business news in context, analysis with attitude

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that even as Albertsons sits on the sale block waiting for a company to buy some or all of it, there are “20 Ralphs, Cala and Bell stores in San Francisco and the North Bay…reportedly on the block, with other Bay Area grocers said to be interested in taking over some of those properties. Both developments are an indication of the growing problems facing the traditional grocery business, analysts say.”

The problems for these Northern California grocers are the same as those facing food retailers elsewhere in the country – they are relentlessly mainstream at a time when low-cost operators like Wal-Mart and high-margin stores like Whole Foods are attacking them from either end. The Chronicle writes that “a boutique grocer like Molly Stone's, based in Mill Valley, would be a logical buyer of Cala stores in San Francisco's Castro and Nob Hill neighborhoods or the Bell store in Noe Valley,” especially if the company could promise local shoppers a unique and compelling experience.

One thing that will help in the sale of the Northern California properties – retail real estate in the state is both expensive and hard to come by.
KC's View:
The lessons here and elsewhere need to be taken to heart by food retailers everywhere.

The mainstream is where you go to drown. And the middle of the road is where you find roadkill.