Friday, October 3, 2008

Wal-Mart Opens First Four Small-Format Marketside Fresh Food and Grocery Stores Tomorrow Morning in Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa and Tempe, Arizona

Wal-Mart, Inc.'s first four Marketside small-format, combination grocery and fresh foods markets open tomorrow morning (Saturday, October 4) at 7am in the Phoenix, Arizona region cities of Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe, as we've been reporting and writing extensively about on Fresh & Easy Buzz. [Just scroll down a bit and you will find stories and links to stories about Marketside and related topics.]

The four Arizona Marketside stores range in size from about 15,000 square feet to a bit over 17,000 square feet.

Inside Marketside

As we've written previously, the Marketside stores are formatted with various departments with names such as "The Pantry" (dry grocery), "The General Store" (general merchandise and non-foods), "The Bakery" (in-store bakery)"The Garden" (fresh produce), "The Butcher Shop" (fresh meats) and six other similar titles representing a total of 11 "departments" in the stores.

Here is how Amee Chande, Wal-Mart Marketside's vice president of strategy and marketing, describes the "Small-Marts:" "We're looking to be your answer for dinner tonight. "We're a small neighborhood grocery store where you can come in and find the freshest ingredients at great values in a really small, convenient neighborhood location."

In-store fresh, prepared foods

As we've reported for months, a key feature of Marketside is the stores have in-store kitchens where fresh, prepared foods will be prepared right on premises. There's also a small dining area in the stores where about 9-10 customers can sit and eat at any one time.

The kitchen also has a wood burning, open hearth oven in it where chefs will prepare a variety of fresh breads and pizza's daily for take-out and eating in.

Take-out is the big thrust of the fresh, prepared foods aspect of the Marketside stores, although eating-in also is a part of the strategy. There's also an in-store deli combined with the prepared foods operation.


The stores will carry about 7,000 -to- 10,000 skus, according to Ms. Chande. National and regional manufacturers' brands will be more prominent than store label brands, basically the opposite of Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores, which offer about a 65% (fresh & easy store brand) -to 35% (national and regional brands) merchandising mix.

Organic is in

Additionally, the stores will offer a selection of natural, organic, specialty and gourmet food and grocery items.

Spirits to fit the urban image

Marketside also will sell spirits in addition to beers and wine. Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores for example offer beer and wine but not spirits. Spirits are far more popular than wine is (and in many cases more so than beer as well) among young consumers in the 18 -to- 35 year old range.
Carrying spirits makes sense for Marketside because younger shoppers seem most interested in the smaller format stores like Fresh & Easy and Trader Joe's (and perhaps Marketside) based on our observations.


Trey Johnson, vice president of merchandising for Marketside, says the stores will have a wide assortment and variety of brands, including a selection of the top nationally recognizable brands in each category and the top organic brands, which will make up 20 percent of their offerings.

"Our strategy (Marketside) is to have the best of the best national-brand products and the best of the best organic brands," Johnson says. Some of those brands are: Peet's Coffee and Tea; Dietz and Watson deli meat; and Black Angus USDA choice beef.

Ms. Chande also says the Marketside stores are putting a major emphasis on procuring and selling local food and grocery products from Arizona and the surrounding states. This "local emphasis" is across all store categories including beer and wine when possible, according to the company.

Fresh produce

In terms of fresh produce, Chande confirms it will be delivered to the Marketside stores daily. In addition to coming from Wal-Mart distribution centers, numerous smaller, outside vendors are going to be used as well.

The stores' will offer a mix of fresh, bulk and pre-packaged produce rather than near 100% pre-packaged like Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy merchandise.

Full-service checkout, normal supermarket policies

The Marketside stores will have full-service checkout for shoppers, unlike Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores which are self-service checkout, the company's Amee Chande confirms. (Fresh & Easy clerks will assist shoppers with checkout if asked to.)

Additionally, the Marketside stores will accept paper personal checks as well as debit and credit cards.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores don't except paper checks, just debit and credit cards. Thus far it's the only major grocer we've been able to find doing business in the Western U.S. that has this policy.

Wal-Mart's stores also will accept WIC (Woman Infant Children) vouchers, which are distributed to the poorest of the poor mothers by the U.S. Federal Government to be used to purchase specific items for their children, including infant formula, fresh juices, whole grain cereals and some varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores don't accept the WIC vouchers from poor mothers despite the fact every supermarket chain and independent of note (and most even without note) in the U.S. does so. Numerous convenience stores also accept them, as do farmers' markets and many drug stores.

Lastly, the Marketside stores also will redeem manufacturers' cents-off coupons from customers, which is a common practice among most if not all U.S. supermarket chains and independents.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores however don't accept the manufacturers' discount coupons (those you get in the mail and in your Sunday newspaper each week) from shoppers.

Marketside positioning

The four major positioning points of the Marketside stores can be summed up as quality food (and freshness), affordable prices, convenience and meal solutions, all in a warm and comfortable (but not overly upscale) environment. These at least are Wal-Mart's intent. We will see how they work over time after the stores open tomorrow.

Design and positioning

As we wrote about in a couple of previous pieces, the Marketside stores have a semi-upscale (we call it Old Navy upscale after the Gap chain's Old navy store design which is upscale but not overly) and urban look.

The Marketside stores' interiors are decorated in warm shades of plum and pale kiwi colors. The floors are of stained and polished concrete. The lighting consists of low light fixtures which aren't overly bright and provide spot-like lighting. Stained wood is used in parts of the interior as trim.

Additionally, the stores' shelving is traditional gondola style with a high profile rather than warehouse-style like that used by Tesco's Fresh & Easy and Trader Joe's. Each aisle has an end cap which is trimmed in stained hardwood.

The stores' have utilitarian-type, strategically-placed signs inside designed to graphically make it easy for shoppers to locate the various product categories and items they're looking for.

Saturday, October, 4 opening

The four Arizona Marketside stores open at 7am tomorrow, with grand opening festivities starting at 10am, according to the company.

Below are the addresses of the four stores:

• 950 N. McQueen Road, Chandler.
• 838 W. Elliot Road, Gilbert.
• 7561 E. Baseline Road, Mesa.
• 901 E. Elliot Road, Tempe.

Maps to the store locations and additional information is available on the Marketside Web site:

Fresh & Easy Buzz will be covering the grand openings of a couple of the stores tomorrow.

We also would like to hear from readers who either are planning to or who after reading this will drop into one of the four stores and check things out.

We want to include as many voices in our coverage of the Marketside stores' opening as we can.

Therefore, if you visit one of the four Marketside stores tomorrow or Sunday, please drop us an email at, giving us your impressions of the stores. Tell us which store (or stores) you visited and are talking about in your email.

Additionally, let us know in the email if you want us to use only your first name for privacy reasons if we publish your comments, opinions and the like you send us in the email. We prefer to use your full name but will honor that request if you ask.

Let us here from you Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa and Tempe Arizona and the nearby area -- or readers from outside the state and Phoenix Metropolitan area who just might be visiting one of the four Wal- Mart Marketside stores opening tomorrow morning.

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