Publix Creating Separate GreenWise Stores

GreenWise Markets are the kind of place you might visit without buying groceries, company says

One of the newest grocery store concepts in Florida isn’t really new at all. In fact, it’s coming from a company that knows how to sell food to Floridians probably better than anyone.

Publix will build new, standalone GreenWise Market stores, with plans to open three in Florida and one in South Carolina within a year. The new GreenWise stores will sell a selection of specialty, natural, organic and gourmet foods.

If you shop at Publix regularly, then you know that GreenWise is not a new brand. Publix stores offer GreenWise products, such as organic produce, meats without antibiotics or added hormones, and non-food items like tissues. In fact, the Lakeland-based grocer launched GreenWise as a separate store concept in Palm Beach in 2008 and added stores in Tampa and Boca Raton.

But now, Publix is reigniting the concept — and running with it.

These won't be your typical grocery stores, Publix spokesman Brian West said. They'll have prepared foods like burrito bowls, Mediterranean pizza, sushi, smoked wings and hold wine and cheese tastings. They will be the kind of places you might even go to without buying any groceries at all.

They will offer new local craft beers and kombucha on tap. "Or you can order a wine flight and lounge in the mezzanine area with friends” to try the selection, he said.

When he said that, I immediately thought of Lucky’s Market. Last year, my predecessor wrote a column about how Lucky’s wanted Sarasota-Manatee residents to consider their then-upcoming store at Westfield Siesta Key as a possible date-night spot. Ben Friedland, Lucky’s vice president of marketing, told her there would be a bar area, patio furniture, an indoor cafe and even board games.

A place to take dates?

As much as I love grocery stores, I never really considered them to be good spots to hang out, but maybe I shouldn’t be so closed-minded. Why not? If there are games, and food, and wine flights, then what's wrong with that? The last time I had a wine flight, it was 2012 and I could barely taste the difference between a sauvignon blanc and a chardonnay.

Publix is now accepting site submissions for future locations. GreenWise will have a “modern, simple, yet sophisticated environment” and a scaled-down atmosphere meant to encourage customers to “slow down and enjoy the experience,” according to a pamphlet I picked up at a retail conference in Orlando this week.

Publix is looking for either freestanding or shopping center locations with 120 to 150 or more dedicated parking spaces. The minimum width of the building has to be 140 feet and they should have 21,000  to 30,000 square feet of space.

By comparison, Whole Foods stores are typically bigger, at 25,000 to 50,000 square feet.

GreenWise shoppers will likely be 30 to 65 years old, have a bachelor’s degree or above, make over $55,000 annually and work in a white collar job. There should be 19,000 or so households within a three-mile radius of each store. GreenWise will cater to the business lunch crowd during the day, according to Publix.

An expert weighs in

I asked Steve Kirn, a now-retired lecturer in the business school at the University of Florida, about whether there’s room for yet another specialty or organic grocery store in Florida. There may be a lot of options right now, but if a grocer thinks it can do better than what's already out there, they should go for it, he said. But they'll be taking business away from someone else. After all, you can only buy so many organic apples.

It's difficult, not to mention expensive, to start a new store concept from scratch because of things like construction and increased distribution costs. But Publix should not be underestimated, Kirn said.

"They have proven to be winners in markets they have entered and they find ways to dominate them," he said. "I wouldn't put it past them. I'm sure they've done the math and I think they can win."

This month, Publix reported net earnings of $616.2 million for the three months ending June 30, a 24.5 percent increase over the year before. Sales for the same period were $8.8 billion, compared to $8.4 billion last year. Comparable store sales for those three months increased by 1.7 percent, and Publix said second-quarter sales were slowed by about 1.2 percent because the Easter holiday was in the second quarter of 2017 and the first quarter this year.

Location, location, location

The first GreenWise stores in Florida will be in Tallahassee, Lakeland and Boca Raton. The first new store, in Tallahassee, is scheduled to open in October, and the other two should be open by next year. A GreenWise Market also will open in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, which is near Charleston.

Tallahassee has Florida State University, the Legislature and a relatively diverse market. Lakeland is Publix's hometown, so executives will be able to visit the store and see how things are going, Kirn said. And Boca Raton has an older population with disposable income.

"What you can do is test to see how the store does," Kirn said. "Different markets have different characteristics You can see how the new business concept plays, given the market they're dealing with."

Could we see a GreenWise Market in Sarasota-Manatee? West couldn't say, but Kirn said our relative wealth and large retirement community could make it an attractive market. The only downside would be the fact that our population fluctuates depending on the season.

But Sarasota and Manatee counties are growing. Sarasota County's population grew by 7.3 percent between 2010 and 2017, and Manatee's grew by 14.2 percent, one of the largest increases in the state, according to the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida. And we know retail growth is driven entirely by population growth.

If it did come here, I have a feeling Sarasota-Manatee residents would welcome it with open arms. Lots of us were excited when we heard Lucky's was coming to Venice, and the response to the new Detwiler's Farm Market in Palmetto was, to put it mildly, extraordinary.

We love our organic grocery stores and we love Publix, so it sounds like a winning combination.

Laura Finaldi, the Herald-Tribune's retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @lauraefinaldi.

Source : https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20180829/publix-creating-separate-greenwise-stores

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