- Today, a new Central Market is opening its doors in Dallas after two years of planning and building. This is the tenth Central Market location in Texas, and the third in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. H-E-B, Central Market’s parent company, has plans for more Central Market locations in the Dallas area and also plans to bring H-E-B stores to the city – though there is no official word on when.
- The 45,000-square-foot Central Market will alleviate some of the traffic at the other two stores in the area. The new location will offer curbside pickup for online grocery orders, full-size departments for meat, seafood and produce, and a variety of specialty departments and offerings.
- H-E-B remains unhurried in its pace of openings for Central Market, which launched in 1994. “We'd rather grow at a pace we can support and deliver the customer experience,” says Stephen Butt, president of the Dallas-based Central Market.
Central Market is known for its upscale shopping experience and gourmet offerings, including an abundance of fresh and unique produce, specialty items such as European chocolates, hundreds of local and imported cheeses and small batch wines. It also offers cooking classes, coffee bars using local roasters, and freshly prepared foods. Central Market is a foodie’s paradise, and H-E-B has branded the banner accordingly.
Since H-E-B founded it in 1994, Central Market has opened just 10 locations – a nearly stagnant pace compared to other grocers. But with the brand’s emphasis on quality and experience, and an ability to draw shoppers from far and wide, there’s no real reason to roll them out any faster.
The bigger question is why H-E-B hasn’t yet entered the Dallas market with its traditional stores, especially since H-E-B appeals to a broader customer base and already has brand familiarity throughout Texas. While the company says there are plans for H-E-B stores in the Dallas area, executives have not offered specifics. One possibility is that H-E-B is contemplating new features and innovations in its future stores, but only time will tell.
Since it began, Central Market has evolved to offer a bigger, better experience. The last store to open in Dallas was 30,000 square feet compared to the new store’s 45,000 square feet. The new store will include a large floral and custom gift basket department, and shoppers at this store will be the first to try out new offerings and products, including produce and bakery items. The staff at the store is also impressive in their breadth and depth of experience. Some have culinary arts degrees, others have been personal chefs or restaurant owners.
Other grocers are well aware of Central Market’s success, and even if the stores are not a direct competitor geographically, many companies are still taking note. Kroger and Walmart, for example, have been increasing the square footage of their stores and remodeling existing ones. Whole Foods may be Central Market’s closest rival, and there’s no question that Amazon is analyzing every innovation and opportunity to take the lead over other grocers. However, with Amazon’s efforts to use Prime to make Whole Foods more accessible, it’s possible that Whole Foods will become more of a traditional H-E-B competitor than a Central Market one.
Because of its focus on the in-store experience, Central Market does not tout its e-commerce efforts front-and-center – but its curbside pickup option at the new location shows that online shopping is still a major factor. Even the most loyal Central Market shoppers are bound to need the convenience of online shopping from time to time, and the juggernaut of e-commerce is inevitable for any grocer.