by Lorrie Griffith/editor–West
Several grocers in the Southern California marketplace have been freshening up their formats and product offerings to keep their competitive edge.
Bristol Farms in November opened a new prototype store on Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills that represented the upscale grocer’s first major design departure since its first store opened 35 years ago. The store was designed to appeal to older Bristol Farms customers as well as bring in new Millennial customers. The décor was given a more minimalist feel so that the focus could be on the food. The store also features what the grocer is calling a “food hall.” It runs along the right wall of the store, adjacent to the produce department, creating a fresh food mecca. In fact, the store’s product mix is 60 percent perishable, 40 percent non-perishable.
The store offers new grab-and-go choices made from classic recipes as well as new seasonal, ethnic meal options, Bristol Farms says. These include fresh, ready-to-eat seafood, Asian hot bowls, expanded Poke and Baja Taco bars, organic salad bar and more. “Epicurean” market stations also are set up to offer meal solutions for shoppers.
The store’s artisan California bakery also serves up Bristol Farms’ beloved “The Cookie,” served warm all day, as well as hundreds of small-batch treats from premium purveyors.
A gelato parlor features on-trend artisanal flavors; the in-house espresso and coffee concept called “The Daily” serves Intazza coffee; and a fresh juice station serves the needs of athletes and non-athletes alike.
The store, the 13th Bristol Farms, is open daily from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
A couple of new Bristol Farms stores are in the works, but details have not been released at this time.
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Gelson’s, another upscale grocer in the region, has been going through a rebranding program to show that it’s the “ultimate Southern California brand…What we at Gelson’s want to accomplish through our store design, through our merchandising, through the ways that we interact with customers is to help them feel like that patio lifestyle, that Southern California connection, is attainable. It’s something that we can help you with right now,” Yvonne Manganaro, executive director of marketing for Gelson’s, said in late October at a Food Industries Sales Managers Club luncheon.
Gelson’s wants customers to feel like they’ve entered a “grocery store paradise,” which comes through three ideas: Beauty, Delight and Happiness.
“Beauty is the store environment; Delight is the food that we’re offering; and Happiness is the engagement with our customers,” she said. “And the interaction and the genuine help and assistance that we can provide to them.”
John Bagan, Gelson’s chief merchandising officer, said the company’s “paradise” stores, in terms of food, will mix and match specialty cheese, wine and tapas bars, Liquiteria juice and smoothie bars, Gelson’s Kitchen (serving breakfast, lunch and dinner), meat and seafood “grillery” and a Wolfgang Puck eatery that allows customers to build their own pizza and/or salad. These are complemented by expanded produce, bakery and deli departments.
These food offerings, along with Gelson’s customer service excellence, is going to have “an even more unique and even more relevant proposition than today,” Bagan said.
More traditional grocers also are amping up their perishables as they open new stores and remodel older ones.
San Bernardino-based Stater Bros. will open its first store in the Pasadena market this fall. The store on North Allen Avenue, currently operating as Vons, will transfer to Stater Bros. in May and then be remodeled for a fall opening.
The 42,000-s.f. store will feature: full-service fresh meat and seafood departments; FujiSan sushi made in-house daily; full-service deli including Cleo & Leo-exclusive recipe fried chicken, specialty sandwiches and wraps in addition to a full line of prepared party trays; full-service hot bakery featuring breads and rolls, specialty single-serve desserts, Cleo and Leo line of classic cakes and in-house cake decorators; a seating area with USB charging outlets and access to free Wi-Fi; floral department; and a fresh produce department featuring more than 1,000 items, with expanded organic selections and fruit cut fresh daily.
“Stater Bros. is a company that proudly celebrates tradition, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to establish roots in such a historic and beautiful community,” said Stater Bros. CEO Pete Van Helden. “We look forward to a good working relationship with the City of Pasadena as the extensive remodel process commences and are thrilled to acquaint Pasadena customers with Stater Bros.’ fresh offerings and exemplary customer service when we open this fall.”
Fresh foods also are emphasized at discounters like Aldi.
The grocer in January opened a new prototype store in La Habra that has more of a focus on fresh product.
Aldi said, “Thanks to input from customers, the La Habra store presents a new look, offering a modern and convenient shopping experience. Customers will notice a focus on fresh items, including more robust produce, dairy and bakery sections and more room for customers’ favorite products.”
Its produce department offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including several organic produce items.
The store also features modern design elements like open ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally-friendly building materials such as recycled materials, energy-saving refrigeration and LED lighting.
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Sprouts adds delivery in Cal
Phoenix-based organic and natural discounter Sprouts Farmers Market, with 110 stores in California, announced in January that it had expanded its partnership with Instacart, adding 10 California communities to its grocery delivery area. Those communities are Bakersfield, Daly City, Fresno, Hemet, La Quinta, Petaluma, Rancho Cucamonga, Rancho Temecula, Redlands and Riverside.
Sprouts said it will expand the service to additional markets in California and across the country this year. The service first became available to Sprouts customers in Arizona and Texas.
“Sprouts is excited to offer grocery delivery of our fresh and healthy products in these California neighborhoods for the first time,” said Dan Sanders, chief operations officer. “In many cases, this additional convenience will help us reach new guests in neighborhoods outside of where our stores operate.”
Customers in the delivery zone can get same-day delivery in as little as one hour. More than 12,000 products from Sprouts are available for delivery, including produce, meat and seafood, dairy, bulk foods and frozen items. Beer and wine also are available for delivery within the California launch areas.
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An economic mixed bag
Southern California finished off 2017 with strong job growth, a bit of good news for an area that had had its share of recent calamity in the form of wildfires and mudslides.
A report released by the Los Angeles Business Journal just prior to press time said that during the last four months of 2017, Los Angeles added 28,600 jobs; Orange County added 23,700 jobs; and San Diego added 7,600 jobs. Ventura County had a slight drop in employment during that particular timeframe, but hiring remains up for the year, the Journal said.
Stender Sweeney, an EVP and division manager for Wells Fargo Middle Market Banking in the Greater Los Angeles market, told the paper that logistics, tourism and construction accounted for a large portion of the job growth.
The state as a whole added 202,100 jobs during that four-month period, representing “the strongest run of job growth for California since a consistent series of seasonally adjusted data were put together back in 1990,” the paper said, adding that the unemployment rate dropped by 0.8 percent to 4.3 percent—a new record low since 1976—in spite of the natural disasters. That’s partly because of the region’s “diverse mix of rapidly growing industries, ranging from green energy and digital entertainment to life sciences and e-commerce,” the Journal said, adding the warning that a tightening labor market is starting to be felt for those needing to fill positions. Hiring also remains difficult in lower-paying industries like retail, administrative services and leisure and hospitality. Part of the hiring difficulty is linked to low population growth; the state saw just a 0.6 increase, or 240,200 new residents, during 2017.