SPOKANE, Wash. -- Rosauers Supermarkets has put in two store-within-a-store natural food sections and plans to extend the concept to more stores as it remodels and builds new units, said Jeff Philipps, chief executive officer.
Rosauers has operated a full-service natural food store called Huckleberry's Natural Market here for more than five years and adapted the concept for its traditional Rosauer Food & Drug stores.
Using the name Huckleberry's, the first section went into a remodeled Rosauer store in Hood River, Ore., in October, and the second was put in the chain's newest and 21st store in Yakima, Wash., when it opened recently.
"We will look at adding the Huckleberry's concept to all of our stores as we get ready to remodel them," said Philipps. "Our customers are really interested in it. More and more of our baby boomer generation is becoming more focused on health concerns. Certainly natural foods are part of that, and we've seen a real surge in interest there," he said.
"With our experience and success with our Huckleberry's store, we felt that it is definitely a growing part of our industry, and the demographics clearly called for it in these two stores," said Don Whittaker, grocery buyer.
Whittaker emphasized that these sections are not a test. "We've been in the natural food business for five years. We believe in it," he said.
The two departments are set up differently with the Hood River section sitting in an alcove, while the Yakima department is in-line with other grocery products. The reason for the variation is based on the design needs of the Hood River remodel, but the retailer will monitor both approaches to determine which works best, Philipps said.
He would not divulge sales figures, but said Rosauers has set targets that it uses in its budgeting process. "We are real pleased with the way Hood River has performed since it opened in mid-October. It has done better than we projected." It's too early to reach any conclusions about Yakima, Philipps added.
"There are very strong indicators that supermarkets have opened up to having organic or natural products in their stores," commented Katherine DiMatteo, executive director, Organic Trade Association, Greenfield, Mass. While retailers are taking various approaches, the store-within-a-store section has been successful for many, she said.
Among the keys to making it work are adjacencies, the aesthetics of the display units and signage, and a consolidation of products that will attract customers to that part of the store, she said.
From Whittaker's description, the Rosauer departments fit DiMatteo's model closely. For example, both use unique signage derived from the Huckleberry's store concept, and a wood-ceiling treatment to identify and differentiate the sections.
The Hood River section is somewhat larger than Yakima, with 154 linear feet devoted to dry grocery products, as opposed to 136 in Yakima, Whittaker said. Both have 16 linear feet of refrigerated display units, and 16 linear feet of frozen in Yakima and 12 linear feet in Hood River. While the Hood River section is a separate alcove, the Yakima department is adjacent to produce and regular groceries in a position at the front of the store near checkout, he said.
They also include a computerized kiosk with content from Healthnotes, Portland, Ore., as well as bulk grains and flours. A major distributor is Mountain Peoples Warehouse, Auburn, Calif.