Kroger Co. (KR) explores downtown grocery options - What would that look like?

Columbus stores could be a model for urban format

CINCINNATI - If the Kroger Co. ever builds an urban-format grocery store in downtown Cincinnati, chances are it will look something like this:

´╗┐Produce stand at Kroger's Columbus Short North store


Kroger’s “Short North” store in Columbus is a 53,000 square-foot retail establishment at 1350 North High St. It has a façade full of windows that showcase Kroger produce and organics to passing pedestrians. It also has a bistro, sushi bar and restaurant seating inside. It has 24 self-checkout scanners to accommodate Ohio State University students – and their parents – who account for more than 60 percent of store sales.

“It’s very successful,” said Lindsey Taylor, real estate manager for Kroger’s Columbus division, which opened the $10 million store in 2011.

The store is an example of how urban-format retail is different than the suburban templates that Cincinnati-area Kroger customers know so well, with their big box ambience and large parking lots in front, a place to load up for the week then drive home with the trunk full.

Urban stores are pedestrian friendly with parking lots hidden above or below the retail space. They’re a place to shop daily, buying only enough to carry home – or eat on the premises.

“The most successful urban stores address their community very closely,” said Michael Zaretsky, an associate professor in the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Cincinnati. “They include the community in the design process and they make sure the store includes what the community needs. They need to have a very committed clientele.”

Zaretsky and his students have been working with Kroger for about two years, gathering a set of best practices that the company can use to develop urban locations. Students visited more than a dozen stores during their research – including Short North – praising it as having “a strong urban street presence” and strong links to pedestrian traffic.

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