Published on: May 20, 2010Now available on iTunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
A few weeks ago, I reported to you about the opening of a new Stop & Shop in my town. If you’ll recall, I noted that this new store seemed to be an attempt by Ahold to cover its flanks at a time when there is increasing competition in the area; it already has a small store in town, and it seems to have bought this unit from Shaw’s as a way of preventing yet another competitor from entering the marketplace.
I described the new supermarket this way:
“The new Stop & Shop is a nice store. It has a new paint job, and new signs ... The produce department is improved, there seem to be fewer out of stocks, and it now has self-scanning, which is terrific. In other words, it is a real improvement over the Shaw’s store, which was pretty much a celebration of mediocrity.
But it only is a nice store. And the question is whether that will be enough.
Stop & Shop is going to have to sell folks on the fact that it is local and easy to shop. It is going to have to do so while facing retailers that specialize not just in sizzle, but also in some pretty innovative steak - retailers that are very, very good at defining and then exploiting their own differential advantages. They have strong brand identities, and they work at capitalizing on their strengths at every opportunity.”
Well, one of those new competitors opened yesterday. And blew me away.
Whole Foods has opened a new 50,000 square foot store about a quarter-mile from my house, and it would be an understatement to say that the town has welcomed it with open arms. It replaces what used to be an old Howard Johnson’s motel that mostly was patronized by truck drivers and hookers, usually at the same time, because the lot has easy access to the Connecticut Turnpike. Let me tell you, the Whole Foods is a lot easier on the eyes and a lot better for the stomach and the soul.
The store opened yesterday and was previewed for residents on Monday night...and you couldn’t get a parking space anywhere. The new unit is bright and colorful and animated...as one might expect, it celebrates fresh foods, exalts the dual values of nutrition and health, and brings an entirely different level of foodservice to the town with barbecue and sushi and a juice bar and a deli...I suspect the trial will be high, and that a lot of other local food retailers - ranging from Stop & Shop to local independents - are going to see some impact.
As for prices, a highly nonscientific survey suggests that some are high and some are highly competitive. A Whole Foods spokesman told me that they’re out in the market checking on the competition every week, and that they are resolute about not being undersold. Now, this works better in theory than in practice, since there are a lot of products in Whole Foods that the competition does not carry. But I’ll tell you this. I’ll be checking my register receipts from places like Stew Leonard’s a lot more carefully in the coming weeks, and comparing them to Whole Foods’ prices.
My simple, early conclusion is this. Whole Foods is bursting with vitality, and retailers competing with it cannot afford to be seen as tired, or even as same-old, same-old. I know a lot of you disagree with me on this, but a conventional approach to food marketing will yield only conventional results.
Whole Foods’ bar is a lot higher than that. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go down to visit its sushi bar, where the range of sushi is impressive and incredibly fresh, made right on the spot. By way of comparison, the sushi sold at the new Stop & Shop is made at the old Stop & Shop, and shipped over. it’s good, it’s nice...but utterly conventional.
Conventional doesn’t cut it.
For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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