Inside Safeway's 15,000 square foot "the Market by Vons" in Long Beach, California. The store, the first of the small-format, opened on May 15.
On May 15, we wrote this piece about the grand opening of Safeway Stores, Inc.'s first "The Market" small-format (15,000 square feet) food and grocery store in Long Beach in Southern California, called "the Market by Vons." The format averages 15,000 -to- 20,000 square feet.
Yesterday, we reported Safeway is in negotiations with the developer of a 22 story high rise condominium tower in downtown San Jose, California in the San Francisco Bay Area to put its second "The Market" format store on the ground floor of that residential building, as the retail anchor for the development.
Today, we bring you the observations and analysis of "the Market by Vons," Safeway's first small-footprint food and grocery store, in Long Beach, California.
The piece below is written by a 20-year retail food and grocery industry veteran, and regular Fresh & Easy Buzz reader and correspondent. The analysis was offered to Fresh & Easy Buzz via email based on our request of the writer to visit the store and offer our readers his observations and analysis. The writer is active in the retail food industry in Southern California at present, so asked we not use his name, which we are honoring.
Below in italics are the industry veteran's observations and partial analysis of Safeway's "the Market by Vons," which opened a little over two weeks ago in Long Beach, California. The piece was written on June 3, based on a June 2, 2008 visit to the store:
I went into "the Market by Vons in Long Beach yesterday....interesting store, but I really don't think it will compete that much with F&E (or Trader Joe's) unless they really start expanding and promoting their ready meals and carry more healthy products.
Here are my observations:
There wasn't very good signage over the prepared meals: salads, entree's, etc.
They really need to promote the fact that the products are fresh and were created by their restaurant chef .
I did like the presentation of the salads, especially the large round bowls and the safety seal that said "handcrafted."
The rest of the prepared meal presentation was just "OK" and I feel they really need to tout the fact that they were created by a chef.
I also don't think they will compete with F&E unless they do more organic and healthy entrees without preservatives. By the way...the code date on the salads (at "the Market by Vons") were 6/3...so I know there has been a lot of complaints about the short shelf life on F&E products...but the salads only had 1 day shelf life remaining. In addition, I couldn't find any code dates on the entrees, so I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing in the eyes of the consumer.
I really liked all the tasting stations scattered about the store. In addition, all the employees were very friendly and made a special effort of saying "hi, can I help you." It actually almost felt like overkill, like there were too many employees with not enough to do. [Fresh & Easy Buzz Editor's note: Safeway Stores, Inc. has a corporate policy, which started in the late 1990's, in which every employee must say hello to every customer that employee comes into contact in the store.]
I did like how they presented the produce "in the round." It seemed pretty easy to find the produce you were looking for and everything looked fresh.
As for the dry grocery items...again, I was surprised by the lack of healthy products. Most of the products were run of the mill top brands, and very little private label. Once again, if they want to compete with F&E or trader Joe's (and who said they did?), then I think they need to have more unique healthy products in the store. They most certainly have a larger sku count then F&E does because their shelving is higher and not as deep, and they are displaying the product out of the case.
I did find the checkout rather confusing. They had self checkout and service checkout, but it was confusing because at the beginning they had a roped off section and it was hard to tell which line you needed to get into for which. It looks like they decided to go with about 50% self-checkout and 50% service checkout. I went with the service checkout (in retrospect I wish I had gone with the self so I could see how easy it was), but I got in the wrong line!
I found the pricing to be higher than a typical Vons' supermarket (maybe my imagination), and higher than F&E. But if the product was on promotion, it seemed closer to the F&E pricing.
I thought the atmosphere was very nice in the store, low mellow music (not sure if F&E is still piping in loud music in the stores, but I personally don't like it). Overall, I really felt 'the Market by Vons" in Long Beach was pretty much just a grocery store shrunk down with a few nice benefits (tasting stations, bread cutting, etc).
Fresh & Easy Buzz will be publishing additional observations and analysis--including an original piece we are working on based on two long visits to "the Market by Vons" to date--in the upcoming days. Stay tuned.