With social distancing measures in place as the world battles a pandemic, new store openings during the greater part of 2020 didn’t have all the usual fanfare—long lines, grandiose celebrations and the like—as year’s past. But COVID-19 didn’t slow progress for many of the nation’s grocers as they entered new markets, reached store-count milestones and revealed new concepts. The year also saw one of the biggest—and most anticipated—arrivals in the grocery space: Amazon Fresh.
Click through for 11 of the most notable store openings (in no particular order) in 2020—and bonus: a bold new prototype from Walmart.
Amazon Fresh Debuts
Seattle-based Amazon’s long-awaited grocery store debuted in September in Woodland Hills, Calif. Designed from the ground up to offer a seamless grocery shopping experience, Amazon Fresh has tech-savvy features such as the Amazon Dash Cart, which allows customers to skip the checkout line; and Alexa kiosks that help customers manage their shopping lists and better navigate aisles—features that helped win over a skeptic.
Shortly after its debut, three more Amazon Fresh stores opened in California, and then in early December, Amazon Fresh made its debut in Illinois, opening just outside of Chicago in Naperville. Illinois will reportedly be home to three more Amazon Fresh stores.
Lidl Reaches 100 U.S. Stores
In May, Lidl opened its 100th U.S. store. Located in Suwanee, Ga., the store features weathered brick and signage in a handwritten chalkboard style, a departure from Lidl’s neon price signs and chrome features that came with its arrival.
Alexandria, Va.-based Lidl U.S., a division of Germany’s Schwarz Group, had originally hoped to reach 100 stores a year after its 2017 U.S. debut, but those plans were curtailed when the initial fleet was judged to have been too large, too expensive to build and, in some cases, poorly located. But growth is back on track for the discounter. “We plan to continue to build new stores, ramp up our hiring efforts and expand our network of distribution centers to reach even more customers in the years ahead,” said Roman Heini, Lidl U.S. chairman at the time before departing in July, around the Suwanee store opening.
H-E-B’s West Texas Expansion
H-E-B’s West Texas expansion was marked by the opening of a 122,000-square-foot “shopping destination” in Lubbock, Texas. The store features everything from fresh food to sports apparel, housewares and a True Texas BBQ outpost. Additional store highlights include an H-E-B Pharmacy; a Meal Simple department with chef-inspired meals made in-store; a seafood department featuring steamers; an extensive beer and wine selection with a wine-tasting kiosk; and a Blooms floral department.
GreenWise Market Arrives in Georgia
Specialty, natural and organic retailer GreenWise Market, the banner owned and operated by Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix, opened its first store in Georgia in June. Much like other GreenWise locations, the 25,089-square-foot Georgia store, located in Marietta at 3460 Sandy Plains Road, is divided into experience zones such as Cares, with vitamins, nutritional supplements, natural soaps and more; Cuts, featuring meats raised with no antibiotics or added hormones; Eats, with made-to-order meals and grab-and-go foods; Finds, a curated selection of wines and imported cheeses; and Pours, a beverage area with locally roasted coffee and other selections to enjoy while shopping or relaxing at the bar.
Harvest Market's 2nd Locale Opens
Four years after opening its first location in Champaign, Ill., Harvest Market’s second store arrived in November in Springfield, Ill. The farm-to-table concept from Quincy, Ill.-based Niemann Foods, has many unique features, including an-house dairy that churns butter on-site; a Farmhouse Restaurant and coffee bar; a beer and wine bar; indoor and outdoor lounge seating; and a space called The Nook, which will be used for cooking classes, taste-testing, yoga and other community events.
Aldi’s Distinct Urban Site in Philly
In early December, Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi U.S. opened a distinct new store anchoring a mixed-use project near Center City Philadelphia. Different in location and design, the facade of the store is rendered in panels of orange that highlights its position as a ground-floor anchor of a newly built 14-story, 478-unit apartment building in a rebounding neighborhood. Its design includes large windows for increased natural lighting and locally inspired wall decals inside, including maps of historic downtown Philadelphia and some of the city’s famous monuments, such as the Liberty Bell. And at more than 15,000 square feet, it’s the largest of Aldi’s 11 Philadelphia locations.
Aldi Enters Arizona at Long Last
This year, Aldi also opened its first stores in Arizona. The arrival of the stores in Goodyear and Chandler in November was long-awaited after Aldi announced plans to enter the state in 2017 with projected opening dates in 2019. The new stores are part of the fast-growing discounter’s aggressive expansion plans, which include at least two more Phoenix-area stores by the end of the year, officials say.
Cardenas Markets Hits 60 Stores
Cardenas Markets, a leading Hispanic supermarket chain based in Ontario, Calif., opened its 60th store in October. Located in in Montclair, Calif., the 41,652-square-foot store a colorful produce department boasting a wide array of seasonal fruits and vegetables from the U.S. and Latin America; a full-service meat department with fresh cuts of beef, pork and chicken cut daily; an authentic Mexican Cocina offering signature carnitas, tamales, taqueria classics and Daily Deal options; authentic corn tortillas from the Tortilleria; and specialty pastries, desserts, cakes, pan dulce and bolillos baked fresh daily.
Schnucks Debuts EatWell Format
St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets’ new EatWell format, which is focused on health and wellness and natural foods, made its debut in June in Columbia, Mo. The 42,000-square-foot store was a former Lucky’s Market location.
In addition to natural foods, the store also features organic and local items, with a natural living department in which one of the 80 employees can assist customers with choosing options that fit a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Dollar General Launches Popshelf
While it’s not a grocery store, Dollar General’s Popshelf concept launch is interesting in that it offers a discount-filtered interpretation of the treasure-hunt aspects of retailers such as Aldi or Costco, which use value on limited-time items to drive shopper excitement and store visits. The concept debuted in October with two locations near Nashville. It features non-consumable items such as seasonal and home decor, health and beauty, home cleaning supplies, party goods and entertaining needs at price points of $5 or less.
Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based Dollar General said it intends to open 30 Popshelfs by the end of its 2021 fiscal year.
Whole Foods Opens Ideal Market
Ideal Market, which opened in October in Denver, is another highly competitive grocery concept to come from the Amazon-Whole Foods Market partnership. The original Ideal Market, a Boulder, Colo., institution since 1958, was purchased by Whole Foods Market in 2007, as part of its buyout of Boulder-based Wild Oats Market Inc.
The 22,500-square-foot store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood features grab-and-go prepared foods; a full-service pizza station with organic and local ingredients and crusts for special diets; organic and local fruits and vegetables; a full-service meat department; and a rotating selection of local, limited, rare and seasonal beers.
Bonus: Walmart’s Bold New Look
In September, Walmart unveiled a new store design that emphasizes its digitally enabled experiences and was “inspired by airport wayfinding systems as best-in-class examples of how to navigate large groups of people,” Janey Whiteside, EVP and chief customer officer for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, said in a blog post.
The concept features clean, colorful iconography and a store directory that encourages customers to download and use the Walmart app while they shop.
The new look has been tested in selected locations and is subject to additional customer and associate feedback revisions. It is expected to come to at least 200 Supercenters by the end of Walmart’s fiscal year in early February 2021.