Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. No non-grocery posts.
BatteryMill
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Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by BatteryMill »

Ever since Shop n' Save ended their efforts in these markets as part of SuperValu's ongoing grocery consolidation, it seems as if Martin's is now the only traditional grocery store across the Winchester market. There are Walmarts, Aldis, and other independents that comprise options in this market, however the standard grocery package is a rather crucial addition to the market. Winchester numbers around 28,000 in population with Stephens City having 2,000 and Front Royal having 14,000. There are 6 Martin's sitest total including Berryville. I'm especially surprised as many of the former Food Lions/SnS locations remain empty.

Does anyone believe the market is expected to remain this way, and if so, what grocers do you imagine could set up shop in the Shenandoah area?
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by mjhale »

Another example of reduction in competition instead of increasing it. Although to be fair Ahold did open Martins locations in some former Food Lion locations that were initially sold to SuperValu. Berryville, VA and Greencastle, PA come to mind. I recall reading in a PA newspaper at the time of the Ahold-Delhaize merger that SuperValu intended to try to sell the stores they acquired to independent operators who would get their supply from SuperValu. It seems that SuperValu operated the locations for whatever minimum amount of time the FTC mandated and then closed them. As you note many of the former Food Lion stores remain closed. Food Lion wasn't a great operator but they did provide an alternative in larger areas or function as the primary grocer in smaller towns. I don't see anyone else going into these areas. None are high income, affluent. They are solidly middle class. Kroger tried Winchester in the 90s and failed. Harris Teeter isn't the right demographic. Albertsons isn't in expansion mode with Safeway. And there are really no independents left. Maybe Lidl would be interested once they get their footing again. But even Lidl seems to be going for higher income areas. I think the Shenandoah Valley illustrates the new small to medium size town grocery dynamic - one traditional grocer, Walmart, Target and the discounters. This is the result when there are so few traditional grocery chains that are willing to go after middle class, lower population areas.
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by BatteryMill »

mjhale wrote: April 18th, 2021, 2:33 pm Another example of reduction in competition instead of increasing it. Although to be fair Ahold did open Martins locations in some former Food Lion locations that were initially sold to SuperValu. Berryville, VA and Greencastle, PA come to mind. I recall reading in a PA newspaper at the time of the Ahold-Delhaize merger that SuperValu intended to try to sell the stores they acquired to independent operators who would get their supply from SuperValu. It seems that SuperValu operated the locations for whatever minimum amount of time the FTC mandated and then closed them. As you note many of the former Food Lion stores remain closed. Food Lion wasn't a great operator but they did provide an alternative in larger areas or function as the primary grocer in smaller towns. I don't see anyone else going into these areas. None are high income, affluent. They are solidly middle class. Kroger tried Winchester in the 90s and failed. Harris Teeter isn't the right demographic. Albertsons isn't in expansion mode with Safeway. And there are really no independents left. Maybe Lidl would be interested once they get their footing again. But even Lidl seems to be going for higher income areas. I think the Shenandoah Valley illustrates the new small to medium size town grocery dynamic - one traditional grocer, Walmart, Target and the discounters. This is the result when there are so few traditional grocery chains that are willing to go after middle class, lower population areas.
Berryville is reasonable since it is a smaller town, although said city is within Winchester/Front Royal's orbit, so it is still challenging to find an alternative to Martin's.

Food Lion certainly fit as a backup for Martin's in the Winchester area, reaching various areas of note. It's a shame most still stand fallow.

And yes, that Kroger! Shame they were a bust, given Walmart opened a Supercenter across the street not long after Kroger came online. One interesting fact I know of is that thee local jurisdictions had an ordinance for said chain, where they were only allowed to operate that store and open no others in a given radius (Martinsburg, Hagerstown etc.) until at least 2014.

To be honest I think Publix may go for that market. They've been to plenty of rural areas before, including smaller NC towns as the latest examples (40k medium income and underserved areas are some of their requirements). Heck, I'm surprised Weis hasn't made plays being present in WV's Eastern Panhandle and having taken over Food Lions in the Fredericksburg area and throughout Maryland.

That being said, could you think of any such comparable markets where there is only one major grocer with several stores? This one happens to be a special case as it was once open to more (Food Lion/SnS, Safeway, Kroger). I do believe this area will find its match someday.
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by buckguy »

Winchester should be able to support at least one "quality" store. It has a big enough trading area to support a Costco and there are many people from DC with vacation or retirement places in their general vicinity. OTOH, Kroger obviously brought nothing to the table and Safeway would be pretty similar. Giant Eagle might have thought about this area at one time, but pulled out of the Western MD except for Frederick and this is too far West for Weis which seems very conservative about their expansion. I would imagine that Safeway probably had stores there in the past. Acme's coverage from DC and Johnstown was always odd and thin, but perhaps even they were there, too.

Publix is a long way from entering any place close to Winchester. If you wanted a dark horse choice it would be Wegman's. The market area has plenty of their customers although they are widely dispersed. They do okay in places like Lancaster and State College which have denser, probably more populous trading areas but some similarities. If the area can support Costco, there's a good chance, they could support Wegman's and it would be the kind of destination store that could help attract other specialty retail to the area.
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by Knight »

BatteryMill wrote: April 18th, 2021, 1:46 pm Ever since Shop n' Save ended their efforts in these markets as part of SuperValu's ongoing grocery consolidation, it seems as if Martin's is now the only traditional grocery store across the Winchester market. There are Walmarts, Aldis, and other independents that comprise options in this market, however the standard grocery package is a rather crucial addition to the market. Winchester numbers around 28,000 in population with Stephens City having 2,000 and Front Royal having 14,000. There are 6 Martin's sitest total including Berryville. I'm especially surprised as many of the former Food Lions/SnS locations remain empty.

Does anyone believe the market is expected to remain this way, and if so, what grocers do you imagine could set up shop in the Shenandoah area?
Supermarket: Martin's
Hypermarket: Walmart Supercenter
Limited assortment/discount food retailer: Aldi

As for new participants in Winchester, supermarket Publix could be in consideration. Its new distribution center in McLeansville, North Carolina, should propel the announcement, construction, and opening of new stores in Virginia.
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by BatteryMill »

buckguy wrote: April 19th, 2021, 5:16 am Winchester should be able to support at least one "quality" store. It has a big enough trading area to support a Costco and there are many people from DC with vacation or retirement places in their general vicinity. OTOH, Kroger obviously brought nothing to the table and Safeway would be pretty similar. Giant Eagle might have thought about this area at one time, but pulled out of the Western MD except for Frederick and this is too far West for Weis which seems very conservative about their expansion. I would imagine that Safeway probably had stores there in the past. Acme's coverage from DC and Johnstown was always odd and thin, but perhaps even they were there, too.

Publix is a long way from entering any place close to Winchester. If you wanted a dark horse choice it would be Wegman's. The market area has plenty of their customers although they are widely dispersed. They do okay in places like Lancaster and State College which have denser, probably more populous trading areas but some similarities. If the area can support Costco, there's a good chance, they could support Wegman's and it would be the kind of destination store that could help attract other specialty retail to the area.
Correct. Lots of potential for the market, that is for sure. Who knows if we may even see some big natural grocery names come to town? :o

It was a shame that the Kroger didn't last long, it certainly was a good mid-market entry. Walmart building a Supercenter across the street, however, certainly made it falter. I would like to know more about said store, it does sound mysterious. Same goes for any potential Giant Eagle endeavors over time.

I am sure that Safeway has been in nearby Shenandoah towns such as Woodstock and Berryville. And about Weis, is this too far for them? They have stores just over the state line in Ranson and Martinsburg for instance, and they already have a foothold in the state of Virginia (Stafford/Fredericksburg area primarily).

Back to Kroger, erhaps they could fit Harris Teeters or Kroger Marketplaces within the market.

Publix isn't too far given they are in Stafford. Though I guess those are more test stores at this point, versus their Richmond-area stores or anything south.
Knight wrote: April 21st, 2021, 7:31 am
Supermarket: Martin's
Hypermarket: Walmart Supercenter
Limited assortment/discount food retailer: Aldi

As for new participants in Winchester, supermarket Publix could be in consideration. Its new distribution center in McLeansville, North Carolina, should propel the announcement, construction, and opening of new stores in Virginia.
Still somewhat odd there's only one supermarket type. Each have a different mix.
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by buckguy »

Weis has been in the eastern WV panhandle for a long time. If they'd seen potential in Winchester, they would have gone there quite a while ago, when they also had stores in the outer northern Virginia suburbs which would have facilitate distribution. In recent years, they've closed more stores than they've opened and it seems as though their most successful area for expansion has been the Baltimore area. Having stores in Stafford doesn't exactly predict their entry someplace far away and quite different.

Publix seems to go for peripheral markets after they've successfully entered bigger ones. The I-81 corridor has some small towns and Charlottesville, but not much else beyond Roanoke until you get to Winchester. The DC area has much bigger barriers to entry than their past markets---much more varied competition, high land cost/rents, and local governments that don't always bend over backwards to facilitate development. It used to be much easier to build in Virginia than in Maryland but that has changed over the past couple decades. Publix is very cautious about expansion and they would have to compete with Harris Teeter, Wegman, and a very large Whole Foods footprint. Some of their usual customers also would be customers of local natural food stores like MOM and Yes!. Insofar as Winchester is concerned, the built in customer base would come from chains that have a DC footprint---where people in the area do "special occasion" shopping or buy stuff for a weekend trip to a second home---Wegman's, Harris-Teeter, Whole Foods.

Kroger as, is usually flogged here, is really nothing special. They have the easiest to use self-checkout and you always know the fresh and prepared foods will be largely disappointing, but in some places the deli selection is alright. It's mostly the predictable dry grocery selection and the store card that makes them worth a stop when traveling. Basically, it's equivalent to, but not exactly like finding a Safeway.
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by BatteryMill »

buckguy wrote: April 23rd, 2021, 7:07 am Weis has been in the eastern WV panhandle for a long time. If they'd seen potential in Winchester, they would have gone there quite a while ago, when they also had stores in the outer northern Virginia suburbs which would have facilitate distribution. In recent years, they've closed more stores than they've opened and it seems as though their most successful area for expansion has been the Baltimore area. Having stores in Stafford doesn't exactly predict their entry someplace far away and quite different.

Publix seems to go for peripheral markets after they've successfully entered bigger ones. The I-81 corridor has some small towns and Charlottesville, but not much else beyond Roanoke until you get to Winchester. The DC area has much bigger barriers to entry than their past markets---much more varied competition, high land cost/rents, and local governments that don't always bend over backwards to facilitate development. It used to be much easier to build in Virginia than in Maryland but that has changed over the past couple decades. Publix is very cautious about expansion and they would have to compete with Harris Teeter, Wegman, and a very large Whole Foods footprint. Some of their usual customers also would be customers of local natural food stores like MOM and Yes!. Insofar as Winchester is concerned, the built in customer base would come from chains that have a DC footprint---where people in the area do "special occasion" shopping or buy stuff for a weekend trip to a second home---Wegman's, Harris-Teeter, Whole Foods.

Kroger as, is usually flogged here, is really nothing special. They have the easiest to use self-checkout and you always know the fresh and prepared foods will be largely disappointing, but in some places the deli selection is alright. It's mostly the predictable dry grocery selection and the store card that makes them worth a stop when traveling. Basically, it's equivalent to, but not exactly like finding a Safeway.
Well then I guess Winchester is a little too much of an extra push for the chain and wouldn't be such a Weis decision. They do have Stafford and Fredericksburg, but hardly any markets in between. You wouldn't want them to expand too much that it's going to be Harrisonburg, then Staunton, then Roanoke and so on that's closest to their existing store base. :lol:

That might have been the case for their two stores north of the Richmond metro, and as I've heard there are no plans for NoVA/Washington-area stores thus far.

There has been suggestion that Publix may be holding off until the Greensboro DC is complete. Either way we'll have to see what happens, and how the current players fill things out.

As for tough jurisdictions, I do know that Charles, Montgomery and Prince George's counties have heavily mounted opposition to Walmart, even for expanding their existing stores into Supercenters for instance. I do know Montgomery was also resistant to big-box as well. Strange market.

And lastly, I do see. Perhaps Publix could establish themselves with a good wait.
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by mjhale »

BatteryMill wrote: April 30th, 2021, 7:04 pm Well then I guess Winchester is a little too much of an extra push for the chain and wouldn't be such a Weis decision. They do have Stafford and Fredericksburg, but hardly any markets in between. You wouldn't want them to expand too much that it's going to be Harrisonburg, then Staunton, then Roanoke and so on that's closest to their existing store base. :lol:

That might have been the case for their two stores north of the Richmond metro, and as I've heard there are no plans for NoVA/Washington-area stores thus far.
I remember when Weis moved into the DC market the first time around int he late 80s and early 90s. Germantown and Gaithersburg in MD and Chantilly, Centreville, Manassas and Woodbridge in VA. My family was familiar with Weis since my mother is from PA. Other than that there was zero reason back then to go to Weis especially with Giant at its ascendancy. Even now visiting a Weis store I see nothing that is different, nothing to set them apart. Weis closed their Walnut Hill Shopping Center Gaithersburg, MD store in 2020. They picked up this store from Food Lion. Weis also closed one of the two Food Lion stores they got in Culpeper and a store around Fredericksburg. Seems like Weis once again is having trouble with the DC market. Weis only seems to do well in more rural markets where there isn't a lot of competition. With Ahold being very strong in Winchester I'm not sure Weis would be able to make a go of it.
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Re: Winchester/Front Royal: Martin's Monopoly?

Post by storewanderer »

mjhale wrote: May 3rd, 2021, 6:01 pm
I remember when Weis moved into the DC market the first time around int he late 80s and early 90s. Germantown and Gaithersburg in MD and Chantilly, Centreville, Manassas and Woodbridge in VA. My family was familiar with Weis since my mother is from PA. Other than that there was zero reason back then to go to Weis especially with Giant at its ascendancy. Even now visiting a Weis store I see nothing that is different, nothing to set them apart. Weis closed their Walnut Hill Shopping Center Gaithersburg, MD store in 2020. They picked up this store from Food Lion. Weis also closed one of the two Food Lion stores they got in Culpeper and a store around Fredericksburg. Seems like Weis once again is having trouble with the DC market. Weis only seems to do well in more rural markets where there isn't a lot of competition. With Ahold being very strong in Winchester I'm not sure Weis would be able to make a go of it.
Weis seems to just not quite do things well enough. They don't have the best prices, best merchandising, or best fresh departments. They aren't so bad they flop, but not good enough for anyone to get excited about. Some of their newer stores were/are large and modern enough but somehow it still feels like something is lacking. Their rural and medium sized stores are really a step back in time, but appear to work better. I think there are reasons beyond family control that Weis was never acquired by a larger chain. Similar to how we have a few regional chains out west of 100+ stores that never got acquired.

Weis took over those terrible Mars Stores around Baltimore. Anything would have been an improvement over the joke known as Mars.

Weis and Ingles strike me as very similar.
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