Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Independent Grocer Memo: Going Where A Chain Store Used to Be; Texas Independent City Market Welcomes the Opportunity

Neighborhood Food Retailing USA

The Minyard supermarket chain may have given up on its store in the Westcliff Shopping Center at 3511 West Biddison Street in Fort Worth, Texas USA because it was underperforming. But that didn't stop independent grocer Kurt Jaeger from buying the store and spending a serious chunk of change to remodel the market from floor to ceiling.

Jaeger, who already owns an independent supermarket in nearby Burleson, Texas, says in a story published today in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, that he knew the former Minyard supermarket could be a success if remodeled and given the proper independent touch the moment he toured the empty store.

So he bought it. Took it over and named it City Market, which is the name of his first store.

In July, Coppell,Texas-based Minyard Food Stores sold 37 of its stores to Grocer's Supply Co. of Houston. Grocer's Supply is Jaeger's wholesale supplier, and he acquired the site from them.

The store has been completely revamped. Walls and murals are freshly painted, shelves have been rearranged and restocked, and several new freezer cases have been installed. The produce section has been expanded, as has the selection, and the beer and wine offerings have also grown, according to the Forth Worth Star-Telegram. Tomorrow the store celebrates a big grand opening.

You can read the story, "Neighborhood grocery returns to Westcliff area," by staff writer Sandra Baker here.

As we often write, the independent food and grocery retailing sector in the U.S. is a vibrant one. Every so often a pundit or two will state that independents are an endangered grocery retailing species. However, American independents prove those pundits wrong each and every day, opening new stores and very seldom closing existing ones compared to other types of retailers.

Despite the growth of huge supermarket chains with a near national reach in the U.S., along with the discounters like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco that do have a national presence, the independent neighborhood grocer not only continues to survive in America, most are thriving.

Most independents survive and even thrive by sticking to the basics -- and then adding their own unique touches.

On the financial side they don't generally over-leverage themselves. They tend to follow a prudent pay-as-you-go philosophy of doing business.

On the merchandising side successful independents know the neighborhoods their store or stores are in like the back of their hands. They then create and nurture a niche -- be it upscale, natural-specialty or discount -- based on this knowledge of the market area.

In terms of customer service, independents invented this concept in grocery retailing. Nothing can be to high touch for many independents, be it offering carry out service, home delivery, special product orders or other neighborhood-oriented customer services features for their customers.

Successful independents also become part of the community rather than just being a grocer that has a store in the community. And like this community focus, most successful independents also create a sense of community and family among their employees and customers.

Another very important key to the success of independents in the U.S. today is the way their wholesale suppliers work closely with the retailers, offering financing, store design services, marketing, advertising and merchandising support, and other forms of expertise and help, like Grocer's Supply is doing with Kurt Jaeger and his now two City Markets stores.

Kurt Jaeger and his two City Markets supermarkets are a good example of creating a niche, offering superior customer service and focusing on community. The independent grocer has been very successful with this approach at his City Market number one. And we have a feeling if he follows that same formula he will make his City Market number two in Forth Worth, Texas equally as successful.

[Photo Credit: Paul Moseley: Forth Worth Star-Telegram.]

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