The big box gets smaller

walmart neighborhood market

A Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago.

The Capital Region has one of the world's largest Walmart stores -- and soon, it will have one of the smaller ones, too.

Walmart announced today that the Mansion Square project in Niskayuna will include a "Walmart Neighborhood Market" -- a scaled-down supermarket version of the chain's traditional mega-mart. It will be first such store in the state. [Biz Review] [TU]

A Walmarket (we made that name up) offers "fresh produce, meat and dairy products, bakery and deli items, household supplies, health and beauty aids and a pharmacy." The company's website says the stores were designed as "a smaller-footprint option for communities in need of a pharmacy, affordable groceries and merchandise." The stores are about 38,000 square feet, which is roughly the same size as one of the small Price Choppers and about twice the size of the new Trader Joe's. (It's a little bigger than the new Honest Weight and the planned Whole Foods at Colonie Center.)

There are about 200 of these stores around the nation, and the chain appears to be pushing the format. Among the places they've recently opened: Georgia, Miami, and Orange County (California). [Atlanta Business Chronicle] [Miami Herald] [Orange County Register]

The idea of another Walmart doesn't really do much for us, but this smaller version could be a good sign.

The last few decades have seen the rise of the supercenter -- huge, 100,000+ square foot stores. And if you're going to build a store that big, you need a lot of space, not only for the building but also for the enormous parking lot to go with it. The need for space pretty much eliminates most urban areas from the list of potential locations.

But a 40,000 square foot store widens the field of possible locations considerably. And for a company like Walmart to be pushing such stores, it must think there's a lot of opportunity to make money with them.

price chopper downtown saratoga interior
The Railroad Place Price Chopper in downtown Saratoga Springs.

Walmart's not the only company that has this in mind. Locally, Price Chopper's new store in downtown Saratoga also follows the small-box trend. You should check it out some time -- it's a nice store. And it continues the Chopper's commitment to the Capital Region's urban areas. Because whatever you might think about Price Chopper, the company has resisted the big box tide by keeping relatively small stores open in urban areas. Without those stores, many parts of the Capital Region wouldn't have easy access to a supermarket.

So the small-box trend could be a good thing for the future of urban areas, both here and elsewhere. No matter how many apartments are occupied in downtown Albany (or Troy, or wherever), nobody was ever going to build a 100,000-square-foot supercenter there. But one of these smaller-scale stores? That seems possible. Someday.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Where the supermarkets are -- and aren't
+ Honest Weight is aiming to open its new location in May 2013
+ Whole Foods is coming to Albany
+ Oh, Whole Foods, why Colonie Center?

Walmart photo: Walmart


"And it continues the Chopper's commitment to the Capital Region's urban areas."

Really? According to the AOA supermarket map above, the only grocery store store that serves all residents south east of Washington Park (including Hudson/Park, Center Square, Downtown Albany, Mansion Area, most of Sheridan / Ten Broeck, and more) is the world's most dilapidated Price Chopper. Some commitment!

Please tell me they sell souls like at all the other Walmarts. Also, can I wear my pjs when I shop there?

Price Chopper, Hannaford or Shoprite should be fighting to put one of these in all the local urban downtowns. But they have always ignored those areas. If WalMart is what it takes to get a grocery store in downtown Albany, I'm all for it.

Aldi's is also doing a good job with urban stores. Too bad we don't have any elected leaders in Albany who care about downtown and are working to bring grocery store there.

In the recent PR blitz by Jerry Jennings he said he was talking to Stewarts about locating downtown. Award winning ice cream is great on occasion but it isn't a way to build a healthy sustainable downtown.

Price Chopper has no commitment to urban areas. They closed their stores on Hoosick in Troy and Columbia in Rensselaer and fought development of markets there tooth and nail. If they had their way there wouldn't be markets there still.

Walmart is trying to drive out any competition they have, be it grocery stores, stewarts or any mom and pop out there.

Walmart is still walmart. Evil. Please, bring more underpaid, anti-union positions to the area. That helps retain the college grads from local universities? What about Troy? People in Niskayuna aren't living in a food desert.

I don't know... Wal-Mart's groceries are sold at a loss. The "loss-leader" concept. So, when Wal-Mart opens a store that primarily sells things at a loss, the only logical conclusion is that the store is being built in order to drive away all other grocery stores. Once the others are gone, the "Neighborhood Market" becomes a boarded up shop overnight and you're left with a drive out to your friendly suburban Supercenter.

@Paul: Yep, that Chopper has a lot of problems. But is it worse than no supermarket? (Maybe it is -- someone could probably argue that the store's presence keeps other competitors that might do a better job out of that area. I kind of doubt that, though.)

@Kate H: Whatever PC might have done with respect to the competition, I don't think it's fair to say it has no commitment (or maybe "interest" is a better word) to urban areas here. Its lineup includes the aforementioned problem Chopper in Albany, Pine Hills in Albany, Menands, Watervliet, Eastern Parkway Schenectady, downtown Saratoga. It just built a new store in downtown Saratoga and it wants to open a new store in Watervliet (a project not without complications and controversy, of course). That's not to say they couldn't be better neighbors in some of these places.

@code Monkey: Thank you for sharing that Mother Jones article. It was interesting.

@Collin: There are a lot of things to not like about Walmart. Of course. But this isn't really about Walmart so much as the perceived viability of non-supercenter stores. If a supermarket ever ends up back in the urban part of Troy, it probably won't be a supercenter. And until recently, most supermarket chains appeared to have little interest in building anything but supercenters.

@skepticalDude: I'm curious about where you heard that. Because if that's true, Walmart is currently devoting enormous resources to loss-making products. On Washington Ave Ext alone they've devoted probably 100,000 square feet to such products. And I'm skeptical that their other non-supermarket items are marked up to a degree that would allow for the losses on all those supermarket items. I'm sure Walmart sells some loss leader products to get people in the door -- almost every store does. It appears to be one of Price Chopper's main strategies. I'm just skeptical it's the entire category. That said, I don't doubt that Walmart's margins are razor-thin on many of these products -- it focuses on pushing prices down as far as possible (no matter the total cost to society) and making the money on the crazy large volume.

What's up with this area and it's habit of putting a new facade on something and suddenly people thinking it's something new and fresh. Wal-Mart with a new design is still Wal-Mart just like downtown Schenectady is still a ghetto even with the new store fronts and roads.

Price Chopper has taken a brutal public pounding in order to keep a presence in Watervliet, poured a ton of money into renovations for its Eastern Parkway Store in Schenectady, has two small markets in downtown Albany, one in downtown Saratoga and consciously seeks locations on bus routes. Moreover, the company has consistently reinvested in the communities it operates in. If that's not a commitment to the urban communities, I don't know what is.

I am disappointed and slightly disgusted to see Walmart coming to Niskayuna. However small Walmart pretends to be, it will never be a "Neighborhood Supermarket."

Price Chopper has no interest in community. Look at the way they are looking to tear the heart out of watervliet by tearing down an historic landmark and putting a giant big box store in its place.

They are worse than Walmart.

I'm a fan of Walmart.

And I love grocery stores and grocery shopping. The Capital Region was an underserved market for a long long time. But all of this activity is making my head hurt.

Now I've got Price Chopper for their occasional deep discounts.
Hannaford for their roast chickens.
Walmart for its everyday low prices.
ShopRite for good prices on specialty foods.
Trader Joe's for olive oil, cereal, and a lot of fun stuff.
HWFC for their bulk bins and organic produce.
Adventure in Food Trading for grassfed beef & drizzling oils.
The Asian Supermarket for tofu, noodles, and sriracha.
Parivar for South Asian specialty legumes and mango puree.
The Cheese Traveler for his well selected wares.
Aldi when I'm feeling adventurous.
La Mexicana for dried peppers and huitlacoche.
Rolf's Pork Store for the best wurst (and bologna for the kids).

That's not even counting great little Italian markets like Cardona's or Andy's. It doesn't take into consideration butchers like Falvo's or The Meat House. Nor did I include the milk, eggs and ice cream found at every Stewart's in the region. Surely I'm leaving out other notables too.

Is it any wonder that I can't even remember the last time I was at The Fresh Market? And when that place came to town, it was totally boss. I drove out of my way just to get there.

As much as I'd love a Wegmans to come to town, it might make my head explode.

@Tim, I think the situation in Watervliet sucks big time, but I disagree that Price Chopper is "worse than Walmart." I wish people would wake up to Walmart's business practices and the impact the retailer has had on communities nationwide. I won't even go inside a Walmart.

Similar to what McDonald's has done to appease the more financially attractive demographics by appending healthier food choices to their menus as well as modernizing their interior design. How could someone argue with Wal*Mart doing business in their neighborhood the company effectively emulate the type of Mom and Pop business that residents want to support? I am sure that is what corporate is thinking, and to a large extent it will work economically, but I can already see the cover of the next AdBusters claiming that big box stores are infiltrating our prized urban fabric, although any business that served these products in a similar format have quickly gone under. Remember the coop in Troy?

Seriously. Why in the world do we need this? We're innundated in the area with these things. In that specific area, we have 1)price chopper 2) Hannaford 3) Shop Rite, 4) Target and 5) the Nisky Co-Op. All except the Nisky Co-Op do pharmacy. What the heck do we need another thing in a 3 mile radius for? Someone please explain this to me.

So, what exactly are the problems with the Delaware Ave Chopper? I hear it's dirty. It's not. It's smaller and older, but it's well kept. Some people would like it to magically be twice the size, but if they bought up a block of historic homes and bulldozed them to expand the store, these people would whine about that.

What it usually comes down to is the "clientele". What the whiners about this store really don't like is that there are people of lower classes there who have trouble paying for milk and it makes them uncomfortable. Additionally people of different skin colors, sometimes speaking different languages shop there. This kind of thing scares them. But at the same time, if Price Chopper hung up a big "White Only" sign in front of the store, they would get angry about that. Price Chopper can't win here.

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