Is an urban revival a sign of hope for indie grocers?
While mom-and-pop grocery stores nationwide have faced tremendous difficulties, Washington, D.C. appears to be bucking the trend.
At least six independent grocers have opened throughout Washington D.C. in the last two years with more to come, leading The Washington Post to bill the phenomenon as a “resurgence of the small neighborhood grocery store.” The story posits that the reappearance of mom-and-pop grocers is a response to a broader “back-to-the-city” movement, with new urban dwellers desiring convenience and walkability in cities.
The kind of intimate knowledge of the products and the more personal relationship with customers that mom-and-pops can provide can be big differentiators against impersonal national chains. On the other hand, they can also offer differentiate themselves from high-end, boutique grocers by offering staples at a more reasonable price point.
But mom-and-pop grocers have long found themselves struggling as they get undercut on price by national and global grocery chains. So it’s not clear if D.C.’s indie grocery renaissance represents a trend that will continue on into the future, or if it is only a matter of time until the big chains move in.
National retailers often associated with suburban big box stores have, in recent years, begun rolling out new concepts meant to better address the needs of urban shoppers. Target, for instance, has started opening small-format “flexible” locations, with assortments tailored to the shoppers in the neighborhoods in which they appear. The location in Forest Hills, Queens is reported to have more kosher offerings for the neighborhood’s Jewish population, as well as local sports team memorabilia. In this regard, the stores seem to be trying to offer the level of localization that comes naturally to mom-and-pops.
New, low-price chains that compete with independents have also entered many urban markets. German grocer Aldi has proven popular in the U.S. and has been followed by the much-anticipated appearance of Lidl. Even big box giant Walmart has been reported as being concerned about the increase in competition.
- Across D.C., a resurgence of the small neighborhood grocery store – The Washington Post
- Will Target take NYC by going small and flexible? – RetailWire
- Why is Walmart so concerned about Aldi and Lidl? – RetailWire
- Can indie dollar stores compete with the big chains? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see urban areas as representing the best opportunity for independent grocer growth? Is the increase of mom-and-pop grocers in Washington, D.C. a good sign for independent grocery stores in other parts of the country?