retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Idaho Statesman has a story about the newest Albertsons in that company’s fleet, opening this Friday in Boise, with a totally different emphasis than most of the retailer’s units.

“Instead of an emphasis on canned and boxed goods — although they’re there in abundance — this store focuses on fresh meats and produce; breads, cakes and other bakery items made from scratch; exotic Asian fruits such as dragon fruit and jackfruit; and even hand-crafted chocolates,” the story says.

John Colgrove, president of Albertsons’ Intermountain Division, says that the store “is everything we talked about and more,” though it may not be for everybody all the time: “If you’re looking for basic items, this might not be the store for you. But if you get excited about food preparation and want to find things that aren’t in every other store, this is the place for you.”

Other excerpts from the Statesman story:

• “The $7.2 million building features an upstairs bar, Broadway on the Rocks, the Boise-based grocery chain’s first in Idaho. There are 36 beer taps, half dispensing Idaho-produced beer. Wine is available by the glass, along with mixed alcoholic drinks.”

• “With seating for 200, customers can also order food tableside. The space includes several TV monitors and roll-up doors that let the air in when it’s nice outside, along with an outside deck that looks north toward Albertsons Stadium on the Boise State University campus.”

• “The new Albertsons … includes an expansive selection of gourmet cheeses. The store has traditional grocery jobs and others handling nontraditional tasks, such as serving pizzas from a wood-burning oven and catering … The store plans to have local bands entertain customers upstairs, especially on weekends.”

• “Downstairs includes the pizza oven, a sandwich bar, a stir-fry station, a burger grill and Joe’s fried chicken. A carving station delivers meat cooked and smoked in the store. Another station offers store-made mozzarella cheese.”
KC's View:
The Statesman notes that the store originally was supposed to be a Market Street format to differentiate it from Albertsons’ traditional approach, but the decision clearly has been made that it is better to give other Albertsons a goal to aim for.

Can’t argue with that. The question that folks keep raising with me is the degree to which Albertsons will be able to innovate as its attention increasingly is trained on its acquisition of Rite Aid and the going-public requirements that will follow.

I don’t have an answer to that, though I certainly concede the point. And it certainly is fair to wonder the degree to which these kinds of innovations will be rolled out, and how they will typify the company’s image and culture in the future. Albertsons is doing a lot right now, like its establishment of an online platform dedicated to O Organics. (I get the feeling that at the moment, COO Jim Donald must feel like this guy.)