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    Grocery Thinks Small

    Retailers offer more prepared foods, grab-n-go foods.

    NEW YORK -- The flagging economy has impacted all industries, including grocery stores, which are restructuring layouts and product offerings. To stay viable, grocers are borrowing from the convenience store model by offering prepared meals, fresh produce and grab-and-go drinks, and in some cases, small-format stores.

    After 20 years of sustained growth, the average size of a grocery store dipped slightly in 2007 to a median of 47,500 square feet after 20 years of steady growth, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

    "The average person goes shopping for 22 minutes," Phil Lempert, editor of Supermarketguru.com, told The New York Times. "You can’t see 30,000 or 40,000 products. We are moving into an era when people want less assortment."

    Safeway, for example, opened a smaller-format store in Southern California, and Jewel-Osco is building one in Chicago, reported The New York Times. To date, Tesco has opened 75 Fresh & Easy stores in Nevada, Arizona and Southern California.

    In the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, the grocery chain Giant Eagle opened a Giant Eagle Express last year that is about one-sixth the size of its regular stores. The location features gas pumps, wireless Internet and flat-screen televisions in a small cafe, a drive-thru pharmacy and an expansive delicatessen that offers sushi, rotisserie chickens and heat-and-eat dinners, reported the paper.

    Kroger is also revamping it format by offering prepared foods such as pre-mashed potatoes, ready-made salads and rotisserie chicken.

    "If you’ve got 50 feet of ketchup and what you want is Hunt’s 64-ounce and you can’t find it, people get overwhelmed," Jim Hertel, managing partner at the firm Willard Bishop, which advises supermarkets, told The New York Times.

    More on grocer’s small formats, the West Coast evolution of Tesco’s Fresh & Easy and Wal-Mart’s Marketside, will be featured in the Oct. 3, issue of Convenience Store News.

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