Will new Kroger concept 'checkmate' Whole Foods?

Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 09:00:42-05

CINCINNATI - The Kroger Co. could have a blockbuster hit on its hands with Main & Vine, a new urban-format store concept that the Cincinnati-based grocery chain is testing in Gig Harbor, Washington.

“It’ll be exceptionally profitable,” said Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a New York-based retail consulting firm.

Flickinger’s company advises retailers on new-store locations, industry trends and operating efficiencies. He sent a team of observers to the vacation village near Seattle to collect performance metrics on the new store, which opened Feb. 3.

Main & Vine store

Based on those results, Flickinger estimates the Gig Harbor store will generate up to $38 million annually and up to 350 percent more sales volume than a “typical” Kroger store its size.

Kroger declined to comment on Flickinger’s estimates, but spokesman Keith Dailey said the company is excited about its prospects in Gig Harbor.

“Main & Vine mixes local, specialty and everyday products all at affordable prices,” Dailey said. “It’s a new concept to re-imagine the modern grocery shopping experience and we are optimistic about its future.“

Prepared foods at Main & Vine

Flickinger said Kroger has combined the best attributes of its signature stores in other cities to produce a new concept with considerable drawing power. Most stores that size draw from a three-mile radius, but the new Main & Harbor store has a 15-mile pull, he said.

He expects Kroger to test the Gig Harbor store for a year, then begin rolling it out in “special situations” after that.

“It will checkmate Whole Foods, Wegmans, Publix as well as the upscale regional retailers in any given market in America,” he said.

Main & Vine interior

What Flickinger does not expect is a Main & Vine opening in downtown Cincinnati, at least not in the near future.

“Downtown Cincinnati is a tough location because of the way the footsteps fall at 5 o’clock,” he said. “More people are moving to downtown but in terms of walk-in trade, for Cincinnati, it’s probably a couple of years away or at least a year away from being successful.”

Kroger has expressed interest in placing an urban format store in downtown Cincinnati. Developers have been offering sites near Kroger's headquarters as potential locations. But the company has not settled on a specific site or concept for a downtown Cincinnati store.

Fresh foods at Main & Vine