The present and future of Randalls

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architect
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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by architect » July 7th, 2019, 1:19 pm

Earlier this weekend, I was in Houston and was able to visit several Randalls locations while in the area. My observations were honestly surprising and not nearly as bleak as I would have expected.

My first store visit was the Town & Country location at 12850 Memorial Dr, which I visited midday Friday. Overall, the store was packed and the parking lot was quite competitive. The store is currently receiving a Colorful Lifestyle remodel and looked much more current with the refreshed decor. Perimeter departments also seemed to be well-stocked and fresh, though the center-store items were priced outrageously (seemingly much higher than the DFW locations). This store's level of success can likely be attributed simply to the fact that there is not an HEB or modern Kroger within a few miles, so this location largely has the surrounding neighborhoods to itself.

Image

Later that afternoon, I visited the Randalls at 3131 W Holcombe Blvd, which also seemed to be pulling fairly brisk business. Similarly to the Memorial store, the product selection seemed strong and the store seemed well-maintained, though the store did seem a bit cluttered with displays blocking aisles. Also of interest, many of the customers in this store were younger, which seems somewhat atypical for Randalls which tends to attract quite a few older customers in my experience. My expectation is that if Albertsons ever decides to exit the Houston market entirely, both of these stores would be likely pickings from other operators.

The next morning, I visited the Clear Lake store at 2323 Clear Lake City Blvd, which was by far the most surprising out of the bunch. Considering how upscale this area is, I would have expected this store to pull decent traffic despite nearby competition from HEB/Kroger. However, when I arrived at the store, literally only four cars were parked in the lot, and the store seemed to be minimally staffed at best, with only one checkout open and a resulting line forming. I also noticed that this location has cut back its closing time to 11 PM, compared to 12 or 1 AM across the rest of the Houston-area locations. Honestly, it appears that a nearby HEB which opened a couple of years back has severely hurt sales it this store, and it would not surprise me to see it show up in a future round of closures. Interestingly, this store did receive a Drive Up & Go holding area near the front, but is not advertising the service with any exterior/interior signage outside of a few small parking lot signs denoting the Drive Up & Go spaces.

My last visit was to the Randalls at 5219 FM 1960 W in Champions Village. This store originally started its life as a Handy Andy in the 70's and was later sold to Randalls when they exited the market. These former Handy Andy stores have a distinctive design featuring a large low-pitch vaulted roof which is reflected in the ceiling underneath. Both the store and the surrounding shopping area were quite busy, and parking was a bit of a pain. However, once inside, it appeared that many carts only consisted of a few items rather than large shopping trips. Aesthetically, the store was well maintained and had even been repainted on the exterior, but once inside, has a mildew smell lingering throughout the store which reeked of either poor HVAC maintenance or some type of water intrusion issue. Considering the unique design of the roof, the latter would not be surprising. From what I could tell, the store seemed to be pulling decent business just from location alone. However, I would not hold my breath on this store being kept open if its physical condition continues to decline, which is a shame considering the fact that this is one of only two former Handy Andy locations in operation (the other being at Memorial and Dairy Ashford).

Based on my first two visits plus considering the success of the Midtown store, Randalls still has a shot at a limited Houston presence. However, it will be interesting to see it they continue to pursue such a position, or if Albertsons elects to cut their losses and sell the remaining valuable stores to the highest bidder.

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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by klkla » July 7th, 2019, 5:09 pm

architect wrote:
July 7th, 2019, 1:19 pm
My last visit was to the Randalls at 5219 FM 1960 W in Champions Village. This store originally started its life as a Handy Andy in the 70's and was later sold to Randalls when they exited the market. These former Handy Andy stores have a distinctive design featuring a large low-pitch vaulted roof which is reflected in the ceiling underneath.
Interesting update. Thanks for sharing.

I always wondered what the story was behind the stores with that design feature. On Google Images the perimeter looks like it would be very claustrophobic because of the low ceiling height.

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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by architect » July 7th, 2019, 6:58 pm

klkla wrote:
July 7th, 2019, 5:09 pm
architect wrote:
July 7th, 2019, 1:19 pm
My last visit was to the Randalls at 5219 FM 1960 W in Champions Village. This store originally started its life as a Handy Andy in the 70's and was later sold to Randalls when they exited the market. These former Handy Andy stores have a distinctive design featuring a large low-pitch vaulted roof which is reflected in the ceiling underneath.
Interesting update. Thanks for sharing.

I always wondered what the story was behind the stores with that design feature. On Google Images the perimeter looks like it would be very claustrophobic because of the low ceiling height.
It very much is. Actually, in this store, some of the aisle signage was so low that someone could reach their hand up and move it around easily. Also, along the back side of the store, there are areas where the aisle signage is placed right next to the point that the ceiling height drops down, essentially causing the lower ceiling to block the signage from view from the back side of the store and thereby defeating the purpose of even having it there. It is obvious that Safeway did not plan the Lifestyle remodel well for this space, and this may even but a bigger issue if Albertson's new vertical signage boards common with all current decor packages are ever introduced at this store.

Side note, there are also a few older Randalls-built stores with low perimeter ceilings such as this, the most notable being 4800 W. Bellfort.

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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by pseudo3d » July 7th, 2019, 8:48 pm

I believe the Champion Forest store was expanded after Randalls took over the store site in 1979 to the west side. It's nice to see a few stores still operating, the center-store operations are probably higher than the Dallas stores since it essentially is distance stores, but it could be the "different prices for different stores" thing that Albertsons talked about.

The remaining Randalls stores probably aren't worth much except as a package deal, and I honestly think the most likely outcome is for H-E-B to buy them out from the market outright with a resulting bunch of dark stores.

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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by storewanderer » July 7th, 2019, 9:06 pm

Generally speaking, the fact that they are spending any money on remodels makes it appear as if they want to keep some of these stores open. Are they adding self checkout in? Then again, there was Florida... There comes a point where you get store count down so low, with a few stores that for whatever reason are profitable, that you can theoretically cut market wide advertising, forget about costly market type sponsorships (sport teams, etc.) and just focus on small donations near the store to schools, etc., cut out a lot of supervision staff, etc. and operate fringe stores like this in a profitable manner if you want to due to low overhead.

As long as they are doing remodeling, I don't think they are going anywhere. Why they bother is anyone's guess. Pride, I suppose.

They will clearly never be a market leader in that market anytime in the near future; not much of a path to that short of them somehow merging with one of the 3 strong existing players in that market which seems unlikely. Then again, in 2006 the concept of Albertsons merging with Safeway would have also seemed very unlikely.

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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by pseudo3d » July 7th, 2019, 10:07 pm

storewanderer wrote:
July 7th, 2019, 9:06 pm
Generally speaking, the fact that they are spending any money on remodels makes it appear as if they want to keep some of these stores open. Are they adding self checkout in? Then again, there was Florida... There comes a point where you get store count down so low, with a few stores that for whatever reason are profitable, that you can theoretically cut market wide advertising, forget about costly market type sponsorships (sport teams, etc.) and just focus on small donations near the store to schools, etc., cut out a lot of supervision staff, etc. and operate fringe stores like this in a profitable manner if you want to due to low overhead.

As long as they are doing remodeling, I don't think they are going anywhere. Why they bother is anyone's guess. Pride, I suppose.

They will clearly never be a market leader in that market anytime in the near future; not much of a path to that short of them somehow merging with one of the 3 strong existing players in that market which seems unlikely. Then again, in 2006 the concept of Albertsons merging with Safeway would have also seemed very unlikely.
I think the lack of action on the Florida stores in their first year of opening, like plans for additional stores, or creating a new supplier so they weren't being sourced from seven states over (they were done from the Eastern Division's DC, I think) essentially doomed the "division". The other reason was that the price that Publix offered was too good to turn down--from articles, Publix paid $11M for the Oakland Park store (arguably the oldest and run-down of the three) alone.

The other factor to Randalls in Houston is El Rancho Supermercado...of the five stores in the Houston area currently open (not including the Stafford-area store, which I have heard is coming soon), two are recently-closed Randalls stores, with another store that closed down as Randalls nearly twenty years ago (though whether this is a coincidence or if Randalls just held onto that store is a question). This makes me think they're either leasing or sub-leasing those locations to El Rancho, which would complicate things if they did a full market pullout.

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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by Greggo » September 30th, 2019, 7:40 pm

A few more Colorful Lifestyle remodels to add in Austin. The stores on Ben White Boulevard and Mesa Drive are both complete, while the tiny Exposition store across from Casis Elementary is nearly done. Documents Albertsons filed with the city indicate the Exposition remodel will cost about $800,000.

There are still a few Austin stores that have yet to get the Colorful Lifestyle makeover, including the smaller ones on Balcones and West 35th and the much larger one at 183/Braker.

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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by architect » October 12th, 2019, 2:37 pm

Greggo wrote:
September 30th, 2019, 7:40 pm
A few more Colorful Lifestyle remodels to add in Austin. The stores on Ben White Boulevard and Mesa Drive are both complete, while the tiny Exposition store across from Casis Elementary is nearly done. Documents Albertsons filed with the city indicate the Exposition remodel will cost about $800,000.

There are still a few Austin stores that have yet to get the Colorful Lifestyle makeover, including the smaller ones on Balcones and West 35th and the much larger one at 183/Braker.
I was actually in Austin and meant to post about the Mesa Drive and Exposition stores, but you beat me to the punch, haha. The Colorful Lifestyle remodels actually make quite a difference in these locations, particularly the Mesa store which was dark, dingy, and screamed "former Safeway" prior to this point. As far as the remaining stores go, the West 35th store seems to pull decent business and is the only grocer in the immediate vicinity, so I would expect Albertsons to put some money into the store at some point. On the other hand, the Braker/183 store is in a high-profile location but seems to pull ok traffic at best (at least when compared to the HEB across the street, which isn't exactly the most up to date HEB). I am curious to see if Albertsons decides to invest into this location, or just call it a loss and pack their bags. I wonder if either of the Lakeway-area stores have been remodeled yet?

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Re: The present and future of Randalls

Post by Greggo » October 19th, 2019, 5:28 pm

architect wrote:
October 12th, 2019, 2:37 pm
Greggo wrote:
September 30th, 2019, 7:40 pm
A few more Colorful Lifestyle remodels to add in Austin. The stores on Ben White Boulevard and Mesa Drive are both complete, while the tiny Exposition store across from Casis Elementary is nearly done. Documents Albertsons filed with the city indicate the Exposition remodel will cost about $800,000.

There are still a few Austin stores that have yet to get the Colorful Lifestyle makeover, including the smaller ones on Balcones and West 35th and the much larger one at 183/Braker.
I was actually in Austin and meant to post about the Mesa Drive and Exposition stores, but you beat me to the punch, haha. The Colorful Lifestyle remodels actually make quite a difference in these locations, particularly the Mesa store which was dark, dingy, and screamed "former Safeway" prior to this point. As far as the remaining stores go, the West 35th store seems to pull decent business and is the only grocer in the immediate vicinity, so I would expect Albertsons to put some money into the store at some point. On the other hand, the Braker/183 store is in a high-profile location but seems to pull ok traffic at best (at least when compared to the HEB across the street, which isn't exactly the most up to date HEB). I am curious to see if Albertsons decides to invest into this location, or just call it a loss and pack their bags. I wonder if either of the Lakeway-area stores have been remodeled yet?
I visited the two Randalls stores on RR 620 — Lakeway and Steiner Ranch — today. Neither has been remodeled to the Colorful Lifestyle design and there was no evidence construction was imminent. They’re both in pretty good shape ... the Lakeway store is slightly better, which is odd considering the Steiner Ranch store is only 7 years old. There were several pretty obvious leaks that had stained the drop ceiling at the Steiner Ranch store, for example.

Both these stores serve very affluent neighborhoods and have features other Austin Randalls stores don’t, including enormous assortments of wine and cheese and tasting counters in the wine/beer department. Operated right, they should be cash cows. But neither location was particularly busy. The Lakeway store is getting creamed by the new(ish) H-E-B across the street. There were 15-20 cars at Randalls while the H-E-B parking lot was packed. The Steiner Ranch store was slightly busier, but not by much.

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