“We are experiencing even higher sales now than when we opened,” Watson said. “Generally for a grand opening, sales are extremely high, then level off before building again. This store bucked that trend and has continued to build since opening.”
The store’s location was a Cadillac dealership, abandoned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, said store manager Billy Bishop. It draws traffic from local businesspeople, restaurants and tourists alike. The area is prime for new residences, as well.
“Since Hurricane Katrina, there has been a renaissance in the downtown area,” Watson said. “More than 10,000 permanent residents live in the central business district now with more high rise condominiums planned and restored warehouses into lofts and apartments.
Shoppers tend to be area professionals for the lunch hour, Watson said.
“Weekends are for the locals and visitors,” Watson said. “The convention traffic has continued to increase over the past two years and is now exceeding pre-Katrina numbers. Include the cruise ship terminal along the Mississippi River just down the street from our location and we get a lot of the passengers for their overnight stay or after the cruise.”
The store also has a strong fresh-cut and smoothie program. Watson said the in-store fresh-cut program was the No. 1 sales category in all of produce in 2011.
“When we are at full capacity, we have over 100 SKUs that we produce in our fresh-cut program,” he said. “This is a huge point of differentiation for our business from our competitors.”
The downtown New Orleans store is the first to have a dedicated in-store prepared juice and smoothie program. The company is moving into other locations with demographics that should support more of these programs, Watson said.
Note: this is an expanded version from the May issue of Produce Retailer magazine, which publishes May 1.