September 10, 2008

Trends: Grocery Stores

In Napa, a Whole Foods has opened right next to the immensely popular Trader Joe's. And, needless to say, the Whole Foods is not doing so well. We talked a lot about it this summer, especially since my brother works at TJ's and has inside scoop, and it struck me how colossally wasteful the Whole Foods is compared to other smaller grocery stores. It is a huge store, with high lofty ceilings, and a lot of wasted space. And, except at lunchtime, no one is in there. Trader Joe's on the other hand is small, well stocked, and always packed (but still quick and comfortable). There's no place I'd rather shop for gorceries (though I'd still rather go to a farmer's markets for produce).

Turns out other grocery stores onto this trend, according to the New York Times: "After years of building bigger stores — many larger than a football field and carrying 60,000 items — retailers are experimenting with radically smaller grocery stores that emphasize prepared meals, fresh produce and grab-and-go drinks."

They go on to report that many major chains, including Safeway and Giant Eagle have started experimenting with express stores with limited grocery selection and a large fresh prepared foods section.

This isn't really anything new. There's a little market/deli right next to my metro stop which has an amazing selection of good bread, soups, chocolate, dairy, and other pantry items. It looks like a run down mini-mart. One would never suspect that inside you'd find not only organic milk, and whole grain bread, but also 3 different brands of gourmet ice cream, as well as staples like mustard and relish and grape jelly, all packed into a space the size of my living room.

And, on the oh so popular green front, it seems to me that a smaller store is less wasteful of resources. Surely part of the savings in that TJ's passes onto its customers is a corporate savings in space rental, electricity, and spoilage. Besides, it is so much nicer to take 20 minutes to do a weeks worth of shopping, because you know exactly what you want and where to get it.

Glad to see this is going to be a new trend. Now if only TJ's had more prepared food and local produce: then it'd be my grocery heaven.

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