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Kroger’s first mega store in the mid-Atlantic opens in Chesterfield County

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By Paula C. Squires

Hoards of Richmond shoppers turned out Wednesday for the opening of the Kroger Co.’s first mega-store in its mid-Atlantic region.
The 123,600-square foot Kroger Marketplace store in Chesterfield County at the old Cloverleaf Mall site offers a new grocery shopping experience, offering 300,000 items and several nongrocery departments including a Babyland and furniture and home décor. 

“Grocery shopping isn’t always a fun experience,” said Valerie Jabbar, a vice president of merchandising for the Kroger Co. “We want to make it fun by appealing to the customer’s five senses.” 
There was plenty to see, taste and touch at the store, a prototype Kroger is rolling out aggressively in the next five years. While some retailers such as Walmart started with a variety of hard and soft merchandise and then added groceries, Kroger is moving in the opposite direction. Besides rows of fresh produce and typical grocery offerings, its new store at the Stonebridge mixed-use development on Midlothian Turnpike offers Starbucks coffee, an outdoor garden center, toys and even a section with Virginia Tech Hokie merchandise.

The company has a 124,000-square-foot Marketplace store under construction in Virginia Beach that will open in 2013, and it plans a second Marketplace store in the Richmond area, at the intersection of Staple Mills and Hungary Springs Road in Henrico County. That store is scheduled to open in 2014.
In the mid-Atlantic division, “We will build, over the next five years, a minimum of 10 of these stores,” Jabbar said.

At more than $20 million per store opening, that represents a major investment for the Cincinnati-based grocery chain, which currently has a 16 percent share of Richmond’s grocery market, behind competitors Food Lion and Walmart. “We made this investment there, because we think Richmond is going to do well for us,” said Carl York, a customer communications executive for The Kroger Co. “We’re very excited about the way customers are responding to us.” 

Altogether, Kroger has 16 stores in the Richmond market and 122 in the mid-Atlantic division. The new store at Stonebridge employs 375 people. News

Asked about the strategic thinking behind expanding store size and adding hard goods such as furniture, York noted that Kroger acquired Fred Meyer Inc. in 1999. Kroger’s Fred Meyer Stores subsidiary operates about 120 supercenters, which offer groceries, general merchandise and jewelry, in the western U.S.  Jewelry, not available in the Chesterfield store, will be offered in the Virginia Beach Marketplace. “We’ve had some success,” with the combination of goods, York said.

With the housing industry poised to make a comeback as the economy continues to recover and with a new apartment community planed for Stonebridge, Jabbar said the company expects the furniture and home décor items to sell well in Richmond. For those buyers, Kroger offers a home delivery and assembly service, for a fee, provided by a third-party contractor.
Many shoppers strolled the aisles of the furniture department yesterday where they could buy lamps, rugs, couches, chairs, cushions and other items.

The corporate headquarters for Kroger’s mid-Atlantic division is in Roanoke. The division’s territory includes six states: Virginia, some parts of West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Kroger is one the world’s largest grocery retailers, with fiscal 2011 sales of $90.4 billion. It operates 2,425 stores, under various formats and banners, in 31 states.


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