So today is the launch of Planet Organic’s New Location in Edmonton. They are now located half a block west of their old Planet Organic store on Jasper and 121st Street. Earth’s General Store welcomes their new and expanded business to help more Edmontonians in that area have access to a wider variety of natural and organic foods.
The new Planet Organic will be beautiful, shiny and new. It will draw a crowd that responds well to those aspect of a store.
All the trappings – physical ambiance of a place – cost money and that cost needs to be made up by the volume of sales and the profit margins. People are excited about Whole Foods opening up on Calgary Trail in the fall and are quite willing to pay the premium that Whole Food costs them (they are consistently higher priced than most stores – see Consumer’s Report). We will have to wait and see what the prices will be like at the Planet Organic chain and Whole Foods.
We need more grocery stores in our downtown community as was pointed out in this research paper (see Edmonton Journal’s Article, CBC and the full report). Earth’s General Store saw the need of a grocery store that provided organic food in the core and that is why we opened our second location on 104th street.
The Oliver community will soon have five grocery stores to choose from – Safeway in Oliver Square, Loblaws (opening up in the Brewery District), Save-On on 109th street, the new Planet Organic and our downtown store (I include us since several people who live in Oliver drop in on their way home from downtown).
It has been a tough road for a brand that started here in Edmonton. They had their sights set on becoming Canada’s largest chain of organic foods but expanded too fast and got into financial trouble and eventually was bought by the US corporation Natural Markets Food Group out of New York city. There was talk several years ago that they were considering to rebrand themselves to their owners chain name – Mrs. Green’s but I think they wisely stayed with the Planet Organic brand since many local people are already familiar with it.
I expect that there will offer lots of discounts to try and encourage people to visit their new location. They will serve the needs of a good portion of the population in that area of the city and that will be a good thing. As more people choose to live in communities that are walkable then they need grocery stores that work for their lifestyle.
Downtown is adding more grocery and non-fast food capacity. There is a new Careit Delicatessen opening up half a block north of our downtown store and the the Duchess Bakery is looking for space on 104th as well. I have heard that there is a grocery store that is going to go into the complex being built just south of the arena across the street from the bus station. I have heard that Whole Foods may go into this spot and then again another good source saying it was going to be an upscale Loblaws (like the one they have at Maple Leaf Gardens).
The Shopper’s Drug Mart that opened on 104th and Jasper also offers food. Nothing fresh and only about half of what our store carries but from what I understand they are selling 3 times more than they projected and they are thinking of expanding the grocery offering. I hope that people will walk down the half block to our downtown location to pick up some fresh produce to go with the items they purchase at Shopper’s.
People are hungry for good food options in a walkable community. Earth’s General Store and others are stepping in to service this need.
One of the things they point out in the University of Alberta paper is that there are several smaller format stores in places like Toronto that do well. In conversations with people from other cities they say that our downtown store would do very well in the city they live in – San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, Toronto, Brisbane, etc. Why not here? Is it a cultural thing? People in cities like New York and Toronto are used to having smaller stores supplying their needs within their community – the bodegas, tiendas, the full service convenience/corner store, etc.
Perhaps it is the rent and other expenses? We put out 20,000$ per month for rent, operating cost, electricity, and other items plus another 30,000$ for staff. The margins to become profitable are maybe just not there. Our downtown store is only there because of the viability of the Whyte Avenue store.
On the whole the addition of Planet Organic as a source for fresh organic product will be good for the downtown community. We welcome them.
Foot note: I have heard rumours that Planet Organic laid off several of their staff before this expansion. Weird since my thinking would be you want seasoned employees to help with the transition to a larger and faster paced environment. If you are one of the employees that were let go then please check out the job posting in an earlier blog post.