Checking out the ‘newest’ Krogertsons in town the concept Hispanic Kroger

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today, we’re checking out Houston’s “hottest Kroger.” The store at Sabo and the South Belt which was recently renovated as a Hispanic Concept Kroger. Houstonians are no strangers to Hispanic grocery stores, and in fact, some of us may even remember Kroger’s previous attempt at a Hispanic store in Gulfton. Starting off with a bit of history on this store, it was initially a Grocery Palace-era Albertsons, which Kroger picked up along with another 20 stores in 2002. Kroger had been a dominant player in the area for years, battling Randalls up on Fuqua a bit. By 2002, when Kroger took over this old Albertsons, they were easily the strongest grocer in the area. Even Randalls would eventually peter out, leaving Kroger to duke it out with a far-away HEB and Wal-Mart. Over the 2000s, however, growth in the area would largely stagnate, and Kroger would somewhat forget this store. That is, until last week, when it became front-page news for multiple outlets, Kroger had updated this store and used it to pilot this new concept. An announcement that I wish I had known about (want to share some news?) So what are my thoughts on visiting this store well, you’ll see them after the break!

Let me start off with the biggest, most obvious change to the store: a new Fresh Cut Fruit & Vegetable Bar, which also makes guacamole, salsa, ceviche, and fresh juices. It’s a pretty neat addition to the store and something I think would make a good addition to a good number of Kroger stores. The fruits included some covered with chamoy and Tajin but also some interesting mixed bowls that looked like they’d be tasty on their own. The decor was not bad; I felt the placing of Spanish text was done very well, and it didn’t look out of place. Overall though, it felt closer to what Chedraui is putting into Fiesta than a Kroger. The weakest link overall was the product, which was not terribly Hispanic. While some departments did receive updates, like a dedicated tortilla warmer, expanded Hispanic Candies and snacks, and a few extras like Spanish greeting cards and votive candles, most of the store was unchanged. Largely, this falls down to this area of town, which is very diverse. Based on my brief time there, it’s easy to see why changing this location to a completely Hispanic-oriented store, like Mi Tienda, could be a mistake. Overall, I think is not a bad concept, and I could see it being adapted to other stores. However, I’m unsure if it received proper press in the media. I was expecting more of a second go at the Gulfton store and found myself in what felt like an HEB in South Texas. What do you think of Kroger’s newest format?

One comment

  1. As Retail Retell and Northwest Retail pointed out over at Northwest Retail’s blog when I discussed this store with them a few days ago, the signage elements of this decor package are clearly from Remix. There are some design factors here when are from the Bountiful decor package which this store had previously, but Remix itself is a modern (and cheaper) evolution of Bountiful. That said, the decor this store is wearing is not fully Remix. There are some new aspects to this…at least new to me. I wonder if this decor, plus all the new features, might make it to other Houston Kroger stores.

    While the description ‘Hispanic format’ might evoke thoughts of something like the Fiesta Mart on Edgebrook & I-45 in the old Weingarten, El Rancho, Mi Tienda, or the aforementioned Gulfton Kroger Supermercado, it seems to me that what Kroger is mostly going for is to make their store more like a standard HEB which, whether people want to admit it or not, caters strongly towards Hispanic shoppers. It is not an ‘in your face’ Hispanic format, but more subtle and the people who want to find those special products know that they exist in those stores. I think that’s what Kroger is going for, but certainly the Spanish ‘subtitles’ takes things a bit further than what even HEB seems willing to do so far in Houston. The head of Kroger Houston is a long-time HEB veteran so I’m not surprised to see Kroger try something that seems like something HEB has done or would do.

    This area is diverse with a large number of Hispanic shoppers, obviously, and also Asian/Vietnamese shoppers so what we see in this store isn’t a surprise and speaks to Kroger’s ability to source items which may only appeal to shoppers in specific areas. It also seems to me that Kroger is hoping to score some high profit margin sales with this new format which I think makes it a bit different than some other Hispanic format attempts which emphasize stocking a lot of low profit margin ‘center store’ type items. Is this the type of neighborhood where people will buy high profit margin items? Maybe, maybe not, but they might be more likely to buy these items than the traditional American deli/American bakery paradigm, which is still in this store, so maybe this will work. Then again, as we’ve seen with a lot of Kroger’s attempts to do new, higher-end things, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is quietly discontinued in a couple years and we never hear much about it again.