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The Dayton Daily News uses current store building trends in Ohio to suggest that even as supercenters and other big box formats continue to capture consumers’ imaginations, smaller stores are beginning to be seen by some shoppers – and retailers – as a necessary and even desirable option.

Part of the issue seems to be that aging baby boomers may not want to spend the time on their feet that a supercenter demands. And part of it seems to be that a smaller shopping experience can also be a more convenient, targeted and attractive alternative. (There’s also the community resistance to big box stores that seems to crop up with increasing regularity.)

“In the Pittsburgh area,” the Daily News writes, “Giant Eagle recently opened one of its trendy new Express stores — a mere 14,000 square feet, but packed with fresh produce, a deli, a drive-thru pharmacy, a free Wi-Fi cafe, a DVD rental machine, a prepared foods area with heat-and-serve meals and a bakery that can do birthday cakes. Of Kroger's total 2,468 supermarkets as of 2006, most (88 percent) were mid-sized combination food and drug stores, followed by discount warehouse stores (6 percent), multi-department stores (5 percent) and the newer giant Marketplace locations (1 percent).”
KC's View:
Clearly, this is what Tesco is banking on with the opening of its first Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores on the west coast early next month. And if it could figure out the ROI and how to get it near to supercenter levels, Wal-Mart would certainly have more of its Neighborhood Market stores.

I think we’re going to see a lot more examples of this kind of innovative thinking in the next few years. It isn’t just about having larger stores or smaller stores. It is about coming up with unique and differentiated solutions to consumers’ various problems and needs, understanding that one size doesn’t fit all.