Shops lose 88% of customers due to poor service

Despite an overwhelming preference for in-store shopping, consumers are being turned off to high street retail by low customer service levels, new research released today reveals.

In a survey conducted by customer intelligence company Market Force, electrical retailers had the lowest customer service satisfaction score of any service industry with just 2.24 per cent of shoppers left happy.

Shops lose 88% of customers due to poor service

Clothing retailers scored only 2.69 per cent, supermarkets polled 6.10 per cent, local convenience stores received 6.48 per cent backing from consumers, while department stores got the highest score of any retail business type with 9.72 per cent left satisfied.

Of those surveyed 41 per cent said that their biggest frustration with store staff is a lack of interest in their needs and wants, and despite more than three quarter of people preferring bricks and mortar shopping to online as a many as 88 per cent will leave a shop if service is poor.

Tim Ogle, CEO at Market Force Europe, commented: “Good customer service doesn’t have to be expensive. Small, inexpensive changes can have an oversize impact on whether someone buys in your shop and how much they spend.

“For example, our research shows eight out of ten shoppers want to be taken to a product when asking about its location. It’s these little gems of insight that turn a question into a sale.”

Retailers are increasingly realising that in order to make their bricks and mortar offer as compelling as their online platforms they have to improve the experience of visiting their stores.

This morning the UK’s largest retailer Tesco announced a huge recruitment drive, which in part is in reaction to a perceived drop in the supermarket chain’s service levels in recent years.

Several simple service techniques could be employed by businesses to boost trading it seems, with Market Force also finding that 59 per cent of shoppers like products to be recommended to them by staff members.

Although shoppers like to have a personal service, they also seem open to new technologies which cut out staff interaction, with 63 per cent saying they like to use self-service machine and 49 per cent in favour of contactless payments.

In a warning to retailers keen to make more transactions automated however, the research shows that 37 per cent of consumers feel they should pay less when using self-service checkouts.

Compared to other industries retail appears to be struggling to please its consumers at present, with banks (10.8 per cent), restaurants/pubs (28.3 per cent), and hotels (31.5 per cent) all scoring higher customer satisfaction levels in the Market Force survey.

Ogle added: “These findings should be a wakeup call to retailers looking for cost effective ways to grow their business.”

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Black Friday Sales Hits Record, Retail traffic and Foot-falls up.

Preliminary reports for Black Friday indicate that retailers may have seen their strongest sales ever during the all-important kick-off to the holiday shopping season.

black friday sales

Retail sales on Black Friday climbed 6.6% this year to an estimated $11.4 billion, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks foot traffic at malls and stores. Last year, sales climbed just 0.3% to $10.7 billion, which was a record one-day sales amount at the time, according to the company.

“This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. “Still, it’s just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season.”

However, sales have been strong throughout the entire month of November with retailers rolling out holiday deals earlier than ever. In the two weeks leading up to the week of Black Friday, retail sales were up 3.6% and 3.8%, respectively, ShopperTrak reported.

“Retailers continue to stretch out Black Friday weekend by enticing shoppers with doorbuster deals weeks in advance,” said Martin.

Online sales have also proven to be strong, with many big-box retailers and department stores offering deals online earlier this year.

Black Friday online sales surge 24%

Online sales were up 39.3% on Thanksgiving Day and 24.3% on Black Friday compared to the same days last year, according to IBM’s (IBM,Fortune 500) Coremetrics, which tracks real-time data from 500 retailers in the apparel, department store, health and beauty and home goods categories.

“This year marked Thanksgiving’s emergence as the first big spending day of the 2011 holiday season with a record number of consumers shifting their focus from turkey to tablets and the search for the best deals,” said John Squire, chief strategy officer at IBM’s Smarter Commerce division.

Consumers also spent slightly more than they did last year, although they spent most of that money on themselves. According to NPD Group consumers spent about 3% more on purchases during Black Friday. However, about 44% were self purchases up from 33% last year, the research group said.

Retail traffic on Black Friday up 2%

Total US visits to the top 500 Retail websites increased 2% on Black Friday as compared to 2010 and received more than 173 million US visits. Traffic has increased each day leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday and the total visits dipped slightly (-1%) on Black Friday compared Thanksgiving Day 2011. Early Black Friday sales resulted in a shift of online traffic, which climbed prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, however, continued heavy promotional activity helped to drive significant online traffic on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday. While Black Friday has been the top day for online retail traffic over the past two years, warm weather and early store openings encouraged shoppers to go online sooner this season.
DMS Retail 500 11-25-2011.png

Among the categories driving the growth in traffic on Black Friday were Department Stores (e.g. Amazon and Wal-Mart) Apparel & Accessories, Appliances & Electronics (e.g. Best Buy) and Video & Games (e.g. Game Stop).
DMS Retail Categories 11-25-2011.png

Below is a list of the top visited retail sites on Black Friday:
DMS Retail 500 Sites 11-25-2011.png

Many of the major retail websites experienced growth on Black Friday, including Amazon, Best Buy, JC Penney, Sears and Kohl’s. Amazon.com was the most visited website on Black Friday for the 7th year in a row.

India Paves Way for Wal-Mart, Tesco to Enter Market

India approved allowing overseas companies to own as much as 51 percent of retailers selling more than one brand, paving the way for global companies such as Wal- Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Tesco Plc to own stores.

Overseas companies must invest at least $100 million, half of which has to be spent on developing back-end infrastructure, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said in a statement presented to parliament today. India’s cabinet yesterday eased retail ownership rules, including permitting 100 percent foreign holding in single brand stores.

India’s decision to allow overseas ownership in retail will create up to 10 million jobs and give farmers better prices, Sharma said. Wal-Mart,Carrefour SA (CA) and Tesco (TSCO) seek to step up their presence in the world’s second-most populous nation to tap a market estimated by Business Monitor International to double to $785 billion by 2015 from $396 billion this year.

“This is possibly the most exciting thing that has happened in retail in India,” said Hemant Kalbag, who heads the consumer and retail practice for Asia at A.T. Kearney in Mumbai. “This is probably the next big wave of change in organized retail in India.”

Overseas retailers will be required to purchase at least 30 percent of goods sold in the ventures from small industries, Sharma said. Stores will be permitted only in 53 cities with a population of 1 million or more, and the government will retain the first right to buy farm products, he said.

‘Important First Step’

The government’s move is “an important first step,” Wal- Mart Asia President Scott Price said in a statement. The retailer looks forward to “playing a key role” in India.

Asia’s third-biggest economy permitted foreign retailers to own wholesale stores in 1997. Policy makers have been debating ownership rules in retail for at least seven years.

Wal-Mart has set up 14 such stores through a joint venture with billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises to gain a foothold in India, while Metro AG operates six wholesale stores. Carrefour opened its first outlet in December.

“This legal evolution should contribute to modernize Indian food supply chain and to fight against food inflation for the benefit of Indian customers,” Carrefour said in an e-mailed statement. The Boulogne-Billancourt, France-based retailer will wait for final regulations, it said.

India’s decision may prompt expansion of existing joint ventures and trigger acquisitions, said Bryan Roberts, director of retail research at Kantar Retail in London. Still, the size of the opportunity may be “overstated,” he said.

“A lot of retailers have already expanded and found that there’s not enough middle-class shoppers around at the moment,” said Roberts.

‘Win for Consumers’

India’s retail industry will get $8 billion to $10 billion in fresh investments over the next five to 10 years, Kishore Biyani, managing director ofPantaloon Retail India Ltd. (PF), said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Pantaloon, which operates more than 150 Big Bazaar supermarketsacross 90 cities and towns, also has apparel and consumer-electronics outlets.

“It is a big win for consumers as they will have more choices,” said Biyani. “It’s a win for small industries as they will have more retailers creating markets for their products” and farmers will benefit from better prices, he said.

Pantaloon climbed 16 percent, the biggest gain since May 2009, to 233.95 rupees at the close in Mumbai trading. Shoppers Stop Ltd. (SHOP)rose 6.2 percent, and Trent Ltd. (TRENT), Tesco’s India partner, advanced 8.6 percent, the most since August 2010.

The decision to permit foreign retailers came as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s parliamentary ally the Trinamool Congress opposed the proposal. The main federal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party was also against the move.

Political Opposition

“Small and medium retailers, which employ a large number of people, will be affected,” Arun Jaitley, a BJP leader, said in New Delhi yesterday. “We oppose it completely.”

Overseas investment in the retail industry may help slow the pace of price gains, Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao said in the northern city of Chandigarh today. “Its important not only for raising overall growth but also important for containing inflation,” said Subbarao.

India’s food inflation accelerated 9.01 percent in the week ended Nov. 12 from a year earlier, the commerce ministry said yesterday. The rate has stayed above 9 percent for 16 weeks.

‘Licking Their Lips’

Raj Jain, president of Wal-Mart India, said in April 2010 the company can help reduce prices by improving supply chain and infrastructure to cut waste. About 40 percent of fruit and vegetables in the country rot before they are sold because of a lack of cold-storage facilities and poor transport infrastructure, according to government estimates.

Bharti-Walmart, the local venture, buys fresh produce directly from about 1,200 farmers in Punjab, in northern India, Jain said in May.

“Foreign retailers must be licking their lips at this opportunity,” said Narayanan Ramaswamy, executive director at KPMG India, which advises retail companies. “It has to be one of the biggest opportunities in the world right now.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net; Malavika Sharma in New Delhi atmsharma52@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Longid at flongid@bloomberg.net

IT ’ S A ‘MALL ’WORLD

The retail revolution in Mumbai has enhanced residential spaces across the city

When Crossroads, the first mall in Mumbai and in the country was launched, little did we know that the city would witness such a huge retail boom in the years to come! Today, Mumbai is home to some of the most prominent and successful malls in the country.

The start of this retail revolution in Mumbai can be traced to the initial years of the last decade. However, during the time frame of 2003-04 to 2007-08, the sector witnessed significant growth of around 11 per cent. The second half of the year 2010 re-witnessed an upsurge in the retail market post the economic meltdown.

Mumbai is estimated to have total organised retail stock of 8.72m sq. ft. and will witness 11.26 m sq. ft. of new retail development over the next three years. According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, India is poised to become the fifth largest consumer market by 2025. The retail sector in the western parts of India like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Ahmedabad, have seen a huge transformation, thanks to the changing consumption patterns, high disposable income in hand and favourable demographics.

Explains Shreesh Misra, Center Director of Phoenix Marketcity, Kurla, “An asset like a mall becomes a catalyst for people to converge at a particular location and spend leisure time beyond their office hours or during their weekends thus offering utmost convenience. So as and when the consumers start frequenting a mall or a retail space, the administration also plays a key role to support the property with proper infrastructure. Considering all these factors when people of a certain profile start taking a keen interest in a particular demographic it directly results in demand of residential spaces thus resulting in a complete makeover of the area.”

Phoenix Marketcity, which is coming up at Kurla, is predicted to change the face of this central suburb. It will floor 2.1-m sq ft project area for retail and boast of one of the biggest multiplexes in the city with 11 screens.

Retail developments in Mumbai like Inorbit Mall at Malad, Center One at Vashi and High Street Phoenix at Lower Parel were among the first to successfully bring in landscape changes in these respective areas. Such developments have had a positive impact on the real estate prices in the areas of their operations. Commercial places like Kamala Mills Compound, One Indiabulls Centre, Raghuvanshi Mills have gained prominence after High Street Phoenix. Adds Misra,”High Street Phoenix has acted as a catalyst for commercial and residential developments for Lower Parel which was not perceived to be good for any kind of development earlier. Today, it is one of the most sought after locations.”

Similarly, several residential projects by leading developers like Rustomjee and Kalpataru, to name a few, have launched their residential projects post the launch of Inorbit Mall in Malad.

Mumbai undoubtedly has a large number of working couples, migrants, DINK (Double Income and No Kid) and families with good disposable incomes and display an increasing appetite for socializing. These retail destinations being closer to such residential hubs add more vibrancy and convenience to the lifestyle.

Says Reema Kundnani, V.P – Marketing & Corporate Communications, Oberoi Realty, “Today, an average Mumbai family spends their weekend in a mall where the lady of the family gets to shop and meanwhile the kids get to play in the fun zone.

The main reason why malls are gaining popularity is because facilities like shopping, entertainment, movies and food are all available under one roof which makes it a hassle-free destination. We started with Oberoi Mall as the initial step of Oberoi Garden City project followed by the other planned developments.”

Similar is the story of central suburbs and Navi Mumbai where the mall culture is fast spreading with the commencement of malls like R-Mall, Nirmal Lifestyle, Korum, Eternity and Center One, Inorbit and Raghuleela in their respective suburbs. Center One, the first mall in Navi Mumbai, has played a significant role in the development of Vashi node.

Says Sandeep Runwal, Director, Runwal Group, “A good retail development changes the entire look of the area. Before the launch of R-City mall the area wasn’t a preferred destination for residential spaces. But now the residential prices have been almost doubled or tripled in the area. A good mall always adds value to the area and people are willing to pay premium price for a good lifestyle.” Runwal Group has established R-Mall, the first mall in Mulund, R-City and R-Odeon in Ghatkopar and R- Mall in Thane.

Clubbed with 7 -7.5% growth in GDP, the organised retail market is expected to grow in the near future, adding convenience and a new buzz to residential locations across the city.

Global Brands Rake in Moolah.

Indian Stores Among Best in generating revenue per square feet per year.

What is M.A.C?” The question, posed by Govind Shrikhande of Shoppers Stop, must have taken the top brass at Estee Lauder Companies by surprise. 

To the top managers of the New York cosmetics group, the question may even have come across as a case of rare ignorance about Make-up Art Cosmetics or M.A.C, especially surprising from the boss of India’s largest department store chain who had been pitching for a partnership with Estee Lauder in India.
But just four years later, two of the 20-odd stores that Estee Lauder runs in partnership with Shoppers Stop in India rank among their top 10 worldwide in terms of revenues.

And Estee Lauder is not alone.
Scores of leading international brands – Swarovski, Accessorize, US Polo, Aldo and Promod, to name a few – are realising that some of their stores in still third world India are among their most successful across the world, helped by a constantly expanding army of consumers with increasing disposable incomes and high brand awareness.

Such is the level of awareness that it has even taken retail industry veterans by surprise. Shrikhande drew a blank then about M. A.C, but consumers in India knew about the Canadian brand that Estee Lauder had acquired in 1994. “Many consumers knew about the brand and were using the products even before it entered the country officially,” he says.

And now M.A.C stores at Select City Walk shopping mall in south Delhi and at Dynamix Mall in Mumbai’s Juhu are generating revenues in excess of $1,000 per square feet per year, executives who did not wish to be named said.
High-end crystal products maker Swarovski’s stores at Bandra in Mumbai and at the T3 terminal at Delhi airport rank among its top stores by sales, says Sukanya Dutta Roy, director of the company’s consumer goods business.

Similarly, British fashion accessories retailer Accessorize’s store at Ambience Mall in Gurgaon is the company’s second biggest revenue earner, clocking sales of about $600 per square ft per year.

Two of apparel brand US Polo stores also rank among the top ten globally. The 1,000 sq ft stores in Delhi and Bangalore generate sales of around $700 per sq ft a year, says J Suresh, managing director of Arvind Lifestyle Brands, which launched US Polo in India barely two years ago. Sales at the company’s other stores across the world usually vary between $200 and $500 sq ft a year.
Women’s fashion brand Promod’s store in Delhi reports the highest sales per sq ft in Asia, while Canadian shoe and accessories brand Aldo has two of its top 50 stores in India.

While some analysts believe that the performance at Indian stores may reflect the declining offtake in the more developed markets, others argue that several brands generate above average sales for short periods because they have a few stores servicing a large catchment.

“The reason could be initial attraction of the brand and fewer points of sale compared to the size of the overall consuming population,” says Ramesh Tainwala, CEO, Planet Retail.

At German sportswear brand Puma, executives do not look at sales figures alone but also factor in the exchange rate fluctuations. “We compare performance of Puma stores on a percentage profitability basis as opposed to sales per square feet,” says Rajeev Mehta, managing director of the company which counts three of its stores among the top ten globally.

Even as some analysts view the strong sales at Indian stores of global brands with caution, Raghav Gupta, principal at management consulting firm Booz & Co, points to the emerging big picture. “It links back to the overall position that India is starting to take in the global economy,” says Gupta.

Global India Stores

M.A.C
Juhu in Mumbai and Select Citywalk in Delhi

Swarovski
Bandra and Delhi Airport Terminal 3

Accessorize
Ambience Mall, Gurgaon

Puma
Bangalore’s Garuda Mall, West Gate Mall in Delhi, and Church Road in Pune

US POLO
Select Citywalk Mall at Saket in Delhi, and The Forum, Bangalore

Promod
Select Citywalk Mall in Delhi

Aldo
Select Citywalk Mall and Palladium

Look customers in the eyes to lock them in the aisles.

Shopkeepers adopt the hard sell with some tailored software, writes Mark Russell.

IN THE film Minority Report set in 2054, a brewer’s advertising billboard identifies Tom Cruise’s character, John Anderton, through a retinal scanner. As he walks past, the billboard calls out: ”John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right about now.”

Far-fetched? Not according to retailers who believe this type of targeted advertising may well be the future of shopping.

New York company Immersive Labs is already using built-in cameras and facial recognition software in its outdoor billboards to determine the gender and age of passers-by so it can customise the advertisement on display to suit them and prompt sales.

So if a man strolls by on a cold morning, the display might change from an ad for women’s clothing to an advertisement suggesting a cup of coffee at a nearby cafe.

As Australian online shopping – expected to be worth $21.3 billion this financial year and $30.8 billion by 2015-16 – continues to threaten bricks-and-mortar businesses, retailers are using the latest technology, combined with social media, including more shopping apps, to lure customers back into their stores.

German shoemaker adidas is planning to install touch-sensitive display walls in stores from next year. The virtual footwear wall will allow customers to view the company’s entire range of 4000 pairs of shoes. If a customer likes a particular shoe the store will order it in.

Two cameras above the screen will watch shoppers’ reactions to determine which shoes are most popular. And like other companies, adidas is also gathering feedback by encouraging customers to use Facebook and Twitter to review its products.

Brisbane company Yeahpoint believes its MiMirror creation is the missing link between instore shopping and social media that will revolutionise fashion retail.

MiMirror is a touch-screen display with a camera that acts as a mirror and takes up to six photographs of customers in outfits they are considering buying. The shoppers then email the images to friends or post them on Facebook to get a second opinion.

No retailers have installed the technology yet, but the company is confident major stores will buy the device in coming months.

”The factors driving retailers’ decisions for the future are basically that the cost of business continues to increase and competitiveness in the retail environment is being challenged by the online market,” Yeahpoint’s John Anderson says.

”On the flip side, you have the time-poor consumer who wants to have a much more friendly, fun shopping experience.”

Sean Sands, of Monash University’s Australian Centre for Retail Studies, agrees, saying many consumers are bored with traditional retail and the only way to lure them back into stores is to offer the latest technology linked to social media.

A recent report released by the centre found that online shopping was creating tougher in-store customers because they were ”better informed due to the power of the internet”.

Half the population now research their purchases online before setting foot in a store.

Many are also armed with a wide range of shopping apps that can be downloaded on to iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads and other tablets and smartphones, that allow them to hunt for the best deals.

The RedLaser app, for example, allows instore shoppers to scan the barcode of an item to get the price and then checks online to see if it’s cheaper elsewhere.

Supermarket giant Coles’ ShopMate app, which notes specials and lets you cross off your shopping list as you go, has been downloaded 400,000 times.

Rival Woolworths does not have a shopping app but has one to locate missing trolleys.

Woolies’ app-lessness is not likely to last, however, as retailers respond to consumer demand.

Russell Zimmerman, of the Australian Retailers Association, says ”every retailer has to be in the online space in the foreseeable future” or they won’t survive.

According to PayPal, 8 million Australians buy goods using the internet, and one in 10 buy them with their mobile phones.

Google Australia’s head of retail, Ross McDonald, says this increasing use of mobile phones to search for stores and products has become a noticeable trend in the past six months.

Previously, 95 per cent of online traffic for shopping searches was from computers but 16-18 per cent of online inquiries were now from mobile phones. ”What we advise retailers is that it’s not so much about the app but making sure you are visible on a mobile device when someone searches for you,” he says.

Jo Lynch from Myer – which has an iPhone app that lets you peruse and buy goods with a tap of your finger – says the company expects its online business to generate sales of $5 million for 2010-11 and be worth up to six times that in the next few years.

David Jones’ Brett Riddington says the future of shopping is all about multi-channel retailing. ”Many customers will still want to go in-store to physically see the goods after checking them out online, but we need to make that a more entertaining and engaging experience,” he says.

Hispanic grocery stores find booming market in Valley.

Hispanic grocery stores — with their vast arrays of peppers and Mexican sweet breads — are steadily opening across the Valley, driven by an explosion in the population they cater to.

Garcia’s Market opened Thursday in Kerman. And just this spring, Sylmar-based Vallarta Supermarkets opened its fifth store in the central San Joaquin Valley, this one in Tulare.

“I’m sure there’s going to be more,” said Shane Anderson, a Commercial Retail Associates retail broker who helps landlords sign with retailers.

“Several of them we’re talking to have been up touring the Central Valley. It’s a matter of time before they start making deals.”

The interest from Hispanic grocers is far greater than that expressed by conventional grocery stores, he said. Traditional stores, which typically like to locate near new housing tracts, are waiting on the sidelines for building to bounce back, he said.

But Hispanic supermarket chains both big and small are realizing there is money to be made as the Hispanic population explodes.

Rapid growth

Hispanics are the majority in the Valley, according to census data released this spring, fueled by a big jump in the under-18 population.

The buying power of Hispanics nationwide is expected to grow by 50% between 2010 and 2015 to $1.5 trillion — a rate that eclipses all other racial and ethnic groups and overall spending growth, according to a yearly study by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

Although many Valley Hispanics have lower incomes than their non-Hispanic counterparts, they spend a greater percentage of their income on food, according to Mintel, a national market research company.

That’s because Hispanics tend to have larger families, said Leylha Ahuile, a Mintel senior analyst.

Rebeca Garcia of Fresno, for example, shops for her family of six at El Super at Tulare and First streets in Fresno. Last week, she left with a cart piled high with food, including canned jalapeños, a large bag of apples and two trays holding 24 eggs each.

All that food will last one week, she said.

“It’s cheaper than other places,” Garcia said of El Super. “They have good specials.”

Anderson, the retail broker, says the Hispanic niche of customers still is underserved in the Valley.

Vallarta has opened stores in Fresno, Porterville and Visalia in recent years, and it opened its first Tulare store in April

. An executive has said that Vallarta plans to open more stores in the Valley. Chief Financial Officer John Marquis declined to comment last week on specific plans for the area.

“The company plans to continue to expand,” he said, noting that there is room for growth of Hispanic supermarkets in the Central Valley.

Kerman’s Garcia’s Market opened in the space Save Mart pulled out of last fall, citing the economy. It’s the Garcia family’s fourth store in the Valley. They also run stores in Modesto, nearby Riverbank and Mendota.

The family is planning to open more stores, possibly including one in Merced County, said Jesus Garcia, owner of the Kerman Garcia’s Market.

“The people in Kerman, they’re waiting for something,” he said, noting that the city has one other supermarket. “They want more options … to do their grocery shopping.”

Other Hispanic grocers, including El Super and Rancho San Miguel, also have established a presence in the Valley.

The stores sell many of the same products as traditional grocery stores, but some departments are vastly different.

Produce sections carry a much larger and varied selection of peppers. They also carry products that aren’t common in traditional supermarkets, including verdolagas, a Mexican parsley, or the Mexican green huazontle.

Meat counters are larger, carrying cuts of meat preferred in Mexico, and deli-style servings of queso fresco cheese.

And the larger supermarkets serve up fresh food like tacos and tamales, along with every flavor of “aguas frescas” drinks, and have large seating areas.

Ethel Rodriguez of Fresno shops at several stores, but buys Mexican sweet bread and canned enchilada sauces at Vallarta at Cedar and Dakota avenues in Fresno.

“They have all that type of stuff, more so than others,” she said.

The stores appeal to non-Hispanic customers, too, like Dianna Mangione of Fresno, who regularly shops the meat counter at El Super.

“It’s not necessarily because it’s Hispanic; it’s because it’s a better quality of meat,” she said.

A shifting marketplace

The Valley has always had a strong Hispanic population, and for years it’s been catered to by small mom-and-pop shops. But now, larger grocers are beginning to take over that role.

Walmart and other more traditional supermarkets also are trying to appeal to Hispanic customers, though on a smaller scale.

There have been some bumps along the way.

The Fiesta Foods Warehouse that opened at Kings Canyon Road and Willow Avenue is now empty and boarded up — but that had more to do with business decisions than a lack of customers.

Ontario-based Fiesta Foods wanted to own a store instead of rent, said Rick Amerine, a retail broker at Commercial West Associates. When the space at First and Tulare streets came up for sale, Fiesta bought it and opened a second store there.

But two Fiesta stores so close to each other was too many in a corridor saturated with grocery stores and a Walmart, Amerine said. The company closed the Kings Canyon store. El Super bought Fiesta and converted the Tulare Street store.

Still, many large companies based in Southern California and the Bay Area are expected to begin growing into the center of the state, Anderson said.

And at least one heavy hitter is in the early stages of finalizing new store locations, Amerine said. He declined to say who, but said the company is “a force to be reckoned with.”

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