12 March 2008

City Residents Crave Grocery Stores

An article in the Washingtong Post about the dissapearance of grocery stores from New York City. Not totally relevant to Cincy, but there are some interesting ideas in the article:

(Corner stores or bodegas)often offer little in terms of nutritious food, with shelves carrying little more than hamburger mix, white bread, canned pasta and peanut butter, generally at higher prices than a supermarket charges.
One project is the return of the greengrocer pushcart, an effective and low-cost way to get fresh produce in certain neighborhoods, Bloomberg said. The city plans to license 1,500 street vendors to sell fruits and vegetables in the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Another program encourages bodegas to carry low-fat milk and to sell fruits and vegetables in single-serving bags.
"As we do new housing developments, we should think about how to structure space on the ground floor" and "make plans to incorporate street-level retail," said Linda Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services.

Alicia Glen, the managing director of the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, brings investment capital to underserved neighborhoods to stimulate economic development, including grocery stores. She said it is difficult to convince national supermarket chains "that even though people's incomes may be low, they still shop."

"I think you could characterize it as redlining," she said. "There's a real sense that there's certain places they won't go."

She said investors have been slow to realize that grocery stores can anchor neighborhood development. "How are you going to have million-dollar condos if there's no place to buy bok choy?" she asked.

A study by the Reinvestment Fund, a development finance corporation in Pennsylvania, found that every $1 spent on supermarket construction and operation generates $1.50 in additional economic activity.

The rationale for the vanishing grocery stores is clear: Grocers traditionally make profit margins of only 1 to 2 percent, while skyrocketing rent prices in recent years have outstripped the stores' income, industry experts said.
High-end grocers are doing well, such as Whole Foods Market. It recently opened the largest grocery store in the city, at 71,000 square feet, including a sushi bar, an ice cream bar and a fromagerie. FreshDirect, an online grocer that delivers to certain neighborhoods, has so transformed food shopping that many new residential buildings include a refrigerated room off the lobby for food deliveries.
"Traditionally people went to their neighborhood stores to buy their needs," he said. "They won't be able to do that. It's not just grocery stores."

No comments: