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•  The Chicago Business Journal reports that Kroger has opened a new concept store in Monroe, Ohio, about midway between Cincinnati and Dayton, that the retailer describes as having a "game changing" checkout experience.

According to the story, " The new concept gives customers a variety of options that include a group of Kroger’s new high-tech modes of checkout as well as the traditional low-tech methods … Customers at the new concept store now have the ability to use Kroger’s KroGo carts that have built-in scales and cameras. They enable customers to scan groceries as they shop, pay at the cart and completely skip the checkout line. Kroger, the nation’s largest traditional supermarket operator, has tested those high-tech carts in a few markets.

"Additionally, customers can use the belted self-checkout lanes Kroger has also tested recently in a few markets … Those are similar to Kroger’s typical self-checkout lanes, but they have conveyor belts that are useful for larger orders. If two people are shopping, one can scan the items and the other can bag them.

"If the test works well, Kroger plans to expand it. It would bring the concept to about six Greater Cincinnati stores next year as well as some in Columbus, Ohio."

•  The La Crosse Tribune reports that Hy-Vee has opened its fifth store in Wisconsin, on the site of a former Sears store in the Valley View Mall, while also building a 4,100-square-foot Hy-Vee Fast and Fresh convenience store nearby.

According to the story, "it is the fourth Hy-Vee with the company’s reimagined flagship store design," offering "a new dining experience for customers with a large open food hall dining area for fast-casual dining, which includes an expanded breakfast menu; a pub with full sit-down bar, 32 taps and outdoor patio; mealtime offerings; Mia Italian; HyChi and Hibachi; Nori Sushi; Market Grille; Long Island Deli and a Wahlburgers restaurant.

"The new store also has a full-service bakery, full-service deli, full-service meat counter that includes a dry-aged steaks case, full-service seafood counter with sustainable seafood options, large fresh produce area, an in-store Starbucks, a large floral and gift department and a pharmacy with a drive-up window.  It also has a Joe Fresh clothing department, a beauty department, an expanded Candy Shoppe and a large Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits department."

KC's View:

These openings reflect a continued emphasis on incremental innovation on the part of retailers, though it is interesting that the coverage suggests divergent priorities - Kroger seems more focused on technology and convenience, while the Hy-Vee focus appears to be more on foodservice.  

They're different markets, of course, and I haven't been to either store so I can't speak from personal experience.  But it seems logical to suggest that there are two primary buckets where we're going to see innovation going forward, as retailers look to enhance the customer experience.