This week in retail (Sept. 30)

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This week in retail (Sept. 30)

By Mike Troy - 09/30/2019
Dollar General is in uncharted territory after opening its 16,000th location with plans for new markets in 2020.

Dollar General marches on

Panama City Beach, Fl., synonymous with spring break rowdiness to millions of college students, is now memorable for another reason. Dollar General opened its 16,000th store in the Florida panhandle community on Saturday, September 28. The new location is among 975 new stores and 100 relocations the company has planned for 2019 and at the end of its second quarter it had already opened 489 stores and relocated 46 others. Given that rate of expansion, Panama City’s distinction will be fleeting. Dollar General hasn’t reveal its 2020 cap-ex budget yet, but has said it will enter Washington and Wyoming next year. Don’t be surprise if next fall the opening of the company’s 17,000th store is observed.

Another thing to not be surprised about; continued same store sales growth and market share gains in food categories. Dollar General now operates four DG Fresh fulfillment centers and is flowing more fresh products to stores that have also seen their freezer and cooler doors expanded. Improving the productivity of existing stores is how Dollar General will drive growth when it eventually runs out of room for new store expansion.

Major retailers united in food waste fight

Some of the world’s largest food retailers have signed on to a new initiative created by the World Resources Institute to engage their supply chains in the fight against food loss and waste. Called “10x20x30,” the initiative brings together 10 of the world’s biggest food retailers and providers to each engage with 20 of their priority suppliers to cut the rate of food loss and waste in half by 2030.

Founding partners of the initiative include AEON, Ahold Delhaize, IKEA Food, Kroger, METRO AG, Pick n Pay, The Savola Group, Sodexo, Tesco, and Walmart. “Food loss and waste is a massive global challenge. While addressing this challenge is a priority for us, 10x20x30 is built on the fact that no one company can address this challenge alone,” said Laura Phillips, Senior Vice President of Sustainability for Walmart Inc. “With 10x20x30, retailers work to reduce in-store food loss and waste as well as support their upstream suppliers to reduce their own loss and waste.”

Kroger goes big with retail foodservice initiative.

Kroger’s new food hall

A block from its corporate headquarters in downtown Cincinnati at the base of an 18 story residential tower is Kroger’s newest food retailing experiment. The two-level, 52,000-sq-ft. store blends a conventional supermarket experience with the retailer’s first ever food hall branded as On The Rhine Eatery. The food hall features five different concepts, a full-service bar and seating for 200. Among the concepts is Kroger’s Kitchen 1883 Café and Bar, its second location for the American food restaurant. The addition of food service to more stores coupled with delivery could improve Kroger’s competitive position relative to food service operators.

When Wegman’s comes to town

The first of six Wegmans stores planned for the Raleigh-Durham area opened on Sept. 29 at 1200 Wake Towne Drive, effectively raising the customer experience bar on competitors in the North Carolina region. The 104,000-sq.-ft. location is Wegmans southernmost store (its closest other locations are in Virginia Beach and Midlothian, Va.) and features typical accoutrements found in the retailer’s predominantly northeastern footprint, such as an extensive prepared foods offering and seating for 250. The next location set to open in 2020 is in West Cary.

Quality is no accident at Meijer

Meijer is out with a new batch of commercials featuring employees touting quality. Launched in June, the employees in the spots offer a glimpse behind the scenes at Meijer processes and employee attitudes to reinforce the value proposition that “quality is no accident,” at Meijer. The ads focus on departments such as dairy, produce, meat, bakery, apparel, pharmacy and quality assurance are viewable here.

Grocers leveraging employees to talk about food quality is a trend. The Fresh Market began doing so last year with spots focused on meat, olive oil and produce.



Sheetz goes all in on innovation with new facility

The family-owned Sheetz chain of 585 convenience stores has set an ambitious goal with the opening of its first-ever technology and innovation hub in Pittsburgh. “Our mission at Sheetz is to create a business that puts the Sheetz as we know it today, out of business,” said Emily Sheetz, AVP of Strategy. To do so, the retailer chose an inspiring location at the Bakery Square mixed used development near downtown Pittsburgh. The property is the site of a redeveloped Nabisco plant that now houses Google offices.

“Over the last 10 years, Pittsburgh has become a vibrant innovation/start-up ecosystem,” said Mary Beth Green, Sheetz innovation officer. “I’ll be putting together a team to look at new lines of business, customer experiences, and really think about what convenience may look like 10+ years from now.”

The hub will focus on developing, testing and implementing transformative products and services to continue to meet customer demand for the ultimate one-stop-shop, according to the company. Sheetz stores are located throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and North Carolina.

Here’s how strange things have become in food retailing

Traditional supermarket retailers who understand they are in a share-of-stomach batter with non-traditional competitors will be interested in a new development in Chicago. To capture meal occasions from convenience minded shoppers who crave restaurant quality prepared meals, Bon Appetit has teamed with crowd-sourced food delivery provider Grubhub and food service operator Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to launch Bon Appetit, Delivered. The concept from a media brand best known for a glossy monthly magazine taps into the hot trend of virtual restaurants, also known as cloud kitchens or ghost kitchens, that provide delivery only.

The future of food shopping

First it was Google Glass. Then came Snap with its Spectacles. Now Amazon thinks it has developed pair of glasses people will want to wear. The product called Echo Frames allows wearers to have hands free interaction with Alexa to make calls, set reminders, listen to podcast or control their smart home. The frames are said to be lightweight for all day wear and compatible with prescription lenses

Maybe Amazon will have better luck with its glasses than others. When Google Glass came out it had the creep factor going for it and earned wearers of the device the nickname, “glassholes.” Then came Spectacles from Snap, reflecting the social media company’s desire to be seen as a camera company. Snap recently launched Spectacles 3 with dual HD cameras.

Echo Frames are part of a group of products called Day 1 Editions that are limited supply and available by invitation only for $179.99. Another Day 1 product is the Echo Loop, a smart ring that also allows access to Alexa from $129.99.

If these products seem ridiculous, remember, there was a time when a camera in a phone seemed silly and now the newest interation of the iPhone boast three lenses.

Youtube sensation Atlas does it again

Atlas is at it again with another video showing what developer Boston Dynamics calls “the world’s most dynamic humanoid robot,” performing feats of amazing agility. In fact, Atlas is way more agile than the typical human. It’s worth checking out the video and imagining a future where Atlas, or another robot, with human-like agility arrives at a residence in an autonomous vehicle to deliver groceries picked in a highly automated warehouse.

Impossible Foods burger is now available at all Wegmans stores.

Plant-based revelations and meat musings

Raised & Rooted, the plant-based brand Tyson Foods launched in June, sought to raise awareness for the brand with a quirky nugget picking event in New York City’s Bryant Park. Visitors to the park were invited to pick fake nuggets from bushes and exchange them for Raised & Rooted nuggets. “This was a fun way to show people what our nuggets are made of – plants," said David Ervin, Raised & Rooted vice president of marketing.

On the heels of securing its first retail distribution in 27 Gelson’s stores in California and then all 100 Wegman’s stores, Impossible Foods received one of 15 United Nations Global Climate Action Awards. "The Impossible Burger generated more excitement than any other single product we’ve seen in more than a half-century of operations,” said Gelson’s Markets CEO Rob McDougall.

Don Lee Farms launched its plant-based Better Than Beef Burger at Costco, H-E-B and other unnamed national retailers. The company already offered an organic plant-based burger. “This new burger, along with our growing vegan line launched fifteen years ago, reinforces our family’s commitment to continuous innovation in plant-based proteins,” said Donald Goodman, president of Don Lee Farms.

Not in the mood for plant-based? The 3,600 unit Sonic Drive-In chain is offering junior and full size version of gastronomical nightmare called the Garlic Butter Bacon Burger with cheese. “Butter is the ultimate secret sauce in the culinary world, elevating and enhancing our favorite dishes and making them taste that much better,” said Scott Uehlein, vice president of product innovation and development for Sonic. The 100% beef burger is only available until Nov. 3.

While plant-based proponents would like to curtail meat consumption, other activists would be happy if people stop eating dogs and cats. Apparently that’s a thing in parts of Asia so the World Dog Alliance hosted its annual 926 Dog Lovers’ day event and recognized legislators who helped enact amendents to the Agricultural Improvement act to prohibit the eating of dog and cat meat.


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