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Indie naturals think small

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The big boys of retail are opening small-format stores in rapid succession--natural product stores are well poised to serve the same clientele.

The new trend in mass retail is to go smaller. And when behemoth Walmart introduces a smaller format, you know it’s gotta be serious. 15,000 square feet might not seem tiny, but it’s about 90 percent smaller than Walmart's standard format. Other grocery stores opening small formats include Publix, Giant Eagle, Tesco, Target and Kroger. Where are the natural convenience stores?

These chains are smart to open up small versions of themselves. They can take advantage of smaller, less expensive spaces in strip malls and dense urban settings. Placement like this allows them to get their brand out and become known as the ‘local’ corner shop and a household name. These chip off the blocks vary in purpose but many are aiming for the easy-to-navigate store layout with plenty of grab and go options. I would love to see some independent natural product store join this trend. There’s been lots of talk of a Whole Foods Express… Where are the independents?

Many experts agree that these stores do best when they cater to the needs of the immediately surrounding consumers. The larger chains are doing just that in many cases. Walmart says its Walmart Express store will cater to higher income consumers with more natural, organic and specialty offerings.

Many independent natural product stores already fit the size description of a small format store—25,000 feet or less. Taking a look at what these emerging smaller stores are doing could help them find a niche without much reinvention. Consider the following:

  • Offer grab and go beyond sandwiches such as items that could comprise an easy dinner
  • Stock enough produce for the harried shopper to put together a quick meal
  • Research your surrounding demographic taking note of dominant ethnic groups—are you stocking products for them?
  • Ensure that you have “fill-in” items like butter, baking soda and condiments
  • Are your hours in-sync with your customers; do you stay open later than neighboring stores?   

 

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