Mariano’s does a great job with store layout and maintains strong produce quality throughout the day and evening, Spezzano said.
Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Plum Market, an organic and natural foods grocery, came into Chicago in the past year, said Rob Strube, president of Strube Celery.
Scarsdale, N.Y.-based Mrs. Green’s Natural Market Inc., a natural food market, also just opened in downtown Chicago.
“They are going off the high-end Mariano’s and Whole Foods,” he said.
Another high-end organic store called Fresh Time is expected to open a Chicago location in January, Strube said.
Cincinnati-based The Kroger Co. may be coming into Chicago as well, Strube said.
“There are a lot of people coming to Chicago, which will hopefully gives us more channels to sell,” Strube said.
Meanwhile, Bishop said, Meijer continues to grow in the Chicago market with the supercenter concept.
Spezzano agreed and said Meijer’s should expand into whole health markets in Chicago in 2014, with plans to open about 50 such stores in four years.
Some of the smaller players are dong a progressively better job on produce, Bishop said. With 140 stores in Chicago, Aldi is on the rise in produce sales, Bishop said. With attractive discount prices for items like pomegranates, Aldi’s will draw more consumers, Bishop predicted. Independent retailers like Pete’s Fresh Market, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., also are doing well, he said.
Spezzano said Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is making inroads with its Neighborhood Markets.
“They finally got the return on investment they needed to have with the neighborhood stores,” he said.
There is less urban resistance to a 40,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market compared with a supercenter.
“They could be contender in the market for some of the Dominick’s,” Spezzano said.
Retailers such as Mariano’s and independent grocers seem to be concentrating on fresh departments, or the perimeter of the store — produce, deli, bakery, meat, dairy — and leave the center sections of the store to the big-box stores such as Target, Wal-Mart and Costco and others, Marano said.
“It changing the whole face of retail, almost getting shoppers to go back to two stores or three stores than a one-store shop,” Marano said. “Be competitive on items that you can really show your value and sell in which is produce, meat, dairy, deli.”