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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday that despite the rapid expansion in the market by Kroger and Publix which has put "a grocery store on almost every corner," smaller niche grocers "are bucking the trend of conventional chains by captivating time-pressed consumers and even slowing them down. Their theatrical lighting, attractive layouts and gourmet food tastings are designed to intrigue and entertain consumers, who often spend dollars more per visit than at conventional stores."

Among the examples cited by the paper: Fresh Market, where antiques are used as displays, gourmet items are abundant, classical music plays in the background and the store is designed to give a cozy European feel.

"We want shopping to be an experience," Ken Towery, Fresh Market's vice president of operations, tells the paper. "It has to stimulate the eyes, smell and touch, as well as the palate. We invite shoppers to walk around and relax."
KC's View:
Metro Atlanta has more per capita grocery store square footage than any other city in the country, according to one study, but consumers continue to look for new and differentiated options.

Interestingly, we were at a friend's 50th birthday party over the weekend (we're going to far too many of these for comfort lately…), and a couple there that was house-hunting in Atlanta commented that they'd never seen so many grocery stories in their lives.

Of course, just being different isn’t always enough to survive. Just ask the folks who ran Harry's Farmers Market, which probably just tried to expand too fast and do too much. But the DeKalb Farmers Market has been around far longer and continues to thrive.

This should be a message to retailers everywhere - you can survive by being different, by being willing to innovate, to show imagination.

And while the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story emphasizes the niche upscale players, we think there's plenty of room for innovative retailers with a more mainstream, middle class approach.