The battle for Montgomery residents' grocery dollars is going to get more intense during 2016.
Whole Foods will open its first Montgomery store across from The Eastchase Shopping Center on Taylor Road, and other chains are preparing for it.
Publix has just finished an interior redesign of its store at Carter Hill and Zelda, and it looks brand new. Their top-shelf customer-service changed the dynamic of food shopping in Montgomery when they entered the market, taking over where the old Brunos chain left off.
And Wal-Mart is opening the second of two food-only "Neighborhood Market" locations in the Capital City next month.
On top of that, some smaller discount supermarkets are picking up their game to attract shoppers with low prices and more.
Want to buy some stalks of sugar cane? Try the Capital Farmer's Market on the EastSouth Boulevard. They stock a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, and containers of live crabs and crayfish too. Lots of Asian and Hispanic food.
The Whole food store's impending opening certainly played a part in the decision of Earth Fare to close its location at Eastchase, though they blame what they said was a poor location inside the shopping center. The store closed on January 31st. It was a stone's throw from the impending Whole Foods location. Fresh Market will also compete with Whole Foods...they moved their only Montgomery store from The East Boulevard to Perry Hill at Carmichael a couple of years ago.
Win-Dixie dropped prices on thousands of items in their six Montgomery locations in recent months to compete with discount chains. They've also been working to improve customer-service.
Whole Foods has a smaller version of their stores called 365. There are none, so far, in Montgomery.
Now there's word they may locate tattoo parlors inside some of them, though I imagine Montgomery will not one of the first places that will happen if they open on here. Then again, who knows?
I haven't even mentioned Piggly-Wiggly (with one store remaining in the city, on West Fairview Avenue) or Cost-Plus or Cosco or the small neighborhood stores, and the increasing groceries on the shelves at the dozens of Dollar General type stores in the city.
Montgomery City officials have been trying for a few years to convince one of the chains to open a store in the Dexter Avenue loft part of downtown...after all it is called The Market District. They believe a full-service supermarket will be crucial for it to grow.
All of this competition is almost certainly going to result in some stores closing. By some estimates, the profit-margin on groceries is a penny or two per dollar. You have to sell a lot of lettuce to make those numbers pay off.
Greg Calhoun exited the Montgomery grocery business last June, closing his last Calhoun Foods store on West Fairview Avenue.
[Sunday Focus is a regular feature of www.TimLennox.com]