I figure that people are probably itching to know what’s up with any new grocery prospects for Kent, so I’ll try to scratch that itch. We continue to talk to any grocer that will let us in the door but to be honest they keep that door closed a lot. I’ve come to believe that if the first rule of real estate is location, location, location — then the second rule is contacts, contacts, contacts. In the hyper-competitive world of grocery, everybody seems to want to keep an extremely low profile, and they seem to mistrust anyone not in their inner circle. So success seems to be as much about who you know — so if you’re Uncle Vinny is a butcher with connections, let us know.
At this point, the first wave of “can we talk” letters and calls are done. For our effort we had a couple of takers, who at least came to visit, checked us out, and called the property owners to see what it would take to make a deal. Over time those first contacts dwindled down to about one grocery chain who is legitmately interested in the old Giant Eagle store location.
We continue to reach out to the interested grocery prospect and the plaza property owner to make sure that they are still talking and working their way closer to inking a deal. They don’t tell us much (it’s the whole secrecy thing again) but they both acknowledge that negotiations are proceeding as expected (whatever that means) and they’re both still at the table thinking that a deal is probable in time.
Of course from our end, time is one thing we don’t have the luxury of — we need grocery now! But we do our best to be patient and not bothersome to either party even though on the inside we’re dying to shout “what on earth is taking so long to close the deal!!!”
The party line that we get is that they have “successfully completed the first round of negotiations and are proceeding with a second exchange of terms and conditions.” I guess that’s supposed to make us feel better, but to be honest when you want to hear “it’s a wrap, let’s go cut a ribbon” knowing that we’re in round two is of little consolation. And for crying out loud, how many rounds are there going to be?
We’ve also been closely watching the grocery industry overall to try to keep an eye out for who’s looking to expand, especially in Ohio. I was amazed to learn that Walmart dominates the food industry too — with 22% of all US grocery sales, that’s more than twice that of the second leading grocer, Kroger Company.
Walmart is the largest single customer for food companies, accounting for as much as 30% of these companies annual growth. It turns out that Walmart is scaling back their growth over the next year based on market pressures (which is considered good news for the rest of the grocery world), but we’ve already got a couple of new Super Walmarts nearby, in Brimfield and Franklin Townships, so these giants are likely to continue to put a squeeze on the local market.
I promise that when there’s news to report on this front, I’ll post it here.