Safeway's decision to close 14 stores in the Chicago area this year was the biggest development to shake up the market.
In making the announcement, Safeway also said it would convert 20 existing stores to the company's popular “lifestyle” format.
Safeway operates Dominick's, the area's No. 2 chain, with nearly 14% of the market, according to TDLinx, a division of The Nielsen Co. Supervalu, which operates Jewel-Osco, Save-A-Lot and the Sunflower Market, leads with 40.5% of the market.
Other retailers and their respective Chicago-area market share include: Strack & Van Til, 5%; Wal-Mart Stores, 4.5%; Aldi, 3.5%; Meijer, 3%; Kroger, 2.6%; Target, 2.2%; Whole Foods Market, 1.9%; and Trader Joe's, 1.2%.
Industry observers are watching Aldi, the limited-assortment retailer. Though it's in fifth place, German-based Aldi actually ranks third in number of stores — more than 120 in the metropolitan area, including 33 in the city proper. In recent years, the no-frills chain has remodeled stores, built several new ones from the ground up and continues to hunt for future sites, local sources said. New stores range from 15,500 to 17,000 square feet, slighter larger than the older stores, which are 12,500 to 14,500 square feet, the company said.
For independent operators, the market offers a lot of opportunity.
“We continue to see strong independents pop up all over the metro area,” said Bill Bishop, president of Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill. Independents generally do a better job of serving the area's growing ethnic population, he said.
RECENTLY OPENED STORES IN CHICAGO
FOOD 4 LESS
7030 S. Ashland Ave.
Directions: Take I-55 South/Stevenson Expressway toward St. Louis. Take the I-90 East/I-94 East exit, 293B, toward Indiana. Merge onto I-90 Express East/I-94 Express East. (Highway becomes I-94 East/Dan Ryan Expressway East.) Take exit 59C toward 71st Street. Keep right at the fork in the ramp. Go straight onto South Lafayette. Turn right onto W. 71st Street and make another right onto Ashland Avenue.
Highlights: Open since September, this is one of the newest Food 4 Less stores in the area. A Kroger banner, Food 4 Less appeals to price-conscious shoppers. The warehouse format recently got an updated decor package. The fresh food departments, particularly meat and produce, draw a lot of traffic into the store, an associate said.
1910 N. Clybourn Ave.
Directions: Take I-55 South/Stevenson Expressway South, toward St. Louis. Merge onto I-90 West/I-94 West via exit 292 toward Wisconsin. Take the North Avenue/Ill. 64 exit, no. 48B. Turn right onto W. North Avenue/Ill. 64. Take a left turn onto N. Sheffield Avenue, then turn left onto Clybourn Avenue.
Highlights: Natural and organic foods at lower prices — that's what makes Sunflower unique, according to parent company Supervalu. The second Sunflower to open, this 16,000-square-foot store in fashionable Lincoln Park has a large organic produce assortment that's displayed in an unusual way: It's stocked in its original packaging in an all-glass walk-in produce cooler. The merchandising scheme eliminates the need for extra storage, requires less labor, reduces handling and ensures freshness. Sunflower stores carry a large assortment of organic and natural foods, and the store's buyers aim to buy from local growers and producers.
PETE'S FRESH MARKET
4343 South Pulaski Road
Directions: Take I-55 South/Stevenson Expressway toward St. Louis. Take the Pulaski Road exit, 287, and keep right at the fork to go onto Pulaski Road.
Highlights: Pete's Fresh Market stores attract big crowds who appreciate the selection, competitive prices and friendly staff. The newest one in a family-run chain, this store serves a large Hispanic clientele. The stores are known for having huge fresh produce departments offering a wide assortment of items, including a big offering of Hispanic fruits and vegetables. Pete's stores also offer sizable fresh meat departments as well as a large assortment of international packaged foods in the grocery aisles.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET
6020 N. Cicero Ave.
Directions: Take I-55 South/Stevenson Expressway toward St. Louis. Merge onto I-94 West via exit 292 toward Wisconsin. Merge onto W. Peterson Avenue/U.S. 14 East via exit 41B. Turn left onto Cicero Avenue.
Highlights: This store, which opened in February, is believed to be the largest Whole Foods in the Chicago area. It's the first one in the market to have a grill station, where shoppers can get sandwiches and other items made to order. An Asian bar serves sushi and wine. An associate said this store will serve as a prototype for future stores planned for the region.
7345 S. State St.
Directions: Take Lake Shore Drive to I-55 South/Stevenson Expressway South toward St. Louis. Take the I-90 East/I-94 East exit, 293B, toward Indiana. Merge onto I-90 Express East/I-94 Express East via the exit on the left toward 51st Street. (Highway becomes I-94 East/Dan Ryan Expressway East.) Take exit 60A toward 75th Street. Turn slight left onto S. Lafayette Avenue, then take a left onto 75th Street. Turn left onto State Street.
Highlights: Open since Feb. 1, this store, built from the ground up, features all the private-label groceries shoppers expect, as well as an expanded selection of fresh meat, produce and refrigerated foods. Traditionally, Aldi stores have appealed to low-income shoppers, with rock-bottom prices on a limited selection of products, mostly shelf-stable goods. The store's large selection of perishable foods is meant to increase the frequency of shopper visits. Stores have new interior colors and in-store graphics.
CAPUTO'S FRESH MARKET
3115 111th St., Naperville (corner of Route 59 and 111th Street).
Directions: Take I-55 South. Exit at Weber Road, exit 263, and turn right onto Weber. Turn left onto Rodeo Drive. Turn right onto Book Road. Turn right onto 111th Street.
Highlights: This is by far the largest Caputo's store in the area. The family-owned business acquired a former store from Marsh Supermarkets, then remodeled and reopened it under the Caputo's banner here in November. The store features more than 450 varieties of fresh produce, and an Italian bakery offering homemade cannoli and cookies. The signature service deli covers 120 linear feet and includes a sushi bar and salad bar, as well as a selection of hot foods. The meat department, spanning 36 linear feet, is a service department where all meats are cut in the store. The full-service seafood department is stocked with products delivered from the East Coast twice a week. The grocery aisles offer Italian specialty groceries, as well an assortment of international foods.
GRAND MART INTERNATIONAL FOOD
5740 W. Touhy Ave., Niles.
Directions: Take I-55 South toward St. Louis. Merge onto I-94 West via exit 292 toward Wisconsin. Take the West Touhy exit, 39A. Make a slight left turn onto Touhy Avenue.
Highlights: Grand Mart, a Korean supermarket chain based in Annandale, Va., entered the market by acquiring a handful of former Cub Foods stores. Stores offer a wide selection of Korean and East Asian groceries. However, not all stores are in Asian neighborhoods, so the merchandise mix is tweaked to reflect local preferences. That's the case at some of the Grand Mart stores in Hispanic neighborhoods here. An extensive produce and large service seafood section are among the signature departments. Opened in March, this store is more than 60,000 square feet.
190 N. Northwest Highway,
Directions: Take I-55 South/Stevenson Expressway toward St. Louis. Merge onto I-90 West/I-94 West via exit 292, toward Wisconsin. Stay left and take I-90 West/Kennedy Expressway West via exit 43B toward O'Hare/Rockford. Take exit 81A toward Ill. 43/Harlem Avenue. Go straight onto Bryn Mawr Avenue. Turn right onto Harlem, then make a left onto Northwest Highway.
Highlights: Everything fans have come to expect from this popular retailer — lots of product sampling, appealing and reasonably priced food, inexpensive wine and friendly associates — can be found at this new store. One bonus: The aisles are wider than what's typically found at urban stores. The store is also somewhat larger than other area stores. Trader Joe's opened its first Chicago location in 2002.