Texas-Sized Grocery War

December 14, 2008

A new Kroger Signature opens today in our neighborhood.  At 100,000 square feet, it’s advertised as the largest Kroger in Texas.  The Kroger is in direct competition with a nearby HEB-Plus that opened last year shortly before Thanksgiving.

About fifty percent largest than the Kroger, the HEB’s wide array of electronics, houseware, and even furniture carries it into the market space of the nearby WalMart Supercenter and SuperTarget.  Or vice-versa: I can’t quite get my mind wrapped around the idea of buying groceries at Target, much less buying a bed in HEB.

Also in the mix, directly across the street from WalMart we have Safeway Incognito (they call it Randall’s), a more conventional but beautiful upscale supermarket.

Last month, Channel 11 and Channel 2 did both did stories ranking local grocery store prices.  The results are pretty much what you would expect: WalMart is the least expensive, Randall’s is the most expensive, and HEB and Kroger are pretty close, depending on your particular grocery choices.

I have no reservations about shopping at WalMart, although I get frustrated that many of the things I buy are out of stock more often there than at the other stores.  I tend to find Target a little pricey for foods, though Channel 2 did not.  Maybe that’s because my market-basket concentrates on store-brands, and Kroger and HEB have more choices among both “value-oriented” and “quality” store-brand options.  And Randall’s?  Nice place to visit, but I can’t afford to shop there.

Retail is still expanding here in Pearland, even as it stalls and shrinks across the country.  We have pent-up demand from our rapid suburban population growth.  Kroger, in particular, started planning this store over a year ago, knowing that they were losing customers to their competition by not having a presence close by:  Why drive five miles to Kroger if you pass four other grocers on the way?  Even though gas is down to $1.35/gallon and falling, why waste it idling in traffic?

This week we’re ground zero in the Texas-sized grocery war.  Who’s going to win?

Hopefully, consumers.

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