Planning Commission

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Nov 25

The Ever Changing World of Food Retail

Posted on November 25, 2016 at 6:44 PM by Michael Stokes

Thanksgiving is always a great time to think about food.  Not just the food that is on your plate, but how we feed ourselves here in Montgomery County and throughout the Nation.   If you haven’t noticed it, things are changing in the way we keep our selves filled.  March 2015 was the first year in history that sales at restaurants and bars overtook spending at grocery stores, according to Commerce Department.  This is due to a number of factors including Millennials who view dining out as a social event and seek out diversity and interest in the restaurants that they choose.

Yet even with the competition from restaurants, our grocery stores keep growing.  But with this competition, expect changes. 

Like most types of retail, nothing stays the same.  Consider the changes over the last few years when we watched Genuardi’s and Clemens disappear after dominating much of the county’s grocery business for several decades.   Some of the other Philadelphia stalwarts such as A&P, Super Fresh, Acme and Pathmark have continued to shrink.  Food Lion’s Bottom Dollar brand which burst onto the market with smaller stores about 10 years ago is gone and forgotten. 

In the past decade, Walmart one of the nation’s largest grocery retailers, has supersized their Montgomery County stores to include a full line of groceries.  Other large buyers’ club stores such as Costco and BJs have opened several large stores in the county.  Likewise other retail stores such as Target have expanded their grocery retail presence.  Giant and Weis have grown largely through acquisition of former Genuardi and Clemens stores to own a large share of our grocery business in the county. But they face new competition.  Whole Foods continues to grow with new stores under construction in Lower Merion and Lower Gwynedd Townships.  Wegmen’s has opened three very large (over 200,000 square foot) grocery stores in the county in the past 10 years.  Niche grocery retailers such as Aldi continue to grow throughout the county.  Lidl, a European style grocery plans to open several stores in the county in the next few years.  And just when you think our food sales will be dominated by large corporations, we have also seen a rise in new independent food stores and coops. Don’t forget about the farmers market and farm to table businesses that are also growing.

The bottom line is that food will always be in demand, so expect it to be sold in creative ways in the future. 

Farmers' Market
Enjoying a farmers market in Lansdale 

Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting
Wegmens in King of Prussia


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