By Tony McCray
Barnes Supermarket at 1301 North 9th Avenue and East Gonzalez Streets closed its grocery store doors early this week to the surprise of its long-time customers and the general public. In a conversation with the Barnes Supermarket owner Mr. Robert Lewis, “The new Publix Supermarket just cut our legs right from under us!” The new Publix Supermarket on Pensacola’s Eastside has an official address of 1100 East Cervantes at 12th Avenue and Strong Streets just a few blocks further east of the longtime Barnes location. However, the Barnes Supermarket owner, Mr. Robert Lewis, stated that his store at 1612 N. Pace Blvd. will be enhanced and improved to remain in the grocery store battlefield on Pensacola’s Westside.
Evidently, the battles between grocery stores for customers is part of the reality of the present day marketplace where long gone are the days when shoppers auto-piloted to the nearest grocery store to purchase food and other items. In fact, research conducted by retail consulting firm Retail Forward found that 46 percent of shoppers prefer to shop for food where they can also purchase items like clothing, and home accessories. That type of market research led to Wal-Mart and Target stores grabbing a significant market niche.
Nowadays, more shoppers are moving from their local grocery store for the price-slashing power of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Analysts say grocery stores are retooling their strategies to halt shoppers from shifting their allegiance to the huge one-stop “big box” retailers. Meanwhile, some shoppers are altering their shopping patterns altogether to chase the best customer service or unique, specialized products.
The shake-up means traditional grocery stores are reinventing product mixes and creating niches to maintain market share and sustain sales growth, all while capturing the attention of an increasingly disloyal army of shoppers. Retail analysts say the key to luring customers back to grocery stores is to offer them something unique such as true customer care, eclectic and exclusive products or an innovative store floor plan.
Mark Hamstra, the retail and financial editor of Supermarket News stated that, “At this point, supermarkets have either caved in to the pressure (of Wal-Mart and others) or they’ve figured out how to compete.” With the closure of Barnes on 9th Avenue it appears that specific location has caved in.