Industry observers are keeping an eye on several retailers: many are regional and rapidly expanding, while others are gaining momentum and have proven themselves exceptionally well positioned for growth.
In this Produce Blueprints series, we delve into eight grocery operators experts say are worth watching.
THE FRESH MARKET
The Fresh Market, Inc. BB #:155863 had been on a major expansion streak before putting the brakes on store openings, in part due to increased competition for its higher-end, farmers market-style format.
The chain, headquartered in Greensboro, NC, was founded in 1982 and now has 160 stores in 22 states, with the average store size around 21,000 square feet. It had hired a turnaround specialist as its new CEO in 2020. The company achieved strong sales growth in both 2020 and 2021.
The Fresh Market is known for its European market feel, with fresh-cut flowers at the entrance, friendly employees, the smell of freshly brewing coffee, and a curated selection of products including produce.
It focuses on discovery, carrying hard-to-find items sourced locally and from countries around the world. The produce section in one newly opened store featured nearly 100 local items sourced from about 20 area farms upon opening, with local items from 50 farmers expected to rotate in over time.
The Fresh Market’s first-ever loyalty program, the Ultimate Loyalty Experience, debuted in 2021 and accrued more than a million members in less than seven months.
The average member can save up to $50 per week, the company says. The club includes frequent shopper points, members-only prices on different products each week, and a free slice of birthday cake for members.
South American retailer Cencosud S.A. purchased a 67-percent stake in The Fresh Market in May 2022. The new owner said it planned to bring best practices from its Latin American stores to The Fresh Market and vice versa.
Previously, The Fresh Market had planned to conduct an initial public offering but gave up on the idea in July 2022. Cencosud has the option of ultimately increasing its stake to 100 percent.
The Fresh Market has been emphasizing its online presence, including the launch of shoppable videos in 2021. These boosted engagement in its ecommerce channels by more than five times, thanks to 13 million video engagements, the company says.
Ashley Nickle, consultant and project manager at Ashley Nickle Growth Strategies, LLC in Kansas City, KS, notes that the online video content, which is similar to what consumers would see on Instagram Stories, promotes a sense of discovery in the online environment that mirrors the experience of in-store shopping.
In October 2021, the company reopened its flagship store in Greensboro after an upgrade that focused more on fresh, prepared-in-store foods. It includes features such as a made-to-order takeout restaurant and a coffee station with micro-batch roasting.
The chain opened its 160th store in Palm Beach Gardens, FL in 2022, representing the 47th location in that state.
The Fresh Market was named the best supermarket in the United States in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Poll in 2021 and 2022 and has appeared on numerous top-10 lists in recent years.
This is an excerpt from the cover story in the March/April 2023 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.