Specialty Food Magazine

JAN-FEB 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 126 of 159

(continued from p. 34) THE NEW RETAIL LANDSCAPE THE OUTLOOK FOR INDEPENDENTS "I wouldn't say that the drugstores pose too much competition for the independent food stores," Ball muses. "The customer shopping for food in the drug store would be different than the customer shopping at an independent grocer. "However," he continues, "the move of larger supermarkets with smaller formats into urban centers will pose the stiffest challenge in recent times for the independents. Especially if their entry into the market means competing for the same shopper over the same categories, price will be the way to capture the consumers." These developments could make some specialty food retailers cringe at the new competition. But for Tom Reingrover, owner of Gerrards Market in Redlands, Calif., the smaller formats aren't making him sweat just yet. "I predict that within two years the Fresh & Easy market will head back to Europe," he said of the larger 23,000-square-foot stores. In fall 2010, Walgreens began to offer fresh foods in some Chicago and New York stores. Then in January 2011, the drugstore chain announced plans to expand fresh food offerings to 400 stores. As for supermarkets looking at a smaller store format, such as Ralph's, or Walgreens' new initiative to offer fresh foods, Reingrover isn't worried. "They just can't do perishables the same way we do it," he says. "We make deli foods from scratch, we have a rotisserie barbecue grill for chicken and ribs, we continue to reinvent ourselves—things the drugstores or large chains just can't do. We can sell some of the same items, but those stores will never have a selection of wine like we do, or sell more than 200 specialty sodas. It is offerings like these that will keep us alive." Anne Quatrano of Star Provisions in Atlanta, agrees with Reingrover that distinct offerings and service are what will keep specialty food retailers successful. "We continue to offer our guests the finest, freshest and most unique items that others cannot provide," she asserts. "I won't say the entry of more competition into the category doesn't bother us," Reingrover adds, "But if we expand on what has made us successful, I know we will come out on top. Successful specialty food stores are the ones who excel at their own concepts, and if we continue to reinvent ourselves and improve on what we are already doing so well, we won't have to worry about these new store formats." |SFM| (continued from p. 64) PROFILE The market has plans to dedicate 18 feet of space to introduce about 150 bulk products in the next quarter, featuring olive oil and vinegar dispensers as well as bins for grains, pasta, flour, dried fruits and nuts. jars for use with the new bulk items to build enthusiasm and ease shoppers into the transition. Like his view of plastic bags, Omran is anticipating resistance that he expects will subside once routine sets in. "It's going to be a bit of an educational process," he acknowl- edges. "And I know it will alienate some people. But I'm willing to do that because I think that in the long run it's what the industry needs to do more of." Already Le Beau sports bulk bins of fruits, nuts and granola from SunRidge Farms in Royal Oaks, Calif., as well as coffee beans from Jeremiah's Pick Coffee Roaster in San Francisco. Moving into bulk products will give Le Beau not only a refresh but potentially buffer it against impending competition. A Trader Joe's will be replacing the Cala Foods market that closed last year— a short three blocks from Le Beau. "I think that that's going to be a bit of a game changer," Omran admits. Offering products in bulk will distinguish Le Beau from the competition, he notes, which has been part of the inspiration for changing the market's strategy. Moving Forward Challenges aside, the market continues to thrive. "This year so far has been one of our best on record," says Omran, who credits the primarily twenty-something customer base the store serves. A resur- gence in internet-oriented companies has brought an onslaught of young techies to the city, and the neighborhood—even bringing to the team a marketing director, who handles the store's online pres- ence, which includes Facebook and Twitter accounts—and a smat- tering of enthusiastic Yelp reviews. The growing staff, now at 26 full- and part-time employees, has given Omran a greater feeling of pride and success. He recently hired his eldest son Alexander as general manager. Though rarely does a day pass that Omran doesn't swing by the store—" just to see how things are going," he says—his laborious 80- to 90-hour work- weeks of the past have mellowed down to fewer and (sometimes) shorter days. Still, the new bulk department, as well as plans for a roaming food cart, offering the deli's sandwich specialties, are set to keep Le Beau relevant and ahead of the curve. As for the incoming competi- tion, Omran's philosophy is live and let live. "Le Beau's got different things to offer," he says. "So we hope our customers will continue to appreciate what we do and they'll continue to keep us busy." |SFM| Eva Meszaros is associate editor of Specialty Food Magazine. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012 125

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