Monday, July 17, 2017

[UPDATE] Kroger Marketplace Embry Village in Doubt, Others Delayed Indefinitely

Cincinnati-based Kroger, which industry experts indicate controls just under one third of the metro Atlanta grocery market, is doubling down on some of its most successful locations. This effort includes enhancements to both its North Decatur Square and Toco Hill stores in-town, as well as other OTP stores like those on Buford Drive and Riverside Parkway in Lawrenceville, among others.  

The Kroger Toco Hill is receiving updated décor, referred to by Kroger as "Neighborhood Décor."  According to Felix B. Turner, Public Relations Manager at Kroger Atlanta, the enhancements are mostly to the prepared foods area.  It's unclear what exactly "Neighborhood Décor" means, but perhaps it will be similar to the neighborhood-centric elements of the renovated Ansley Mall store where nearby communities are represented in art and in words throughout the store.
Neighborhood-centric decor at Kroger's Ansley Mall store
Turner stated:

"We are making modifications to the deli that include a sushi island as well as adding a new sandwich station, new Bowls and burrito station and chicken and BBQ station and a new salad bar. We are also adding a hot chicken station in the Kosher deli."  

Turner indicated that the work at Toco Hill, which is already under way, should be completed by mid-October 2017. Kroger Toco Hill was my first job in 2002, and I'm quite sure this is at least the third renovation of the store since then. 
A new sushi island at Kroger's Toco Hill store
Kroger's North Decatur Square store, which the company reopened in an expanded footprint in late 2015, will also receive a few updates.  Most notably, the North Decatur store will receive a beer & wine bar (known to some as Kro-bar). The bar will be the fourth in the Atlanta market after Kroger's Glenwood, Lindbergh, and Cartersville stores.  Cartersville is the only one of the four stores that is actually a "Kroger Marketplace" store.  The North Decatur store, which real estate sources tell me is performing extremely well, will also receive a "Pan Asian meal option as well as additional single-serve beverages."  Turner indicates that work should be completed by mid-October 2017. 

The "Kro-bar" under construction last month at the North Decatur Kroger
Interestingly, the company's planned Embry Village Marketplace store that ToNeTo Atlanta exclusively  reported last year and which led to the closure of the beloved S&S Cafeteria, is likely not happening as planned.  

The store, located on Chamblee Tucker Road, currently measures about 57,000 square feet but was to swell to just over 113,000 square feet and in the process become a "Marketplace store."  

Kroger Marketplace is a large-format Kroger store introduced in Columbus, Ohio in 2004 and to the Atlanta area in Carrollton in 2013.  In Carrollton, the company renovated and expanded in phases a 70s era "Greenhouse" Kroger.  

Kroger Marketplace stores, about double the size of typical Kroger stores, offer a wider selection of prepared foods, as well as many non-traditional grocery items.  The Carrollton store, for instance, offers apparel, jewelry, kitchen and bath products, toys, and outdoor furniture.   

On my visits to the Carrollton Marketplace store, I often found that it was clothing and toys, two Marketplace additions, that were frequently on clearance, leading me to believe the market for such items in Kroger might not be as great as the company had hoped.  

A recent radio ad campaign by rival grocer Trader Joe's does not name names, but references this trend by saying, "We’ve noticed that a lot of places selling groceries also sell a bunch of other stuff. Like lawn furniture, patio umbrellas, and T-shirts."  This would seem to be a jab at Kroger and its large format stores in comparison to Trader Joe's and their traditionally limited 10-15,000 square foot stores. 

As of December 2016, Kroger's Atlanta division operated ten Marketplace stores in Athens, Carrollton, Cartersville, Dawsonville, Gainesville, Grovetown, Rincon, Savannah, Warner Robins, and Columbia, SC.

When I contacted Kroger's regional office in April regarding an update on the Embry Village Marketplace store, I was told "construction is scheduled to begin fall of 2017.” 
The preliminary site plan of the Kroger Marketplace at Embry Village
Turner's response late last month when asked about the Marketplace store at Embry Village was far more vague than before, leading me to believe the store has been pushed indefinitely: "The project has considerable costs associated with it and Kroger is re-examining the scope of work accordingly.  No timetable is available at this time."   

Turner stopped short of saying the project was completely off, but it would not be without precedent for the project to be abandoned. 

In recent weeks, Kroger has confirmed that at least four other planned Marketplace stores are no longer moving forward.  

A Kroger Marketplace store planned for Colonial Heights near Richmond, Virginia was officially called off last month. The store, which would have replaced an abandoned courthouse, was first proposed in 2013, but was reportedly slowed by a lawsuit brought by residents concerned about noise the development would have brought. A Kroger spokesperson said in part, "Our company has made a decision to focus our efforts on improving the customer experience at existing stores through renovations and innovative technology."

In Oxford, Mississippi, Kroger announced plans in 2015 to expand their existing 54,000 square foot store into a 123,000 square foot Marketplace store.  In late May, Kroger confirmed they no longer plan to make the store a Marketplace store, but indicated they still plan to "upgrade" the Oxford store.  

Another Marketplace store planned for Charlottesville, Virginia would have meant the relocation of an existing store. Plans called for an existing Kroger store on Hydraulic Road to relocate to Seminole Square Shopping Center in place of former Giant grocery store and other tenants.  The Giant store closed in 2012 with Kroger announcing their intentions in 2015.  After being delayed at least twice, Kroger confirmed this past week that they would not be relocating after all. Similar to the reasoning provided for the abandoned Colonial Heights store, a Kroger spokesperson indicated that the company is focusing its efforts on improving the customer experience at the existing stores in the Charlottesville area.

Kroger was also planning to open a new Marketplace store in Columbia, South Carolina, but city officials confirmed this week that the grocer is no longer coming. The 113,500 square foot Kroger was to open in place of the Capital City Stadium, which closed in 2014 and had previously been proposed for redevelopment as a Walmart.  
The Kroger Marketplace in Gainesville
In metro Atlanta, there are a number of Marketplace stores that have been proposed in recent years, but few seem to be progressing at this point.  

In Lawrenceville, a Marketplace store was planned for Sugarloaf Parkway & Martins Chapel Road.  Turner indicated that in regard to this store  "No new updates or timetables have been established at this time."

Turner provided the same statement for Marketplace stores planned for Loganville (expansion in place from 75,000 to 125,000 square feet at 4753 Atlanta Highway) and Snellville  (relocation to Highway 78 & Rosebud Road with  123,000 square feet planned). Local sources in both Loganville and Snellville indicate their respective stores have been "shelved indefinitely." 

Construction is underway on a new Marketplace store in McDonough at East Lake Parkway and Hwy 155 in the new Union Grove Crossroads shopping center.  The store, which represents the relocation of an early 2000s era Kroger across the street, is expected to be 125,000 square feet.  Turner said of this project, "The Developer [Halpern Enterprises] started site work on its property as well as Kroger’s tract. A timetable for the store has not been established at this time."  Local sources in the McDonough community indicate store officials have told them to expect the new store to open in late 2018 or early 2019.

Kroger's long since planned expansion of their Fountain Oaks store on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs is reportedly again back on track. According to Turner, Kroger is "actively developing a scope of work for a possible remodel.  Plan to commence construction in early 2018 with a late 2018 completion."  If prior plans come to fruition, this store would expand from about 60,000 square feet to 80,000-90,000 square feet.     

Another large format yet not Marketplace store planned for Northside Drive & 17th Street in Atlanta is also progressing.  According to Turner, "Developers have commenced site work and we are carefully evaluating the market to determine the size and scope of Kroger’s investment in the community. No timetable set on completion."  This store is expected to be in addition to, not instead of, the nearby store at Howell Mill Square.  

Site of the new Kroger at Northside Drive & 17th Street
Local real estate firm Sofran Partners, the developer of the planned Marketplace store in Lawrenceville, also lists planned Kroger Marketplace stores in Hinesville, Monroe, and Villa Rica in its pipeline of "current projects."  I attempted to get updates on these stores as well as Marketplace stores planned for Cumming and north Johns Creek, but after over two weeks,  I was unsuccessful in getting any updates on these from Mr. Turner. 

Kroger is seemingly reassessing its expansion and large format store pipeline. Marketplace stores are said to represent a $25-30 million investment per store. 

The grocer recently reported its second straight quarter of declining same-store sales, the worst slump in at least 13 years. One likely culprit, the price of groceries has dropped for 17 straight months, the longest streak in more than 60 years.

Kroger, the biggest U.S. supermarket chain, lost more than $7 billion in market value combined on June 15th and 16th, the biggest two-day loss for the company since December 1999. The 19 percent drop on Thursday the 15th was thanks to a disappointing earnings report. The 9 percent drop the next day was courtesy of Amazon.com Inc.'s announcement that they planned to acquire Whole Foods Market in a deal valued at nearly $14 billion. 

Kroger's Atlanta division has lost a number of key personnel to recent retirements including Jerry Moreton, Vice President The Kroger Co., who retired after nearly 40 years with the company in April, and Glynn Jenkins, Director, Communications & Public Relations Kroger Atlanta Division, who also retired earlier this year after multiple decades of service. 

Bruce Lucia,  President of The Kroger Co.’s Atlanta Division, celebrated 40 years with the grocer in 2015. Lucia, who started his career with Kroger as a courtesy clerk in Atlanta in 1975, was promoted to various positions in the years since, returning to helm the Atlanta division in 2000. 

In 2013 Kroger eliminated their double coupon policy in the Atlanta Division, while earlier this year, they eliminated their senior discount. The grocer has also recently significantly reduced the number of 24-hour locations it operates in metro Atlanta.  The Kroger at the Edgewood Retail District in East Atlanta, one of the company's most profitable stores, and the Kroger Marketplace at Carrollton Crossroads in Carrollton, are among the only Georgia Kroger stores that continue to operate 24/7. Most other Kroger stores, many of which previously operated under 24/7 hours, now operate from 6AM until 1AM.  

It remains unclear what the future will hold for Kroger's Marketplace concept, but with their ClickList mobile ordering platform and the addition of more beer and wine bars, the grocer seems intent on continuing to evolve and stay relevant to grocery shoppers. 

What are your thoughts on the Kroger Marketplace concept?  Would you be surprised if Kroger decided not to proceed with their planned expansion at Embry Village?  Where do you do most of your grocery shopping?

Please share your thoughts below.  

26 comments:

RichKnobSales said...

I seldom migrate over to Embry Hills but stick to my nearby Kosher Kroger at Toco. My brother took me to his Kroger out in John's Creek or Alpharetta, not sure where we were. They had a whole lot of stuff that the Kosher Kroger didn't have. Seems like the Tucker Kroger had a lot of this fancy stuff when they opened but it's not kept up.

Sadly the bathrooms at the lovely store in Alpharetta are of the same dismal quality as the one at Northlake. An upgrade to the Publix standards would be appreciated.

All things considered, when I go to the grocery, I just want to buy food. I don't need clothing. I don't need a restaurant or a bar. Well most days I don't need to toss back a stiff drink whilst shopping... Well stocked aisles, clean restrooms (I'm a Mom and taking my small kids to that bathroom under the stairs in the back of the Northlake Kroger that was lit by the 40 watt bulb is still one of their nightmares), crisp produce, fresh meats, and friendly employees are what makes it or breaks it. Every time I go into a Publix their employees look me in the eye and smile and say something pleasant and offer assistance.

Anonymous said...

Embry Hills location is decaying fast. No significant new construction in the area. Definitely not on the rise like Toco Hills. Surprised that they don't just close that store down completely and let people go to Tucker or Northlake. Northlake store is equally crappy.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised they may not expand the Embry Hills store. I thought it was odd they would pick that location in the 1st place.

Personally I only buy non perishable items at Kroger. I think a lot of their dairy and meat products aren't fresh. Ive had their sushi before and I think it has a bad taste.

I shop at Publix and Sprouts.

ImAndy said...

When I heard the radio ad I thought it was a clear jab at Aldi not kroger. Aldi night now has an entire aisle of their already tiny stores and 1/3 of their ad dedicated to crock pots and beach chairs

Anonymous said...

Well, THIS is depressing. Now we have a fenced-in, dilapidated motel, empty stores
everywhere, and no hope of getting the development the community so much needs
and desires. Toco Hills store and others getting regular face-lifts and we're left hanging.
Thanks a lot, Kroger.

Anonymous said...

While I'm not positive I think there is a Marketplace Store in Hilton Head, SC as well. I've never seen a Kroger that size, it's literally the size of a Home Depot. Lots of Beach Gear, toys, clothes and souvenirs

Dennis Caniglia said...

This is bad news. This is one of Kroger's busiest store. Very small. Run out of items all of the time. All it is is that its close by. Think I'll start going elsewhere. Prices are better than Publix but they treat you like an customer.

Anonymous said...

That's like the busiest Kroger ever. And it is getting run down, from all the busy-ness. And ALL Publix stores look way better than thing. Even without the fenced in abandoned motel next door.

Anonymous said...

Also, I, like others, do not care about beach chairs and halloween costumes, all that non-food stuff that is apparently so much more interesting to Kroger, just give us a nice looking, organized FOOD STORE! You are not going to compete with Amazon or Walmart so just sell food already and make it pleasant.

jls said...

I agree this is very depressing for Embry Hills. I sure hope it doesn't turn out this way.

Ham said...

This is one of those times that I wish I had been wrong, but when S&S closed I feared Kroger would back out of this deal. I agree this area has potential, but with few desirable businesses, dilapidated buildings and an aging grocery store there is little attraction.

litlnemo said...

Kroger owns Fred Meyer stores in the Pacific Northwest -- it sounded as if the Marketplace stores were basically going to be Fred Meyers under the Kroger name. I was really looking forward to that, having moved out here from Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Embry Hills Kroger was chosen because, believe it or not, it is the third busiest Kroger in metro Atlanta. I work across the street and hate to see that S&S and the post office were relocated for nothing. Now it really will be an eye sore.

Anonymous said...

ImAndy - since Aldi and Trader Joe's share ownership, pretty sure they're not disparaging Aldi in the Trader Joe's ads.

Anonymous said...

I sure hope that Kroger will do some upgrades to the Embry Hills store. Now that tenants of the shopping center have moved out and the motel is ready to be demolished for the new store, I hope Kroger will follow through. I was looking forward to having a fuel center close by.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Krogers has really laid waste to Embry Hills.

Anonymous said...

Almost every Kroger I have ever been in needs a renovation. The Northlake Kroger is in desperate need of a facelift. Obviously, the corporate employees do not go near the Northlake location despite their office being nearby. With all the competition coming with Aldi, Sprouts, etc... why don't they change?

Anonymous said...

as spaghetti junction goes, so goes Embry Hills
when parcels start getting assembled for big developments in the dark corners of the I-285 interchange, everything will change on Cham-Tuck Road (aka Homeland Security Alley)

Peggy Stentz Casey said...

I so agree with you. Publix is really my favorite for all the same reasons. Plus their bakery is far superior!

Anonymous said...

Kroger needs to up it's in-store management and thereby employee caliber. Maybe I'm not the only one who finds groups of employees chatting in the store being obstacles, or, shouting to their buddies 3 aisles away as annoying behavior. Kroger is the boorish uncle store to shop in.

Anonymous said...

DARK! " ..parcels....big developments in dark corners ......Cham-Tuck......Homeland Security Alley....

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the beggars.

Anonymous said...

Kroger has finally realized that large format stores are a thing of the past. Wal-Mart even took the size of their large box stores down in square footage. There is more competition moving into the markets taking away their market share. Aldi, Sprouts and now Lidl is moving this way and they all have small footprints and do well. Kroger and WM have taken notice.

Most people want clean well stocked stores with fresh product with good customer service. I can get that at my local Publix. I also like Sprouts. At Kroger I have to look at the dates on fresh items. Many times products are out of date. The employees at Kroger are not that friendly or helpful when you can find someone to help you and they're often out of items on special.

Kroger would be smart to refocus on cleaning up existing stores and bringing a focus back to customer service.

Anonymous said...

There are 2 primary reasons Publix is usually a more pleasant shopping experience.

#1 Publix is privately owned by their employees; Kroger is owned by
stockholders

#2 Publix is non-union, while Kroger employees are unionized.

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Kroger! You've essentially ruined a happy little shopping center at Embry Hills. And your HQ are at Northlake? The Northlake store is literally a nightmare for that Mom's children and for me. I don't know if you get a discount on buying questionable food or what but my son bought a pack of Oscar Mayer hot dogs and after eating half of them saw a hot dog that was chewed down to the middle by a rat. I bought a package of Sargento cheese and, once again, halfway through I could tell rats had been chewing on it before it was sliced. Both of these items were purchased at Northlake Kroger. I will never go in there again. I'm sure you don't shop there yourselves. I was hoping that whole stinking shopping center would be demolished.

Anonymous said...

Kroger would be shut down in Atlanta if these all these CLAIMS were in fact true.

Publix employee comments - SMH