The Rise of Urban Shopping

As more people flock to urban areas such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, and even Houston, grocery & retail stores alike are expanding into the small store market. They want to feed and clothe both the new & current urban dwellers. So they opened smaller versions of their current stores. Take a look at what some grocery & retail stores are doing to attract the attention of the urban population.

Image Credit: Zipcar

Target launched their small urban store concept, known as CityTarget, in July of 2012 in the Chicago, Seattle, & Los Angeles markets.  A few more compact stores were launched in Portland, Oregon & San Francisco in 2013. Target doesn’t plan to open any new CityTarget stores in 2014. You can read more about the launch of CityTarget by clicking here.

The retail giant, based in Minneapolis, first announced plans to open CityTargets in early 2011. The CityTarget concept stores carry everyday necessities of urban & apartment life such as groceries, medication, small furniture, & cosmetics. The new urban stores are about half the size of suburban Targets & SuperTargets, which are generally larger than 200,000 sq ft.

In January of 2014, Target announced an even smaller store concept: Target Express. They’re testing the concept in their hometown of Minneapolis near the University of Minnesota. The store, which is five times smaller than a CityTarget location, opened in July. Target also announced plans to open a new Target Express store in San Diego in July of 2015.

Some urban Target stores aren’t concept stores at all. In cities like Atlanta, Dallas, & Chicago, urban stores have become popular because of their separate cart escalators, multi-level shopping areas, & wide variety of items. As Target describes on their blog, some stores are designed to fit in with the region. For example, a Target store in Silverthorne, Colorado is designed to look like a winter lodge, & a Target in Chicago’s Sullivan Center has a wrought iron facade.

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A Publix store located in the ever popular South Beach area of Miami was designed as a futuristic building and is intended to be modern & urbanIt was designed by Carlos Zapata in 1998 and contains a two-level parking garage, a people mover, a moving cart ramp, multiple escalators, & a 50,000 sq ft retail space. The locals typically refer to the captivating store as the  “Mothership”, the “Jetson’s Publix”, or more formally, “Publix on the Bay.”

Publix has more metropolitan stores, but none are as amazing as the “Mothership.” Atlanta has an urban corner Publix in it’s Midtown district, while Orlando has a downtown corner store with an Art Deco storefront.

View images (from Google Street View) of the futuristic Publix stores below. Orlando is on the left. Miami is on the right. Click to enlarge.

publix miamipublix

Image Credit: Walmart

In 2011, Walmart launched ten Express concept stores in Northwest Arkansas & the Carolinas. The locations were very profitable & saw lots of traffic. The success of the initial 10 locations prompted Walmart to open more Express stores. Since 2011, Walmart opened ten new Express stores.

Express stores are generally smaller than 15,000 sq ft; conventional Walmart stores range anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 sq ft. Walmart Express stores also carry a wide variety of items, but in smaller quantities.

Walmart Neighborhood Market, another compact spawn of Walmart, was launched in 1998 & typically ranges anywhere from 35,000 to 45,000 sq ft. Neighborhood Market stores focus on selling grocery & food products.

In February of 2014, Walmart announced plans to add 500 new compact stores by the middle of 2015. The new stores will include both the Express & Neighborhood Market formats.

Image Credit: Gone Native Foods

Image Credit: Gone Native Foods

Although there isn’t a specific name for urban Whole Foods stores, there are plenty of locations. Some stores in urban areas have moving cart sidewalks for customers trying to access the store’s parking garage. Whole Foods stores in urban areas may have one or two parking areas, one of which is usually a multi-level parking garage.

Urban Whole Foods stores may also have a split-level cafe, especially if the store is connected to other buildings or a mall. In addition, urban stores tend to be the same size as, if not bigger than, traditional freestanding locations. What the urban stores lack in flowing design, is made up by ample amounts of products.

Image Credit: The Quick Door Hanger

In 1998, Home Depot was running out of room to put more of their vast home improvement warehouses. Huge stores just couldn’t fit in the tight streets of cities. So they launched prototype stores in the Northeast. One location is located steps from the famed Flatiron Building in the Flatiron District of New York. It has two floors of home improvement products, but there isn’t a large selection of items.

In 2007, the Home Depot looked to expand into urban areas around the country with smaller stores. These new stores, dubbed “neighborhood” stores were designed to compete with local hardware stores. The new Home Depot neighborhood stores averaged about the same size as these local hardware stores. Five neighborhood stores opened in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007 & more stores opened around the nation within the next few years. The Home Depot in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago is one of these new stores. It doesn’t carry products typically found in suburban Home Depot stores; it sells products geared toward small fix-it projects that apartment & condo dwellers may have.

Image Credit: Saving Dollars & Sense

This one may be considered the opposite of small, urban stores. Kroger Marketplace, imagined in 2004, is actually larger than most of their grocery stores. The Marketplace carries items of all kinds: food, household, cleaning, furniture, home decor, flowers, small appliances, bed & bath, kitchen, home office, & toys. They even have jewelry & cheese shops, pizza parlors, banks, & a Starbucks inside the store! Kroger Marketplace may even be considered a rival of Walmart. But this doesn’t exactly follow the small, urban idea we’ve been going with here. So how does it fit in?

Kroger Marketplace stores are essentially a one-stop shop for most consumers. This means that most shoppers won’t have to shop around for the necessities of their life.

Image Credit: My Litter

In 2010, CVS announced their urban cluster store concept, a compact version of the already small drugstore. Of the 7,600 regular CVS pharmacies, 300 were converted, or “reset”, by the end of 2010, with the company pledging to reset a total of 1,300 to 1,400 stores over the next few years. By the end of 2011, CVS had converted 420 locations. The first store to convert was a CVS located in New York’s Union Square. The store, as well as other reset CVS pharmacies across the nation, has an expanded “Grab & Go” case, a larger, single-serve freezer, & a larger consumables section. Some stores even have an exclusive self-checkout register area. Other CVS locations have adopted the urban cluster concept including stores in Los Angeles, Atlanta, & Washington DC.

Meanwhile, in June of 2014, the company, headquartered in Rhode Island, launched Red Emblem Abound, a “healthier” variety of snack foods. The goal of the new line of foods was to persuade consumers to choose healthier foods affordable prices. The line was rolled out at nearly 7,600 CVS stores, which likely included the urban cluster stores.

Competitor Walgreens upped their game with the opening of an outlet store in Chicago. The Chicago location, & others like it, include a sushi bar, a full bakery, a wine & liquor shop, a juice bar, an Upmarket Cafe (which is run by a barista and serves assorted food & drinks), an expanded cosmetic department (called Look Boutique that includes a wider variety, a nail bar, an eyebrow bar, and even a virtual makeover kiosk), and last but not least, a nod to the company’s roots: a malted chocolate shake created by the original Walgreens Soda Fountain.


This may be the perfect example of an urban shopping area. Although standard size stores populate the Metropolitan Avenue complex in Charlotte, NC, it’s all in one easy-to-access area. A multi-level parking garage stands at the center.

Metropolitan Avenue was designed to be a one stop shopping complex in Uptown Charlotte. In addition to the above mentioned stores, there are other shopping boutiques & local restaurants. A fairly large Target sits across the street, as well as an abandoned Home Depot Design Center; the brand went down the drain in 2009.

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Best Buy is tackling urban markets with a different approach: vending machines. Large kiosks, operated by Zoom Express, carry a wide variety of immediate & long-term electronics & accessories. The best part: kiosks operate 24/7! And if you don’t like your new gadget, you can return it to a Best Buy store within 15 days of purchase. It truly is Best Buy on the go.

(Sources: Publix, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Huff Post, Reuters, Palm Beach Daily News, Time, Drug Store News, Chain Drug Review)


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