• Two major grocers plan to open new flagship stores in the coming weeks, according to reports. Albertsons is planning to open the doors to its latest Market Street location in Meridian, Idaho on March 9, and Whole Foods will open a 70,000 square foot store in Atlanta on April 5.
  • Market Street will be Albertsons’ second experienced-focused store in the Boise metro area. The new location is more than 100,000 square feet and will feature scratch-made bakery items, meats smoked and roasted in house, a live lobster tank, an oyster bar and an on-site dietitian to offer wellness advice.
  • In Atlanta, Whole Foods’ new “south region flagship” location will include four fast-casual eateries, a rooftop bar, an old-world style butcher and a section where customers can get cut-to-order fruits and vegetables. This will be Whole Foods’ 500th store.

Despite their strength as e-commerce providers, both Whole Foods and Albertsons have made it clear with these flagship stores that the in-store experience matters, and that brick-and-mortar grocery is going to continue to evolve. Amid the growing importance of online grocery, these retailers, and others like Hy-Vee and Raley’s, still see value in creating a memorable store experience — and are building stores more elaborate than ever before to draw foot traffic and strengthen enthusiasm for their brands.

Whole Foods reaching 500 stores is a notable milestone, and the lavish Atlanta location shows that Amazon is committed to investing in the banner both to win with customers and expand its physical capabilities. It also reiterates Amazon’s desire to boost its brick-and-mortar footprint as the company prepares to open more Whole Foods stores this year throughout the U.S.

According to recent earnings, Albertsons is performing well, showing that customers are embracing the retailer both offline and online. The company has advanced its tech and e-commerce efforts lately, testing frictionless grocery shopping and automated fulfillment and also partnering with Microsoft. The company hasn’t neglected the physical retail experience, however. In addition to the new Market Street store, Albertsons has increased investment in its private label brands and embarked on store remodels.

A slowdown in physical expansion among grocery stores has taken hold in the past couple years. But while some grocery banners are struggling, discount and natural grocers have hit the gas pedal on expansion as they see an opening to steal market share and appeal to more shoppers.

In December, Giant Food reported a $175 million investment to open new stores and remodel existing ones. Lidl, which struggled in the U.S. early on, may have gained its footing and plans to increase its store count in 2019. Fan favorites Wegmans and Trader Joe’s each have a handful of store openings on deck this year as well.

Source: Grocery Dive