business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Oakland Tribune reports that “Safeway Inc. will combat an aggressive crop of rivals with an expansion that includes nine new stores in the West -- of which six will be in the Bay Area.”

Among the competitors building new stores in Northern California are Grocery Outlet, Fresh
& Easy, Foods Co., Sprouts Farmers Market and Henry's Farmers Market.

"We are not just in a defensive stance," Karl Schroeder, president of Safeway's Northern
California Division, tells the paper. “We also are going on offense in terms of building our business and building our market share ... We are clearly opening more new stores in 2011
than we have opened in any one year over the last four or five years ... Our new stores aren't a knee-jerk reaction. They have been carefully thought out. We are thrilled they are coming together at this rate."
KC's View:
Now is precisely the time to get aggressive - especially in California, which may be the worst fiscal shape of any US state. (Got an email yesterday from one MNB user who suggested that California’s hard times was God punishing the state’s hedonists for their bad behavior. Which makes me wonder how some people are able to write emails with their heads someplace other than their shoulders looking at their computers. But I digress...)

It is during a downturn that aggressive, progressive retailers can separate themselves from the pack - not by catering to the lowest common denominator, but by establishing clearly their differential advantages. Uneasy consumers tend to be in play, and Safeway is smart to go after the ones they don’t have, and work overtime to keep the ones they have.