- The Fresh Market will open six newly updated stores on July 12, according to The Shelby Report. The stores, located in North Carolina and South Carolina, are the latest in a round of remodels that incorporate more prepared foods, local products and everyday grocery items.
- The stores will feature several prepared food options, including prepackaged “Meal in Minutes” offerings made with fresh ingredients that require minimal preparation from customers. The Fresh Market will also offer interactive sampling stations that allow customers to try dishes before they buy.
- The store remodels also include a health and wellness department with more than 1,800 products and an on-site specialist to answer customer questions.
Over the past few years, The Fresh Market has faced the same problem as rival Whole Foods: After an extended period of stellar growth, mainstream competitors have cut into its business.
Rather than deepen its selection of the specialty goods that drove its growth for so many years — and that are still in high demand — the company is trying to broaden its appeal with a more traditional grocery selection. This includes an expanded center store section with 1,300 more everyday items, including household and baby products. The company is also offering more locally sourced products, prepared foods and health market selections.
The Fresh Market began its remodels last October and is slowly spreading them across the chain. At the same time, the company is closing poor performing stores situated in highly competitive areas. Earlier this year, The Fresh Market closed five stores. Last year, it closed 18, including all of its locations in Texas, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas.
The retreat from specialty goods is understandable on one level, since the retailer has struggled to move these items. The Fresh Market expanded too quickly following its successful years, according to experts, so a focus on staple items and prepared foods, which are widely popular, could steady sales across its 177 stores.
However, the move doesn’t do much to differentiate The Fresh Market in what’s becoming a packed East Coast market. Walmart and discounters Aldi and Lidl offer very low prices while Publix, Wegmans and Harris Teeter feature best-in-class service and execution. Kroger, always a strong operator even with its recent struggles, is bringing down its prices and running services like its ClickList e-commerce platform. With so many choices for shoppers, being a middle-of-the-road retailer is tough.
Last month, Rick Anicetti resigned as The Fresh Market’s CEO, indicating deeper problems may be afoot at the company. Lack of investment, according to some analysts, may be a factor. Private equity firms like Apollo Global Management, which acquired The Fresh Market last year for $1.36 billion, have a reputation for focusing on small-scale changes and efficiency measures. By numerous accounts, The Fresh Market needs to spend more capital on store updates. The firm may be looking to stop the bleeding rather than grow the company, but in the process, this may only deepen the retailer’s woes.