Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fred's Becomes America's Third-Largest Pharmacy Chain

For [what I'm planning to be, anyway!] my final post of 2016, I wanted to share some news regarding a company based out of the Mid-South - founded in Coldwater, MS, and currently headquartered in Memphis, specifically. As I'm sure you've heard, Walgreens is currently undergoing an effort to merge with Rite Aid, and as a result of that merger, the FTC will require many stores in overlapping areas to be divested. What you may not have heard is that a deal has been struck with a buyer for those stores – none other than Memphis's own Fred's! The Memphis Business Journal has a nice write-up on the deal here, and here is an article from the Cincinnati Business Journal detailing how Fred's role in the Walgreens-Rite Aid merger will affect (Cincinnati-based) Kroger. Why Kroger? Well, Kroger was reported to be interested in purchasing some of the stores, especially since many will likely be in the northeast (where Kroger currently doesn't have a presence), but ultimately it would've been a bit much for them to take on, given they don't operate under any similar store format. Fred's, on the other hand, is a key player (at least locally – and maybe will grow to be nationally!) in the pharmacy and discount retail markets. In addition to the 865 Rite Aid stores they will operate following the merger (keeping the Rite Aid name under a two-year changeover plan, as well as their employees), Fred's reportedly will also take ownership of any other stores that may need to be divested in the future. Even without the additional stores, this purchase makes Fred's the third-largest drugstore chain in the United States.

As some of my flickr contacts have noted over at my photostream there (where I've cross-posted this information), speculation has abounded since the sale as to whether or not Fred's can survive as a chain following this deal. After all, as recently as last week it was reported that they will be closing some 40 of their stores in the new year, yet this purchase more than doubles their store count. Some are even calling the sale "Haggen II," referring to supermarket Haggen's assumption of the divested stores from the Albertsons-Safeway merger last year. Evidently, Haggen took on more than they could handle and ended up declaring bankruptcy; many of the stores they closed wound up going right back into the hands of Albertsons, giving them a (legal!) monopoly in several places. Walgreens may well have even had this in mind as a strategy when selling the Rite Aid stores to Fred's. In any case, I have to assume Fred's was chosen as the highest bidder more so than as a potential failure, and while I don't doubt they will encounter some struggles with this hefty purchase, I do hope they find the necessary abilities to pull it off. Given that they are a local company, I'd sure like to see them succeed!


Changing subjects... I know many of my most recent posts have been largely focused on news stories or other content that is not my own. I've also almost entirely neglected to mention a major Mid-South retail occurrence over the past few months: the construction of IKEA Memphis, which finally opened its doors to the public just a couple of weeks ago! For January, I hope to have a post covering IKEA's construction, but at a cost - the photos would again not be my own content but that of my flickr friend Memphis Retail. In fact, I'm running slightly low on content/ideas for the blog myself, which is why I tend to push the fact that you can send in your own contributor posts to midsouthretailblog [at] gmail [dot] com. Nevertheless, I do have several posts with new content of my own in the works, and will begin posting those in the new year. As a programming note, however, I would like to mention that I am reducing my 'goal' number of posts per year to 10 from 12 (i.e. skipping two months instead of posting once a month). This is not to say that I won't exceed that number, just building in the excuse for if I don't.

Your continued patronage of the Mid-South Retail Blog is very much appreciated, and I hope my slowdown in posting doesn't turn you away! Thank you for continuing to visit and read for our first full calendar year on the web (!), and I hope you and yours have a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2017 :)

Anyway... that's what's going on with a major Mid-South retail chain. Until next time - next year, in fact! - have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Olive Branch Aldi and Other Retail Development

Today's post highlights DeSoto County, MS, retail.

Since many of you are likely all too familiar with your local grocery stores this time of year, what with Thanksgiving just days away, for this post I thought I would showcase a non-traditional grocer which opened a new store in Olive Branch, MS, on July 23, 2014. Aldi, for those of you unfamiliar with them, is a German discount supermarket chain whose US stores offer similar but off-brand popular items as a way to keep prices low. The Olive Branch location is DeSoto County's second, following a relatively long-established Southaven store.

 Some night shots of the store's exterior as we prepare to head inside...

Here are a few looks down the main aisle upon entering. The way the store is designed, you must pass through this aisle in order to access the rest of the salesfloor. Note how the décor incorporates the "A" logo symbol.

An example of an Aldi product. Obviously a knock-off version of brand-name Rice Crispy Treats, but I suppose you shouldn't knock 'em until you've tried 'em! (I haven't, so I can't speak to them either way, haha!)

A quick peek at the décor in the back left corner of the store, as well as a look down the second aisle, the left half of which is home to a changing selection of seasonal merchandise (i.e. not strictly just food).

Beyond the seasonal aisle, in the rear center of the store, is Aldi's produce selection. Produce isn't necessarily brand-name stuff, so if you're skeptical about the other products, at least you shouldn't have to worry about the produce! Personally, my favorite items at Aldi come from their cheese selection, which is located in the back right corner of the store - an area I, for whatever reason, did not get pics of. Maybe it's so popular a crowd of people was blocking me from getting the shot, lol!

A closer look at the changeable produce price signage (which I think is very cool!), as well as a look across the store back toward the front from produce. This store is consistently well-organized and well-kept, as these photos convey.


Here you're looking at a shelf housing the store's fresh bread selection in the top photo, and some coffin cooler freezer cases dedicated to special deals in the bottom photo.

Some more décor along the right-side wall, which is home to dairy and frozen. It feels very modern in here.

Finally from the interior of the store, a shot of the checkout lanes. Notice along the front wall of the store is a counter. Aldi is able to keep its prices so low not only through its selection of off-brand items but also because its cashiers do not bag any items. Boxes are available for customers, similar to what one might find at Sam's Club or Costco, to do that themselves along that front counter if they desire.


Headed back outside, it's suddenly daytime now (!), as we take a look at some parting shots of the store. This Aldi isn't the only thing that's opened in growing Olive Branch over the past few years! In fact, much more retail has been developed, not least of which is Olive Branch Crossing. The remainder of this post explores some of that new development before ending with an update on Olive Branch Crossing's second phase of construction.

Popeye's is located beside Aldi to the right (east)...

...and a strip center, pictured above under construction in May 2015, to the left (west).

Another shot of the strip center under construction, joined by a Corky's BBQ location on the left edge of the pic

Fast-forward to March 2016, when we find the strip center open and with healthy crowds. Mellow Mushroom is the closest tenant to Aldi.

Another major tenant in the center is Paisley Pineapple, an existing Olive Branch retailer that moved from another, older location across the street.

The majority of this development was spurred by the construction of this Malco Cinema, which opened just before Christmas 2013. (Apparently I've been holding on to these photographs and news items for some time!)
A shot of the Malco at sunset. Like OB's Aldi, this is DeSoto County's second Malco; the first is another long-established Southaven location.

Farther west from the Malco/Aldi area, we find continued development in the "Target corridor," an area of retail growth spurred by the 2008 opening of DeSoto County's second Target (except this time the first was in Horn Lake, not Southaven!).

This is a December 2015 look at the same strip center seen under construction above in October 2015. Sprint relocated from elsewhere in Olive Branch; many of the other stores were new to the city.

The Great American Sleep Shop is the main left corner anchor of the center. This shot takes a look beyond its storefront to the adjoining strip center, which preceded its offshoot center that we've been focusing on.
Also near the OB Target, the southwest corner of Goodman and Pleasant Hill Roads, seen under construction here in October 2015...

...was developed into a Mapco gas station by early 2016. Prior to this being built, there weren't really any other gas stations located immediately close-by this now-major shopping area.

A look at the Mapco from the signaled intersection. Note the neat curved canopy!

A better look at the curved canopy, likely required due to the elevation and layout of the property. I think it adds some character!
Mapco wasn't the only one looking to take advantage of the relative lack of gas stations in the immediate area, as seen here in November 2015!

Pop's Express, a local convenience store chain, began building at the next intersection of Pleasant Hill Road south of the previously-pictured Mapco soon after that last photo was taken, and was pretty far along by July 2016 as can be seen here.

One year and four days since my first Pop's Express Pleasant Hill photo was taken, the convenience store and its Shell-branded gas station looked just about ready to open! Additional retail bays are available for lease, too.

Finally, as promised, here's an update on Olive Branch Crossing. The Fresh Market began construction early this year, with a projected - and highly incorrect! - opening of spring 2016, according to that sign out front.
Luckily, that sign had been corrected to say "spring 2017" by the time of my next photo two months later! It should be a lot easier to meet that deadline :P

A closer look at the storefront as it took shape in August 2016 (same date as the previous pic), as seen through a break in the construction fence.

Last but not least, my most recent look at the Olive Branch Crossing Fresh Market store, taken just this month, shows the construction fencing has been removed, the store's exterior has been all but completed, and even the roadside pylon has been installed, awaiting its signage. Once the store does open, I'll likely get some photos eventually, and will also likely put them up here on the blog...

I hope you enjoyed this post, everyone! Unfortunately, even though I was hoping to do a December post, this may well wind up being my last one of the year - this time not due to time constraints (although as always, that does play a role) so much as a lack of content!! I'll try to stock up on ideas/photos for future posts over the rest of the year, and definitely plan on having a new post go up in January. But in the meantime... if this is the last you hear from me (on the blog, anyway!) until 2017, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season, no matter what you celebrate, and that you continue to have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are! :)

Retail Retell

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Memphis Retail News: IKEA, Midtown Kroger Opening; Kmart Closing

Today's post highlights Shelby County, TN, retail.

Hey, everyone! I know I said I wouldn't be posting again until close to Thanksgiving, but there's been a couple of big Memphis retail stories that broke over the past week that I can't not share with you guys. As a result, I'm squeezing this post in as short and sweet as is possible to get the news across without taking up too much of my - or your - time.

Courtesy Memphis Retail on flickr

The first big story is that Memphis's IKEA store is set to hold its grand opening on Wednesday, December 14th, 2016 at 9AM. The store is located at I-40 and Germantown Parkway, and, acknowledging the excitement surrounding its construction, will allow customers to line up outside for two days beforehand (!) - that'd be Monday 12-12, if you'd like to get your tent set up on the sidewalk outside ;)  Here's the announcement from the Memphis Business Journal website. UPDATE: The MBJ also has a newly-posted interior photo tour slideshow.

Courtesy WMC Action News 5

In other exciting news, the Midtown Kroger on Union Avenue is set to reopen this Wednesday morning, November 2nd, 2016, at 6AM, with a ribbon cutting to follow later at 9AM. This follows many months of anticipation ever since its closure for demolition and rebuilding back in January. The new store is 54,000 square feet, nearly double the size of the old store that stood on the site. Employees and customers alike are ready for the new store, praising Kroger for their efforts after, in the words of employee Melina Payne, "Albertsons promised it to them, they didn't get it. Schnucks promised them a new store, they didn't get it. But, oh, they are going to be amazed. They are just going to be blown away, the customers here in Midtown.''

Courtesy The Commercial Appeal

Courtesy The Commercial Appeal

The new store was designed to feature a huge glass wall to allow for viewing area landmarks such as the Idlewild Presbyterian Church (see top photo above); it also includes a local mural (as announced previously) along the front end of the interior. While those things should appeal to nearly everybody, for us retail fans, there's even more to be seen in this store. The décor is an interesting mash-up of 2012/bountiful and a heretofore unseen look that, in my opinion, is very neat. You can check out the mash-up of décor in the following photos, some of which come from The Commercial Appeal (captioned) but the majority of which (uncaptioned) are from WMC Action News 5 (and specifically, if I understood a recent 10PM newscast correctly, from main anchor Joe Birch, which if true is pretty cool!).

Courtesy The Commercial Appeal

Courtesy The Commercial Appeal

Courtesy The Commercial Appeal

Courtesy The Commercial Appeal

Courtesy The Commercial Appeal

Courtesy The Commercial Appeal

Let me know what you think of the décor in the comments to this post! The last two photos above show the store's manager, Courtland Perry, as well as its exterior. The new Union Avenue Kroger is a great modernization from its Seessel's days, and is something not only Mr. Perry, but the entire Midtown community, can be proud of.

Finally, the last bit of news I wanted to share with you guys isn't really new anymore given that it was announced back in September, but I haven't reported it on the blog yet, so I figured I might as well include it with this post. The lone remaining Kmart in Memphis - formerly a Super Kmart, and pictured above (as well as featured on the blog earlier this year) - is finally giving up the ghost and closing its doors for good this December, as part of yet another massive Sears Holdings liquidation blitz that also includes the Jonesboro, AR, store, marking Kmart's complete exit from the Mid-South market.

I hope to visit at least the closing Austin Peay Highway Kmart and the rebuilt Union Avenue Kroger, if not the new Germantown Parkway IKEA as well, sometime in the future, and will gladly post any and all photos I take either here on the blog or on my flickr account (which you can visit here) whenever I find the time. Any photos YOU take of any of those stores, or the closing Jonesboro Kmart, I'll also happily post to the blog: just send 'em in to midsouthretailblog [at] gmail [dot] com along with a message and/or text for your contributor post, and I'll get to them ASAP.

Until next time... that's what's going on in Memphis retail-wise. Stay safe if you're trick-or-treating this Halloween, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell