- H-E-B recently spent $10 million on additions to one of its marquee Central Market stores in Houston, according to the Houston Chronicle.
- The remodel increased the store’s produce section by one third, added additional SKUs of wine, olive oils and international foods, and a chocolate-making facility. The new additions added 10,000 square feet to the store.
- Stephen Butt, Central Market’s president, told the Chronicle the updates will help the store better compete with specialty retailers as well as conventional ones. He said the company hopes to use some of the new ideas at other Central Market locations and across the H-E-B chain.
Central Market is certainly no slouch when it comes to fresh and specialty foods. But in the highly competitive Houston market, where 5 million new square feet of retail space will open this year — more than a million of that in grocery — the company wants to make sure its locations continue to stand out from other supermarkets.
There are only nine Central Markets in the Lone Star state. But quantity isn’t H-E-B’s concern with this large, gourmet format — quality is. Each store is a culinary destination where customers can buy hard-to-find produce, pick up chef-made prepared foods, take a class in French cooking and savor fresh-made cheese, bread and wine samples.
Texas customers have sung Central Market’s praises for years. But its competitors have watched closely as well, and are beginning to close in. Kroger’s Texas stores have steadily increased the size of the chain's fresh departments, and the retailer has opened several large-size Marketplace stores in the booming Houston and Dallas markets in recent years. Wal-Mart also is reveling in the state’s love of big stores and is heavily investing in remodels.
Analysts note Central Market’s competitors will continue to increase their store footprint in the red-hot Houston market as the city continues to expand outward. Central Market, meanwhile, has its sights set on expansion in Dallas, where it plans to add two new stores to go along with its two existing locations.
Overall, H-E-B is a progressive retailer that aggressively capitalizes on market opportunities. This latest news is another example of that approach, but the true measure of success will be whether the company can learn from its initiative and institute the appropriate changes throughout the chain.