Small, Neighborhood, and Niche Grocery Stores Thrive, The MDC Group

More small grocery stores, minimarts, and niche grocery stores are opening and thriving, especially in cities and rural areas. Some current grocery buying trends include shoppers using store apps for ordering and parking lot pickups for weekly groceries or making one trip a week to the supercenter for most of their needs. They also sometimes order often-bought, nonperishables online, possibly using auto-ship options for everything from pet food to coffee.

However, they also want specialty items like international cooking spices you might not find in big chains. Most people also need places to pick up things quickly midweek. They might need ready-to-eat and easy meal solutions, suddenly craved foods, and suddenly depleted staples like milk, eggs, and bread. They need places to go for these needs.

Convenience for Rural and Urban Shoppers

In rural and urban areas, a trip to the supercenter or large grocery chain store may mean a long and time-consuming drive. Rural shoppers may need to drive to the nearest large town, and city dwellers must go to the suburbs. To save gas and time, some shoppers make trips less often than before, so more small-scale grocery shops, specialty grocers, and convenience stores are opening downtown and in small towns to make quick shopping trips between super center visits more convenient.

Small businesses and Small Chain Store Models

While many of these stores are small businesses, independently owned and run, many major grocery retailers have also added smaller format stores. They have recognized that super centers or full-sized grocery stores are not always the best solution for certain regions, have recognized the demand for more convenient shops, and developed smaller store models to answer the call.

Large retailers, especially supercenters, have seen the need for smaller grocery stores in downtown, small towns, or rural areas. For example, Walmart introduced its Walmart Neighborhood Store model in 1998 to fit into smaller city buildings. The experiment worked, and there are now about 800 of them. These stores offer groceries, pharmaceuticals, and sometimes fuel, but you won’t find things like clothing, home goods, or electronics. To serve people who can’t easily get to their larger stores, Walmart allows shoppers to order these non-food items online and pick them up at a Walmart neighborhood market.

Other major retailers have also added smaller stores. For example, Kroger has various store models for different neighborhoods under different banner names. Meijer, also realizing not every community needs a super center, is introducing a new smaller grocery store model for 2023. Hy-Vee has opened Fast & Fresh stores which they describe as a cross between a supermarket and a convenience store. At a much smaller building size, about 10,000 square feet, they offer staples and quick meal solutions like wood-fired pizza and sushi. Stop & Shop also has a small concept store focusing on fresh grab-and-go items.

European Chains

Another aspect of the smaller store trend is the expansion of some European discount grocery stores into the U.S. According to an article published by, “A defining feature of these discount grocery stores is their small assortment. Most European discounters have 2,000 to 2,500 products, about five times less than a typical U.S. supermarket.” A smaller inventory means a smaller physical footprint. These stores sell ready-to-eat, quick-to-prepare meals, and store-branded products at lower prices than national brands. Lower prices have become more important during the recent rise in grocery prices.

Some European chains have been more successful in America than others, but stores that have done well are an alternative to the supercenters. Shoppers may not find everything they need at an Aldi, Trader Joe, or Lidl, but having one in the neighborhood can be very convenient. They may still go to larger grocery stores weekly or monthly but can stop in to get a few staples and a cook-at-home pizza any night of the week.

International and Ethnic Grocery Stores

In city neighborhoods, rural areas, and small towns where immigrant populations have settled, small “Mom & Pop” stores offering foods and spices the residents seek are becoming more common. They offer fruits, vegetables, meats, and often specialty spices you may not find in mainstream grocery stores.

Latin, Middle Eastern, and Pan-Asian markets have been common in big cities, but now they are opening in suburban and small-town areas. Some regions may have single-nationality shops. For example, Korean, Mexican, or Jamaican stores have been built throughout the U.S.

Immigrants aren’t the only ones looking for special foods and spices. As people have had more time to cook at home, amateur chefs expanding their culinary horizons often turn to these smaller shops for ingredients they need for international dishes. In addition to specialty foods, these small businesses usually carry pantry staples like rice, flour, and dairy products at reasonable prices, making it a great midweek stop for anyone.

Construction Companies Specializing in Grocery Stores

Independent entrepreneurs in downtown or rural areas see opportunities in shuttered storefronts. Construction companies with the right experience can quickly convert existing empty retail spaces to the small business owner’s needs, so they open sooner and begin making money. Architects and construction companies renovate spaces to deliver convenient neighborhood shops that provide specialty or ethnic foods or staples like milk, bread, and ice cream, people often buy midweek.

The MDC Group knows current grocery store trends very well because we have over 25 years of experience constructing and remodeling grocery stores. When considering Grocery Store construction large or small, reach out to an experienced general contractor like The MDC Group.


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