Local Market Place

Kroger, the world’s largest food retailer, recently reopened at a new location in Newark. The previous site of Meijer is now the Kroger test model for a revamped experiment in food retailing. It is no coincidence that the store name is “Kroger Market Place.” The geographic relocation was not far from its previous address, just down the road actually. It also did not mark a rehab for better competition with the world’s number 2 food retailer, Walmart, as that store is still its neighbor on the city’s north side. It does, however, mark a definite strategic move by Kroger to go head to head with the local farmers markets, The Canal Market District Farmers Market and the Granville Farmers Market. The interior design and lay out of the new store reveals Kroger’s intent. The similarity to a farmers market is uncanny. The visual focus and “inviting” center of attention is on the southern third of the interior. Gawking listless shoppers are immediately drawn to the brightly colored flowers on one side and fruits/vegetables on the other. This is surrounded by satellite nooks of Starbucks, “Pan Asian” offerings (Asia is a continent. Would you say “Pan North American”?), a bar (with entertainment), baked goods, deli, seafood, etc. etc. etc. The grocery part of the grocery store is rather nondescript, along narrow aisles in the middle section. It is not as roomy or airy, cheery or festive. This is the land of day to day hard core canned good necessities (better check the price). The north part holds Kroger’s recent expansion into retailing as well as its grip on healthcare and a bank to pay for it all. Along with the Canal Market District Farmers Market, Granville Farmers Market and the plethora of Ohio Proud farmers markets in city’s and small towns across Ohio (and the US) Kroger’s Market Place offers immediate on-site consumables (bakery, coffee, etc.), boutique foods, entertainment, and variety. And, of course, the emphasis is on “local.” Being indoors under one roof creates the competitive edge that ultimately makes Kroger’s Market Place, like the North Market in Columbus, so attractive. Eventually it will win out (besides, you can score the hard core day to day stuff without an added detour). Sure, on a nice day, it is quaint to “be like New England” and jostle through the crowds at an out of doors market. But on a rainy day or windy, unpleasant one….? Same “local” offerings! Besides, you get a cart to push around while you go from stand to stand instead of lugging it with you like airport luggage. Analysis finds it is the “local” moniker that dilutes the difference. The very trait meant to distinguish the small from the mighty now allows for the mega food marketer to do what Walmart has already done. For last century’s unsuspecting country bumpkin without a brand to his name, “local” meant being within the vicinity where one’s children compete against each other at “local” school athletic events, where the churches are within a reasonable Sunday morning commute (“Hurry up or we’ll be late”), and where one votes for a “local” politician to govern (what else?) “locally”. But buying Zanesville baked goods only available in Licking County at The Canal Market District Farmers Market or Granville Farmers Market (but not at the Zanesville Farmers Market, or the bakery itself) doesn’t differentiate those markets’ “local” much from the Kroger Market Place’s “local”. High school sports and politicians in Brinkhaven articulate little, if at all, with central Licking County. And attending church in Louisville would be an all day Sunday drive for Newark’s devout. Analysis finds that “local” has gone from (Webster’s) “pertaining to a city, town, or small district rather than an entire state or country” to just another quality of brand identity in the marketplace. Analysis finds little difference in whether Kroger or the Market Master makes the “local” designation.

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