What is currently happening in the small community of
Last year during the July 4th parade, Sonoma Market, the upscale grocery store that has served the community for 20 years passed out apples to the crowd of onlookers who attended the traditional march, filled with floats, bands, roller blading – rompers, retailers and renditions of the History that makes
This year, the market and an entourage of employees handed out complimentary water to the crowd to ward off the 90-plus degree temperatures and the effects a recently opened Whole Foods Market may have on the local independent.
After eighteen months of anticipation, the growing grocery giant opened their 196th store last Wednesday. The small wine country hamlet of 10,000 people reacted with all the vigor and buying power of wealthy weekend vintners and long time residents who awaited the new opening with the wonder of consumers who have longed for something, anything to open in the closed Ralph’s store.
Even though the town has two other grocery store, a Safeway and an Albertson’s, all eyes are on the David and Goliath episode that is unfurling on
As we all know, when a chain enters a market, whether it be an eatery, a retailer, a grocery store or a coffee shop, the buzz is that the chain will kill the independent. And, in many cases that will be true. Especially if the independent has grown tired and worn. Yet in this struggle, Sonoma Market has built roots in the community through numerous programs they have supported. Plus, they have also served the community well for over two decades. Their employees are not just employees, they are professional customer service professionals well versed and continually trained in the knowledge a grocer needs to carry. Aside from that they are members of the community and friends of many of the customers.
On the bottle of water handed out at the parade, the label simply stated that Sonoma Market was not an international grocery chain and that they had dug roots within the community. The mission statement on the bottle was filled with talking points we have all heard before. Yet this time, there is reason to believe them.
Yes, the great Sonoma Grocery wars have begun. And, although the bottle of water passed out at the parade certainly alleviated the day’s temperature, it appears the battle of the giant and the independent is just heating up.
In order to maintain a customer base, any independent must develop a better plan than to just depend on the loyalty of a previous day’s customer. It’s now time for Sonoma Market to develop a plan that will enable them to compete with the Giant on each of the three important levels of grocery and food: price, presentation, and service. If they can compete on these levels effectively the war will have a happy ending- both will survive and prosper.
If Sonoma Market can’t compete, it will be interesting to see what will be passed out at next year’s parade.