Sprouts Farmers Markets’ rapid expansion landed the upstart fresh food retailer in the heart of Philadelphia, where it opened its first store Sept. 19 in the high-profile Lincoln Square development. Located at the corner of Broad and Carpenter streets in a restored freight railroad shed that once was a stop along President Lincoln’s funeral route, the new store is part of a mixed-use development that also includes a newly built 320-unit apartment building and other retail tenants, including a forthcoming Target. The project is bringing new life to the well-located but long underused neighborhood between South Philadelphia and Center City.
A large paved area in front of the store provides plenty of room for welcoming fresh merchandising. The outdoor fresh food displays shown here continue along the left side of the building, where a walkway separates the store from its neighboring parking garage and apartment building.
For Sprouts Chief Operations Officer Dan Sanders, the new store represents a bit of a homecoming. Sanders at one time was president of Malvern, Pa.-based Acme Markets, and has since hired one of his Acme successors—Dan Croce—as EVP of the region. “We have a lot of people very experienced in the trade who know this market well," Sanders told WGB in an interview. "We also have 160 people on staff in the store, and virtually every one grew up in this area.”
According to Sanders, Sprouts' better-for-you appeal is reaching older shoppers who are pursuing better foods for health reasons and younger consumers who tend to choose sustainable and healthy foods as a lifestyle statement.
“Millennials are particularly interested in the stories behind the products, responsible sourcing, sustainability and looking at the retail stores through a different lens,” he said. “They’re not as product-loyal as people who grew up in my generation might have been, but they are fascinated by stories and we’re lucky at Sprouts to have a lot of products like that.”
While Sprouts officials insist they see conventional supermarkets as their primary competitors, that doesn’t mean other formats won’t see Sprouts as a rival. Natural-focused personal-care aisles are likely to post a threat to drugstores and other specialty food stores with personal-care sections, such as Whole Foods.
WGB observed a diverse group of shoppers on opening morning, many appearing happy to have finally come to experience a store they’d only heard of before. More than a few curious members of the trade were also in to have a look.
“All the comments we’ve heard have been very positive, and it seems like there’s almost a pent-up demand for a store offering great value and healthier choices,” Sanders said. “I’ve been in this industry for a long time. If I were to take a clean sheet of paper and sketch out what the future needed to be, it would look a lot like this.”