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    FEATURE: Hispanic Retailing: Latino lovers

    New markets catering to a Hispanic clientele are springing up across the nation.

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News

    Lubbock, Texas-based United Supermarkets became the latest retailer to expand its presence in the Latino grocery market, as the independently owned chain purchased two former Brookshire Grocery Co. stores with the intention of reopening them under its own Super Mercado banner.

    Representing the second and third units opened under United's Hispanic banner, the new stores will feature many of the amenities that are coming to be known as Hispanic retailing must-haves: fresh-made tortillas, tropical fruit frescas, produce from around the world, and a full-service carneceria, or fresh meat department, featuring fajitas, carnitas, and chorizos, among other specialty items.

    The grocer's long-term goal is to develop more United Super Mercado stores, since it sees Texas' growing Hispanic population as a "very important market going forward," says United's director of communications, Eddie Owens.

    Texas is one of the hottest markets for growth in stores aimed at the Latino shopper. Coppell, Texas-based Minyard Food Stores expects to debut its new Hispanic-centric Carnival flagship store this summer, southwest of Dallas in Oaklawn.

    According to s.v.p. of strategy and marketing Poul Heilmann, the ground-up store will incorporate the many new ideas Minyard has implemented in four recent Carnival remodels. The new flagship will place heavy emphasis on peripheral departments, notes Heilmann, including a carniceria, a seafood department, a bakery/deli, a fruteria featuring fresh fruit and juices, and a cocina, or kitchen, where customers can specially order prepared foods.

    The format will also feature a brand-new decor package designed specifically to accent the banner's "fun atmosphere," says Heilmann. "The store will be very colorful and exciting. We'll have a lot of sampling and great eat-in food."

    The center store aisles, meanwhile, will feature a diverse product mix customized for the area's primarily Mexican shoppers, adds Heilmann.

    Minyard is also selecting the new Oaklawn Carnival store to debut in-store health clinics, via an agreement with MedXpress, a Dallas-based company that's pioneering flat-fee family medical clinics located in grocery stores and pharmacies. MedXpress and Minyard have entered into an agreement for MedXpress to open up to five clinics in Minyard stores throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex by the end of 2006, with up to 25 projected over the next three years.

    New Hispanic-centric store development activity elsewhere in the country includes:

    California

    Super Mercado Mexico, a San Jose, Calif.-based supermarket chain that caters to the Latino community, has acquired two Albertsons supermarkets in the area that it plans to replace with its own Super Mercados. Super Mercado Mexico has four other stores in San Jose and one in Fresno.

    Liborio Markets, a small but growing Hispanic grocery operator based in Pasadena, Calif., is building a new store in Commerce City, on the site of a former King Soopers. The chain has also broken ground for its first Colorado store, set to open in Denver this summer, which will serve as a prototype for future units. The new prototype will be called Rancho Liborio. Liborio Markets has five stores in California and one in Las Vegas. Officials said at the Colorado groundbreaking that they plan to open three stores in the state this year and four more in 2007, and they've set their sights on national expansion.

    Rancho Liborio will carry grocery items from a variety of countries, along with a panaderia, or bakery; a carniceria; and a tortilleria.

    The company's second Colorado location will be in Aurora. Meanwhile Liborio Markets is negotiating for another former King Soopers store in Denver.

    Washington

    In Pasco, Wash., Fiesta Foods, a single-store independent specializing in authentic Mexican food since 2003, is expanding by adding two new stores in the Yakima Valley, a 44,000-square-foot Sunnyside location that opened in May, and a 43,000-square-footer in Yakima, which is slated to open in September.

    In addition to offering Mexican foods made from scratch, Fiesta Foods carries all of the non-Hispanic brands featured in mainstream supermarkets.

    Florida

    Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets is planning to open two more Sabor units in Miami. The move will boost the Publix Sabor count to four.

    The first of the latest Sabor stores will be a remodel of an existing Publix in Miami's Flagler Park Plaza, according to spokeswoman Maria Brous. At 55,000 square feet, it will be a slightly smaller version of the 61,000-square-foot Miami Sabor unit Publix opened last year in the suburb of Hialeah. The store will remain open during remodeling, said Brous.

    Amenities that will be added to the Flagler Park Plaza store include a juice bar, a jewelry and fragrance store, extensive hot foods, and a cafe with seating.

    The other new Sabor unit will come from either an existing supermarket (not a Publix) or a ground-up construction. Publix is not releasing details at this time, since there is no contract or signed deal as of yet, says Brous. The unit will be in Miami proper.

    Publix introduced the Sabor format last April in Kissimmee, Fla., a suburb of Orlando. The 40,000-square-foot unit was converted from a Publix store that originally opened in 1989.

    Publix Sabor stores feature bilingual signage and bilingual associates, as well as an extensive Hispanic product mix catering to the neighborhoods the locations serve.

    Even Middle America's quintessential operator, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, is chomping at the bit to get into the act. The retailer, which opened a new experimental Supercenter in Plano, Texas in May targeting upscale shoppers, said at its June shareholders' meeting that more experimental concepts are in the works, including one focused on serving the Hispanic customer.

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News
    • About Don Longo Don Longo is editorial director of EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News, Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner and Hispanic Retail 360 media brands. He has covered retailing for more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. Previously, he spearheaded the editorial efforts at a variety of business publications focused on mass, drug, grocery and specialty store retailing. Convenience Store News won American Business Media‚Äôs Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Issue of the Year in 2008 and 2012. Longo has won numerous other editorial awards over his career and is frequently quoted in the national and local news media on the subjects of retailing and consumer trends.

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