like Lindt chocolate bars, New Tree brand Organic candies and Newman's Own organic confection items there, along with Altiods and other specialty and organic mints and related items.

The new Jewel-Osco small-format store sits on the site where there once was another small-format store which was owned and operated by Supervalu, Inc. That store was one of the company's five Sunflower Markets, which was a format it created to experiment with going after the natural foods shopper in a smaller-format store with lower prices than established natural products retailers like Whole Foods Market, Inc.

Supervalu opened five of the stores, which by design were run rather independently by the Sunflower folks hired to do so by the grocery company. In 2007, SuperValu announced its was closing the stores (which it did early this year) and ending what it called its test market of the Sunflower Market natural foods retailing format. [This Sunflower Market isn't to be confused with Sunflower Farmers Market (SFM), which used to happen so much SuperValu-owned Sunflower Market put a link to SFM, which is alive, thriving and growing fast, on its website.

Many people have asked for the last year or so if and what would replace the Sunflower Market natural foods store format, if anything, for Supervalu. They now have their answer. It's likely one or more of the other four closed Sunflower Market natural foods stores will likely end-up as an Urban Fresh by Jewel combination basic grocery, specialty-natural and fresh, prepared foods markets. The five Sunflower Market stores were in Illinios and Indina, in primarily urban locations.

Resources: Learn More:

>The online review site already has two reviews about the Chicago Urban Fresh by Jewel store, which just opened today. There likely will be more. You can view the reviews here.

1 comment:

Sandra said...

I love it! I hope this is a trend that takes off in all urban areas!