Woodman's produce department and store exterior in Bloomingdale, Ill.
What do you do with 240,000 square feet of retail space? For Janesville, Wis.-based Woodman's Markets, you open two gas stations on adjacent parking lots, wall off a separate liquor store and fill a massive grocery floor with items meant to offer choice and harder-to-find selections to a diverse local market.
Woodman's newest store opened in August on the site of a former Macy's at Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale, Ill., about 28 miles west of Chicago. The mall, formerly anchored by the likes of Sears, Carson Pirie Scott, JCPenney and Macy's, saw its vacancy rate soar to 69% this year from 26% in 2019, the Daily Herald recently reported, and the Village of Bloomingdale in May hired a community-planning firm to come up with new ideas for the 40-year-old mall.
For Woodman's, the site was a prime opportunity to move into an established location in a busy commercial corridor near major highways and to deploy the retailer's model of offering a no-frills, value-oriented shopping experience in massive locations (Woodman's stores average 230,000 square feet) where wide selection is the name of the game.
Woodman's center store in Bloomingdale, Ill.
Woodman's notes that its average store—there are 19 currently, with 13 locations in Wisconsin and six now in Illinois—is almost 400 times the size of the produce stand that John Woodman opened in Janesville in 1919. It's hard to overstate aisle-after-aisle-after-aisle enormity of the Bloomingdale space, where bakery and sushi counters now take the place of fitting rooms and sales desks.
With 27 aisles in total, the store offers wider-than-you-might-find-elsewhere selections of everything from frozen cakes to hummus (with some two dozen varieties available) to gefilte fish. Especially notable is an extensive offering of Mexican and Latin American fresh produce, spices, dried chiles, ready-to-eat items and frozen fare from popular brands. The neighboring community of Glendale Heights is nearly 32% Hispanic, according to the 2019 American Community Survey, and both Glendale Heights and nearby Carol Stream have Asian populations of around 20%.
"Although the stores have changed over the years, the mission to provide customers with best prices, selection and service remains the same," Woodman's states on its website.
Woodman's liquor store, Bloomingdale, Ill.
A large liquor department is separated by sliding glass doors from the main grocery floor at Woodman's newest location in Bloomingdale, Ill., and has its own sales counter. Beyond big inventories of wine, beer and liquor, the department stocks bar accessories, mixers and mini bottles.
Woodman's international section, Bloomingdale, Ill.
Woodman's other locations in Illinois—in Buffalo Grove, North Aurora, Carpentersville, Lakemoor and Rockford—also serve diverse local audiences and tout ready transportation access to draw shoppers from neighboring communities. Expanded brand and pack-size choice (in, for example, tapioca pearl size) and harder-to-find ingredients (black sesame seeds, canned octopus) mean more options than shoppers may find in-store at smaller-footprint area competitors.
Woodman's refrigerated dairy, Bloomingdale, Ill.
Highly digitized and no-touch it is not: Choice and value are the emphasis at Woodman's, where prices are printed on paperboard signs that hang over produce bins and single-serve yogurts are in refrigerated baskets rather than stacked on shelves.
Woodman's doesn't want to be a go-to gift destination or mass-merchandise player, either, preferring to focus on what its Wisconsin-family-farmer founders wanted: "Woodman's is solely focused on providing the widest variety of grocery items at the best prices," the company states.