Grocery Scene Sees Big Changes

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jan. 25, 2010 12:00 am  

The father-and-son team of Steve, left, and Oral Edwards of Edwards Food Giant plan to concentrate on the quality of meats and customer service to earn a niche in the market.

"Frankly, we needed to spend some money in that market to upgrade our facilities," he said.

Bell said that every year Kroger earmarks money for capital improvements and new stores. "We just used part of our monies over the years to go toward [the renovations]," he said.

Bell said the investment wasn't tied to the Affiliated bankruptcy and the arrival of Food Giant in the central Arkansas market.

"As much as I sympathize with Affiliated, Harvest and all that - and that does change the landscape - but the No. 1 player on the block is still there," Bell said, referring to Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart Supercenters has a 49.5 percent market share in central Arkansas, while Kroger has 32.5 percent, according to the January issue of the grocery store trade journal, Shelby Report of the Southwest. But the trade journal does not give any estimate of the total value of the grocery market in central Arkansas.

Stores typically need to be remodeled every seven years, said Lorrie Griffith, the editor of the Shelby Report.

Building permits show Kroger spent $2 million upgrading its store at 8451 W. Markham St., $2 million at its 10300 N. Rodney Parham Road store and $7.8 million on its 16105 Chenal Parkway location. The renovation on Markham is complete and the work on Rodney Parham should be finished by summer, Bell said.

A building permit hasn't yet been filed for the Beechwood location, and Bell declined to release the renovation figures.

The new, 118,000-SF store on Chenal Parkway will be a concept called Marketplace Kroger, Bell said. (The Kroger currently at the site will close once the Marketplace opens.) Inside the new store will be a Fred Meyer Jewelry store, a bistro with a chef on site, a sushi bar, a variety of international cheeses, toys, and bed and bath merchandise.

Bell said the redesigns allow Kroger to offer the latest merchandise to appeal to as many customers as possible.

He said customers now want additional perishable offerings, such as expanded delis, bakeries and seafood, and the renovated stores would respond to that customer demand.

"Quite frankly, [the stores] haven't had the best of what we've had to offer," Bell said.



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