( Graphic by Amelia Freidline | Photo by Jeni Holland on Unsplash )

The two biggest retail forces in the St. Louis market are Walmart and Schnucks Markets, and that reality doesn’t seem likely to change in the near term.

The biggest retail development in the past year was when Schnucks purchased 19 St. Louis area Shop ‘n Save supermarkets from Supervalu in 2018, trade sources said.  

Because of that move, the chain has gained strength in the last year, said Mark Tons, president of market research company M&M Market Management, Chesterfield, Mo. The chain now has 82 stores in the metro region.

One trade source, speaking on background, said that Schnucks is “more powerful than ever” after the acquisition of the Shop ‘n Save supermarkets. Schnuck’s opened nearly all of the stores it purchased. 

In addition, Supervalu couldn’t find buyers for about another 20 stores of its stores and closed them. So, Schnucks gained market share by purchasing Shop ‘n Save stores and opening them under the Schnucks banner, but also benefited by the additional 20 stores closed by Supervalu, the source said.

Dierbergs remains a strong upscale food retailer in St. Louis, observers said, and hasn’t been hurt much from the gains made by Schnucks.

Walmart’s lower price points make for strong competition in the St. Louis market, Tons said. Walmart has opened a couple of new Neighborhood Markets in St. Louis, but otherwise hasn’t added to its store count.

The number of independent retailers has dwindled to nearly zero, with the exception of niche markets and ethnic retailers, he said.

St. Louis doesn’t have a large presence of a national chain like Kroger in the market, and Tons said he thinks there would be room for a national chain like Kroger or Safeway to enter the St. Louis market in a bigger way in the next few years.