What’s Next for Corner Grocery?

January 25, 2011

Greengrocers have lost their way, but current chain store offerings aren’t the ideal substitutes.

Fast, urban retail food is changing.
Chains such as Duane Reade (Walgreens) and 7-Eleven increasingly serve the food convenience needs of time-poor shoppers in Manhattan and other urban markets. In the process, these chain stores are squeezing out many of the Korean greengrocers, which for decades set the quality standards for produce and other fresh, healthful offerings, displayed amid vast floral selections in clean environments.

The Korean greengrocers have themselves to blame. Once lauded for their impeccable presentations, many became run-of-the-mill and grew less desirable as options between foodservice outlets and chain store selling mostly branded and private label packaged goods. One big reason why: younger Koreans have bootstrapped into better professional and business opportunities and no longer commit to the exhausting hours required to make these stores succeed.

Have greengrocers lost their way? We believe so at The Lempert Report. But we don’t necessarily think that (a) the edge these locations once had is irretrievable with a return to the concepts that once made them great, or (b) the chain stores are an ample substitute to satisfy consumers on points of speed, nutrition or fresh, quality offerings.

So once again, the face of urban food retailing is in for a change. We spot an opportunity here for a new kind of store format to spring onto the city streestscape: A 1,000- to 2,000-square-foot store that is quick to serve, operationally lean, with replicable business processes and consistently fresh, local, nutritional offerings, would be a hit. It’s a niche that begs to be owned, and would capture Quick Trips for the next meal or two with compelling, attractive, high-margin appeals.