Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Downtown Grocer: Major retailers and mom-and-pops

In response to the article, I believe that if H-E-B wanted to establish a downtown grocery store, the process would've been completed years ago. After the decline of the purchasing power of the inner city and the mass production of the automobile, H-E-B moved with the times to establish mega-stores in the suburbs and other towns such as Leon Valley, Alamo Heights, and beyond. As profit-driven as they were in the past, they are in full effect to maintain their position as a top competitor of major retailers - on par to compete with Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. - by establishing their own H-E-B Plus mega-store. With advances in high technology and automation enabling H-E-B to hire less employees, they're able to generate more product at a lower price and still able to sell in mass quantities at a discount to its shoppers, causing profits to soar. A recent article in a local newspaper provided a list of Texas billionaires with Charles Butt right at the top of the list, H-E-B grossing $7.4 billion in the last fiscal year. So until they get a bigger offer from the city, I don't believe they'll take the bait. There is a current incentive of $1,000,000 on the table.

H-E-B has carried independent local brands on their shelves, creating a sort of community grocer/farmer feel in the aisles, i.e., the nuts selection from Boerne, TX . Also, they stock fruits and vegetables from local farms right here in TX, such as the grapefruits from Edinburgh. They also take part in the Go Texan movement, supporting local grocers and farmers in TX. However, more of the H-E-B subsidiary brands are taking over the shelves, and it's not just Hill Country Fare. Central Market, Chef Style, Hill Country Essentials, EconoMax, and others come from under the same roof. I'm surprised to see Bolner's Fiesta spices still on the shelves. But keep in mind that these trends are not unique to H-E-B. Other grocer retailers such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have paved the way in carrying exclusively their own brands of product, continuing to expand their reach across the nation.

Sympathizing with Maggott, I feel that if H-E-B were to set up a downtown location, I hope that it would be in support of keeping local grocers' items on the shelves, as a merger of the two forces. In understanding the dynamics of the city, it appears now that San Antonians are looking for options. Not just in grocery stores, but in clothing retail, restaurants, nightlife etc. I would advocate for more farmer's market events based in downtown and its surrounding areas, possibly an afternoon-evening farmer's market in order to accommodate peoples' daily work schedules ending anywhere between 5pm-8pm. Or instead of $1 million given to one store, why not split up that incentive among 4 or 5 independent grocers? It could be used to contruct loading docks, outdoor seating, etc.

So with any grocer or retailer that opens up shop in the downtown area, I hope they keep in mind the needs of the community without sacrificing culture. If you would like to see a grocery store pop up in downtown SA, what would your decision be?