Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kroger Marketplace, Mansfield, OH

I know this is another out-of-market post. For that, I apologize. However, with Mid-Southerners on the heels of Kroger's first Marketplace location opening locally (in Hernando, MS; I have an album covering its construction here) and more either in the planning stages or under construction already, I thought this post would be a great way to introduce the concept to any readers interested in getting a glimpse of just what exactly a Kroger Marketplace is like ahead of time.

I didn't get any really good shots of the exterior on my visit. However, it was slightly different than the standard design that many Kroger Marketplaces, including Hernando's, have. I imagine this is because the Mansfield Marketplace was one of Kroger's first, as with many in Ohio, considering Kroger is based out of Cincinnati.

The right-side, grocery vestibule featured a bit of a general merchandise display...

...before opening into the fresh departments.

Starbucks is directly to the left inside the entrance.

Floral along the front wall

Kitchen Place isn't necessarily exclusive to Marketplaces; many Kroger stores have this sort of merchandise. However, they don't typically have this large of a selection.

Produce is in the front right corner, and down the side wall beyond the department is natural foods and the deli-bakery.

Some closer looks at the décor package. I love the wood look!

The wine section had this neat hanging fixture

Any item imaginable can be found at a Kroger Marketplace, haha!

A look at the bakery, joined by a couple of shots across the actionway back toward produce

The back aisle of the store

Whether due to local laws or not, the liquor store is enclosed in its own little store-within-a-store, which I thought was pretty neat.

The meat department. Aside from a presumably expanded selection and different décor, this doesn't look all that unlike a modern non-Marketplace Kroger, in my opinion.

Beverages are just to the left of Kitchen Place, if you're looking from the front of the store toward the back (this picture does the opposite). We've definitely seen those 2012/bountiful décor gooseneck signs before! We've also seen a variation of the Marketplace-style price scanner sign too, believe it or not...

Frozen meats and the transition to dairy

The "pet" circle sign is another example of 2012 décor. There are a few examples of it, but mostly the Marketplace décor is prevalent.

Frozen foods is around center store. I like the hanging sign!

A few of the carts here even had specially labeled handles!

Entering the general merchandise area of the store. I didn't have much time to look around at the selection, but as you'll see, the area this section takes up is pretty massive. The lower shelves make it a little easier to navigate than your typical hypermarket as well.

The hanging signs in this department are made of fabric, I believe.

Though these are obviously 2012-style, the blue product markers for toys likely have to be exclusive to Marketplaces. Interesting!

A center aisle splits the GM departments on this side of frozen foods. I believe all of the grocery aisles on the other side run the entire length of the store from front to back, with no break.

Close-up of a cool fabric sign. I may be wrong about the material. If anyone has any better guesses, please leave them in the comments!

The aisle signs also have bountiful décor placards.

Flash sales seem like something to look forward to!

A look across the back aisle again, this time from the left of the store over to the right. Again, this store - and all Marketplaces - are just expansive!

The Mansfield Kroger Marketplace holds significance because it was the first of the prototypes to feature clothing, added in 2012 with the remodel to Kroger's current Marketplace décor. You can read more about that here. Prior to this rollout, Kroger Marketplaces sold furniture; clothing wound up being its replacement.

Even the flooring here had some sort of décor on it, lol!

The fitting rooms for clothing are in the back left corner of the store. In newer Marketplaces (built after clothing became a permanent fixture), clothing tends to be closer to the front of the store.

Yet another back aisle view

Looking from clothing across the left side of the store toward the pharmacy in the front left corner.

The pharmacy had signage on both the side wall...

...and front wall.

A look across the front actionway from pharmacy

Gotta love that department signage!

Although I don't like that Kroger has moved from using the infinitely more interesting Rockwell font (seen above) to bland ol' Arial (EDIT: Helvetica, not Arial; thanks 11110) in their promotional signs, I have always thought that their use of quotes in said promotional signage has been kinda dumb. As if anyone actually literally said, "Low prices on great store brands... all under $5!" (/grammar freak)

Since Kroger owns the Fred Meyer brand, Fred Meyer Jewelers are common features in Marketplaces. Mansfield's was closed at the time of night I visited. The Mid-South Kroger Marketplaces reportedly will not be getting jewelry stores, so it will be interesting to see what takes up that space (since Marketplaces seem to mostly be built according to the same designs, although the next Mid-South one to open - fall 2017 in Arlington, TN - will feature a completely different look)

A look across the promo/deals/seasonal aisle back toward dairy along the rear of the store

The front end.

The tobacco sign is a remnant from this store's previous Marketplace décor!

Guest care and money services are present, as usual, in addition to a bank, as seen in an earlier shot.


If you follow my posts on flickr, you know I have an album dedicated to 12s I (at first unintentionally, and now purposely) have found in my retail photography journeys. This store, it turns out, does not have an Aisle 12 sign (instead, the 2012 décor pet circle sign is in its place - yuck! :P )... so I took a pic of register 12 instead ;)

The self checkout wall you see here is the back of the Starbucks stand.

A look into floral and produce before exiting again through the right-side entrance...

One last exterior close-up, and that concludes our tour of the Mansfield, OH, Kroger Marketplace! Hopefully this gives those of you interested an idea of what a Kroger Marketplace is like. Certainly it's an experience to behold! Beyond that, it must also be comparable to stores such as Walmart, considering the concept's success in the markets in which it is present. Hopefully the Mid-South will be receptive of them as well!

As for the history of the Kroger Marketplace concept... Raymie Humbert (who you may remember as having provided the pics for the Marketplace section of this décor post) has a few words to say on that:

To understand Marketplace, we have to go to the mid-late 90s, and more specifically to a disappeared store name in the Kroger heritage, Smitty's. Smitty's was a chain founded by Clyde "Smitty" Smith in Iowa in 1948. It expanded to Arizona in 1961, and the AZ operation remained fairly separate from the IA/MO unit.

In 1996, Smitty's Arizona was sold to Smith's which led to the two banners operating together in Phoenix and total conversion to Smith's in Tucson. The next year, Smith's was bought by Fred Meyer as part of its massive expansion (it also bought QFC and Ralph's at this time), and over the next couple years Smith's and Smitty's disappeared to bring the Fred Meyer banner to Arizona.

It was in the last few years of Smitty's when the Marketplace format was pioneered. These were very large grocery stores containing garden centers, expanded non-grocery departments with more SKUs for household items, patio furniture, and electronics up front. The two nearest Marketplaces, both built in the mid-90s, had attached Blockbuster Video locations with entrances from the store. Two stores were piloted in 1997, and five came on for 1998, with another 11 opened by the end of the decade. To do this, food courts in some 20 former Smitty's stores closed.

(Fred Meyer, however, never operated its traditional superstore format in the Southwest. The closest it came was its acquisition of the Smitty's Marketplace stores.)

In February 1999, the Smitty's name disappeared and the entire chain became Fred Meyer. I believe all the remaining Smitty's stores were Marketplaces by that point.

I recall seeing the Fred Meyer name until 2000, a year after FM turned around and merged with Kroger. Kroger, sensing an opportunity for market domination and already owning a banner in the state, bid adieu to the Fred Meyer and Smith's banners in Arizona (with some exceptions in northern Arizona where the Smith's name hangs on) and converted them to Fry's stores. Remodeling was not part of this conversion as most of the Marketplace stores had just been renovated in recent years.

I actually have Smitty's Marketplace and Fred Meyer Marketplace magnets. I recall thinking the latter were a little off because they had 602 on them as the area code when Phoenix was split in three and the store was now in a new area code.

In the 2000s, propagated from the Smitty's AZ chain to the rest of Kroger. The serif "Marketplace" logo still used throughout the chain was introduced with the conversion of the Fred Meyer Marketplace stores to the Fry's banner.

My 1996/97-vintage original Smitty's Marketplace has received two major renovations. The original look had a lot of orange, purple and triangle accents - the last piece of it in the store is documented in the Remodel Diaries, too! The first concluded in 2005 and featured a package I've never seen documented that was itself a kinda cheap derivative of a similar look used as early as 2003. It also enclosed the garden center, which had fallen into disuse, for more store space. The second was the current generation Marketplace decor and is the one featured in the Remodel Diaries; it was far more exhaustive in terms of involving a lot of demolition and reconstruction. (They reclaimed the Blockbuster for store space and rearranged several departments.)

I still can't believe they managed to do that store renovation in three months, and in doing so they finally made the decision to just have one store at the intersection (a script decor Fry's was at the same intersection and operated there until just after the renovation completed).

One last treat before we end the post... a really old Kroger trailer featuring their old "Right Store. Right Price." slogan and their Private Selection store brand prior to its revamp! I saw this on the way home from my visit to Ohio and unfortunately was unable to get the entire trailer in one image. Still, it was a neat sight, and I hope my photos help you to get the picture!

You can see some more pics of old Private Selection products here. Additionally, for more pics of a Kroger Marketplace store (and one that's more local, too!), l_dawg2000 has an album covering the Jonesboro, AR, store here. The Hernando Kroger Marketplace is set to open sometime very soon - September 1st, I had heard, although that may or may not turn out to be the truth. Additionally, both the Hernando store and the new Union Avenue Kroger under construction in Midtown Memphis are set to have localized murals, which I think is really neat!

That's what you can expect Kroger Marketplaces to be like... until next time, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell