- Grocers are throwing lavish grand opening parties for new stores in an effort to draw in customers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- At a recent Lidl opening in Vineland, New Jersey, customers lined up as early as 4:45 a.m., enticed by the chain’s unique selection and a chance to win a $100 gift card. Fellow discounter Aldi, meanwhile, has held 400 opening parties for its new and remodeled stores. These events can last several days and include product samplings and drawings to win free produce for a year.
- Grocery openings are expected to number 830 this year, according to IHL Group consultancy, a small increase from last year.
While major chains like Walmart and Kroger are slowing their store growth, players like Aldi, Lidl and Sprouts are taking the opportunity to open new locations with a bang.
At a Lidl opening in Vineland, New Jersey last week, customers that had lined up as early as 4:45 a.m. were greeted by dancing employees, a live DJ, store discounts and $100 gift cards. At some of the company’s other recent openings, shoppers have started lining up as early as 1 a.m.
Aldi, which celebrates its remodeled store openings as well as its new store openings, stretches the festivities across multiple days, while Sprouts offers samplings of some of its more unique products, like ghee oil and matcha tea. Wegmans, whose cavernous stores are considered by many to be a festive experience every day, recently drew more than 20,000 customers to a store opening in northern New Jersey. It was the company’s eighth store in the state.
Store openings are more than just fun and games, of course. They’re oftentimes a grocer’s first chance to interact with shoppers and show them what makes them different from the competition. In the case of Aldi and newcomer Lidl, it’s a chance to introduce shoppers to their unique private-label centric store model.
In a fiercely competitive supermarket industry, first impressions matter. At the same time, it can be difficult to tear shoppers away from their favorite stores. Lidl may draw hundreds of shoppers to its store openings, but the chain has struggled with declining traffic since it opened its first stores back in June.
With this in mind, retailers should be careful not to overspend on grand openings or give away too much free merchandise. Before Stew Leonard’s, the popular northeastern chain, opened its first Long Island store last year, the company gave away 100,000 $5-off coupons. When opening day came, more than 20,000 people flooded the store aisles and parking lot. The experience lead Stew Leonard’s to rethink its store-opening activities, and has scaled back the excitement.
Retailers also need to make sure they’re offering deals and executing well in the days and weeks following an opening, when customers who were wowed by an opening come back to give the store another try. If they’re not impressed, they’ll take their business to a competitor.