Thursday, November 6, 2008

Retail Memo: Henry's Farmers Market to Open New Store in Santee, CA On November 12; More New Store's and Remodels On the Way

Retail Rebirth: A New Henry's chain is Being Born

Natural foods retailing chain Henry's Farmers Market, which was bought from Whole Foods Markets, Inc. by Southern California-based Smart & Final, Inc. last year, will open the doors of its newest store, a new, larger and upgraded location on Mission Gorge Road in Santee, California, on Wednesday, November 12. Santee is in San Diego County.

The new Henry's, which replaces an older, smaller store nearby, has been in the works for over one year and will be the first tenant of The Marketplace at Santee, a new shopping center on Mission Gorge Road in the city, according to the retailer, which operates 36 natural foods stores in Southern California and Texas under the Henry Farmers Market and Sun Harvest banners.

There are 28 Henry's stores, located in San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties in Southern California. The eight Sun Harvest natural foods stores are located in Texas.

The Henry's and Sun Harvest natural foods stores were acquired in June, 2007 by Whole Foods when it merged with rival Wild Oats. Shortly after the deal went through, Whole Foods Market, Inc. sold the Henry's and Sun Harvest stores to the investment group which owns Southern California-headquartered Smart & Final.

Smart is Final is a chain of 235 non-membership food and grocery-focused club format-style stores. It has stores located in California, Oregon, Washington State, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and in the northern region of the country of Mexico.

Smart & Final also recently introduced a new format called Smart & Final Extra. The first store opened in Southern California.

The Extra stores are about 30,000 -to- 35,000 square feet and are sort of a hybrid discount and food-focused store. They carry a larger selection of fresh produce, including some organics, for example than the Smart & Final club-style stores, along with offering a larger variety of single pack food and grocery items than those stores do. The club-style Smart & Final stores carry some single-items but focus on multi-packs and larger sized products.

The larger, modernized Henry's Farmers Market store opening next week in Santee, California will feature expanded product selections in all departments as well as an increased organic produce selection, according to the natural grocer.

The new and larger Henry's store is approximately 25,000 square feet.

"We believe our customers will respond quite favorably to this beautiful new site," says Santee Henry’s Store Director Mark Montejano. "With the added square footage, we are able to offer expanded selections of the fresh and healthy foods Henry's shoppers count on. Plus, the bright, airy space makes the entire shopping experience more enjoyable," he adds.

The previous store was about 15,000 square feet or so.

The re-opening of the Santee Henry's Farmers Market (it's a new store though) is the first of a series of Henry’s new and remodeled store openings throughout Southern California over the next few months.

The Escondido (also in San Diego County), California Henry's Farmers Market store remodel and expansion project is slated to be complete this December and a new Henry’s Farmers Market store in Woodland Hills, California is scheduled to open in early spring of 2009, for example.

Henry's Farmers Market is holding a grand opening celebration at the new Santee replacement store, called "Henry’s Barn Stormin’ Bash," on Wednesday, November 12. The event will offer numerous special festivities at the store from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on opening day, according to a company spokesperson.

Among the free to the public activities on Wednesday will be food sampling throughout the store, a pumpkin pie recipe contest and live entertainment, including local bands and dance performances. There will be face painting and balloons for children (of all ages) as well.

The first 100 shoppers on Wednesday will receive a free Henry's reusable canvas bag full of healthy snacks., according to the retailer.

The mayor of Santee will appear at the store for a ribbon cutting ceremony, and there will be a community pancake breakfast held there, with the proceeds to be donated to Connor's Cause for Children, a local charity.

Additionally, Henry’s Farmers Market will match pre-tax sales from its "Grab & Give Food Drive" at the new Santee store on Wednesday (part of the grand opening) to donate to its annual holiday partnership with Father Joe's Villages, which provides meals for needy families in Southern California.

The old Henry’s store in Santee will be closing its doors at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 11 to prepare for the new store’s grand opening event the following morning.

We're rather impressed with the extent, variety and comprehensive nature of the Santee store grand opening. Most retailers do about half the amount and variety of activities Henry's is doing for the grand opening next week. We call it good marketing. We particularly like the various tie-ins with the local community and charity groups. Doing good for community while doing good for sales is a winning combination in our analysis and opinion.

As we wrote in this this June 2, 2008 piece, "Retail Memo: Analysis: Free of Wild Oats Markets, Inc.'s Ownership, Henry's Farmers Markets Seems to Be Starting to Get its Groove On," since Henry's has become a part of the Smart & Final ownership group, the existing stores have been dramatically improved, as has the overall operation.

In particular have been the improvements from Wild Oats' ownership of the store produce and meat departments and selections, which were looking rather sad during the last couple years of Wild Oats' ownership. (Whole Foods Market, Inc. didn't own the Henry's and Sun Harvest stores for long; they basically sold them as soon as acquiring them as part of the deal. Therefore they neither had the time or desire to do anything with them, except sell the stores.

We've also written about the fact Henry's new ownership and expanded management, merchandising and operations team plans to grow the natural foods chain considerably in Southern California, and perhaps outside of the region.

Henry's Farmers Market also has a few other upcoming changes and surprises in store.

With nearly 30 stores, the natural grocer already is a player in the parts of Southern California it has stores located in. As it adds new stores, and continues to improve the existing stores like it has been doing, Henry's could become a major player in the natural, organic and specialty foods retailing categories throughout the huge Southern California market region.

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