South Dayton suburbs see grocery competition heat up

  • Kara Driscoll
  • Staff Writer
4:11 p.m Friday, Feb. 3, 2017 Business
Fresh Thyme opened its location in Sugarcreek Twp. in March 2015. STAFF PHOTO

South Dayton suburbs have quickly become a hot bed for grocery retailers, lowering product prices for shoppers and bringing in jobs to the region.

If Meijer’s recent plans are approved for a store in Springboro, residents in Centerville, Springboro, Miamisburg and Sugarcreek Twp. will have more than 20 store options within miles of each other.

Major grocers — including Kroger, Meijer, Whole Foods, Aldi, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and Costco — have all added stores to the southern Dayton market within the past several years, and are battling to get customers through the doors.

“Whenever there’s more competition in an area, that tends to draw the prices down for the consumers,” said Kristin Mullins, president and CEO of the Ohio Grocer Association.

The supermarkets and grocery industry have a major impact on local economies, and brought in $612 billion in revenue nationwide last year. More than 2.6 million people were employed by the industry in 2016 as well.

“Typically, the grocery store tends to be the place where people break into the job market,” Mullins said. “We’re the people who teach young folks how to come to work on time, the responsibilities of a job, and we are happy to serve that role.”

Near Centerville and Sugarcreek Twp., new development is giving shoppers a choice between a variety of services.

• Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, on 4317 Feedwire Road, opened back in 2015 nearby the expanding Cornerstone of Centerville mixed-use property.

• Costco, which opened in 2014 at 5300 Cornerstone North Blvd., draws in consumers looking to purchase in bulk.

• Kroger is set to open by late May or early June, according to a company spokeswoman Patty Leesemann. The Cincinnati-headquartered grocery retailer is set to open the 125,000-square-foot store on about 15 acres between Costco and Cabela’s, facing south toward Feedwire Road.

Kroger has invested $21.2 million to build the new store, which will replace a smaller Kroger at 2100 E. Whipp Road in Kettering.

“In our research and due diligence in analyzing this market, we found that customers wanted more products, features and amenities than the current store could not accommodate,” Leesemann said.

• Other grocery retailers in and near Centerville include Dorothy Lane Market on Ohio 48 Aldi on Wilmington Pike, Whole Foods Market at 1050 Miamisburg Centerville Road and Health Foods Unlimited in the South Towne Center.

Whole Foods opened its first location in the market in 2015. There are currently 120 food ingredients the retailer doesn’t allow to be sold in stores, and decades of research conducted for the company shows customers come in because of their rigorous product review.

“We believe that many people in Dayton care about where their food comes from, what’s in it, how it was raised, who raised it, how workers were treated and its impact on the planet, so they feel good about shopping with us because they know we are committed to offering the highest quality products that are ethically sourced,” said Annie Cull, spokeswoman for Whole Foods. “They value our transparency.”

Grocery retailers spur growth beyond jobs, too.

Chris Conley, president of the Oberer Commercial Real Estate Group, said anchors like the Kroger coming in at the Cornerstone of Centerville development attract customers at least once a week — and usually more than that.

“Retail is driving this project,” he told this newspaper. “This particular site is just perfectly placed to be able to serve the entire market. It’s bringing people 15 to 20 miles away to come here.”

Other anchor retailers and businesses benefit from the frequent customers coming to the area for their weekly grocery shopping. According to the OGA, people still shop at least 1.5 times per week at their local grocery store.

Centerville isn’t the only part of southern Dayton to reap the benefits of grocery growth. Mullins, who frequently discusses future store trends with grocery retailers, said some areas of Ohio are more populated with grocers because of growing populations.

In suburban neighborhoods that have seen expansions in recent years — like Centerville, Kettering, Miamisburg and Springboro — it is more likely that grocery retailers will invest in properties there.

“They do a lot of market research, a lot of demographics in the area and try to figure out if a size – and what size store and type of store – would best work in an area,” she said. “So unfortunately, it does sometimes make these pockets or an area that isn’t being serviced quite as well or conveniently as other areas.”

Cull said Whole Foods bases store site decisions based on a combination of factors including availability and cost of real estate, population density, education and income of the populations, and their interest in natural and organic foods.

“Our goal is to be convenient to as many of our current and potential customers as possible given the economics of building and operating a store,” she said.

Areas in Kettering and Springboro have seen an explosion of options to choose from, including Dorothy Lane Market, Kroger and Walmart all within miles of one another.

“Competition has always been there,” said Norman Mayne, CEO of Dorothy Market. “We try to focus on ourselves.”

A 157,000-square-foot Meijer grocery store with a gasoline service station has also been proposed in a portion of the property located at the northeast corner of West Central Avenue and Clearcreek-Franklin Road in Springboro. Michigan-based Meijer is seeking rezoning and approval of a general plan approval for the project on the 83-acre Eastbrook Farm.

“Attracting new businesses and keeping business in Springboro is always a high priority,” said Springboro Mayor John Agenbroad, in a state of the city speech in January.

Though shoppers are still likely to visit the grocery at least once a week, the industry isn’t immune to the impact of e-commerce and online shopping convenience. Grocery stores are having to adapt to a new consumer who value often quickness over all else.

In select cities, Amazon Prime members can shop online for groceries and everyday essentials and have it delivered to their doors with AmazonFresh. Customers pay a monthly $15 fee, in addition to their $99 annual Prime fee. To keep up with online competition, stores like Meijer and Kroger are offering online shopping with curbside pick-up options.

“We currently offer our Meijer Curbside service at 29 stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio,” said Joseph Hirshmugl, a spokesman for Meijer. “The four Ohio stores currently offering the service are all located in the Dayton area. Those include our stores in Kettering, Miami, Englewood and Beavercreek.

Kroger told this newspaper that it was expanding its ClickList online shopping services to locations in Englewood, Beavercreek, Xenia, Sidney and St. Mary’s locations. ClickList, Kroger’s online shopping service, allows customers to shop online and pick up their order at the store. According to the company, there are more than 40,000 items available to order online. With reserved pickup parking, Kroger associates bring the grocery order to the car.

Mullins said, statewide, residents can still expect some continuing growth of brick-and-mortar grocery retailers, but it will slow down in the coming years.

“I think Amazon is providing us with some stiff competition in this area, and other traditional online shopping,” Mullins said. “The grocers are really trying to move to more convenient ways to shop. They are trying to think about how consumers want to get their groceries these days, and what’s the best and most effective way for them to get it to them.”

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