One June 15th there was a meeting held with the management of Vons Markets to discuss an upgrade of their facility at Fairfax & Pico. Here are the notes from that meeting.
Background: Vons is a Southern California and Southern Nevada supermarket chain and a division of Safeway, Inc. Vons is headquartered in Arcadia, California, and operates stores under the Vons and Pavilions banners. Vons is owned by Safeway, Inc., (which itself is based in Pleasanton, CA), an American supermarket chain that was acquired by Albertsons, which in turn is owned by private equity investors led by Cerberus Capital Management (a private equity fund) in January 2015. It is no longer a public company and does not answer to public shareholders.
Management recognizes that the store has not been remodeled for 14 years.
Two weeks ago, corporate management came out to review the store, to measure, and to update about a full remodel to take place in 2015.
It will cost nearly $1 million to remodel. The square footage will be the same. They will add a butcher block, seafood counter, floral, and expand liquor offerings. They will create more space with the confines of the existing store. They will adjust the checkout lanes so that they take up less space.
The store is not going to be torn down. The entitlement permit which was obtained by Safeway and was filed and accepted by City Planning Commission of LA in 2010 has been shelved. That permit would have expanded the store into the parking lot increasing its footprint, and placed parking on top of the store.
What about more kosher products serving the Jewish community which abuts Vons?
There will be more chicken, meats, assorted vendors, and seasonal kosher products. They have a consultant to help with selecting the appropriate products.
What about other quality products?
They will add Diestel and organic brands on offer.
What is the timeline of the remodel?
It will start in October or November 2015. They will remain open during remodel. They did not give a timeline for how long it will take.
There were many comments about how management and the corporation are missing an important opportunity to serve the community better and more satisfactorily.
· Great Streets Initiative from Mayor Garcetti’s office puts the focus on Pico Blvd from Fairfax to Burnside. Vons could be an anchor of that focus and redevelopment.
· The community and its demographics have changed significantly in the last 10-15 years. Average home prices have risen, residents have changed, and shopping habits are different now. Higher demand for better quality products (i.e. organics, kosher, gluten-free, and locally sourced produce) in a more refined shopping experience is what drives consumers’ preferences now. Vons current store does not always reflect these changes.
· Competition has increased from Whole Foods and Ralphs, which cater to these changing needs. People do shop at places other than Vons because of its poor profile. Vons is not a viable competitor.
· Many people would prefer to do their regular grocery shopping at Vons because of its location. However, because of the layout, the product quality, and the experience, many residents of the area bypass Vons to go to other stores. Vons is not considered a shopping destination.
· Many residents view Vons as a “convenience store” and not as a primary place to shop. They go there out of necessity for a few items, not their main shopping. Also, it is viewed as a last resort destination for shopping because of its negative profile. Vons is not a primary source for groceries for many residents.
· Many residents believe that it would be in Vons best corporate interest (i.e. profitability) to undertake a thorough market analysis of the store, its location, and demographics surrounding the store to better understand the economics of enlarging the store and changing its product offerings. Vons is viewing the economic viability of its Pico/Fairfax location through a lens that is 10-15 years old, not one that focuses on today’s shopping realities.
· A remodeling of the store simply reflects what corporate owners want and not what the community wants or needs. Vons is not listening to the requests, needs, and preferences of the community it intends to serve.