Major brands are starting to realize that sometimes less is more. McDonald’s, for example, is testing out a much smaller version of its restaurant to increase efficiency for to-go orders. ALDI attributes its ability to maintain cheaper prices in part to the small physical space of each location and the limited variety of each item in stock. And in the new year, Meijer, known now for being a one-stop supercenter, will open smaller stores focused more specifically on groceries.
“At Meijer, our roots are in grocery and providing the highest quality experience when it comes to food and day-to-day necessities,” Meijer tells The Takeout via email. “We know our customers appreciate the value and experience we offer in our stores, so we’re excited to provide them the ability to shop Meijer in a grocery format that offers a convenient, condensed layout with exactly the products customers need for their weekly shopping trip.”
The focus on grocery is actually a return to Meijer’s roots. Hendrik Meijer opened Meijer’s Grocery in Greenville, Michigan in 1934 as a way to provide groceries to visitors of his barbershop amid the Great Depression. By 1938, Meijer introduced shopping carts to its stores. In 1954, it added automated conveyor belts to checkout lanes. And in 1962, the Meijer brand opened a store called Thrifty Acres in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which combined a supermarket with other general merchandise, a pharmacy, and a cafe, becoming the first known supercenter in the industry. For context, Walmart, which started as a discount department store in 1962, didn’t open its first supercenter until 1988.
Thrifty Acres was soon renamed Meijer, and its format was eventually adopted by future retail and grocery chains. But Meijer remained invested (literally) in grocery-specific concepts, providing financial support for the chain Fresh Thyme, which in 2014 Michigan Live called “a Whole Foods-Trader Joe’s hybrid, seeded with Meijer money.” Predicting the mounting popularity of those trendy grocery brands paid off for the company.
Most recently, Meijer has demonstrated its accessibility by offering discounts on SNAP-qualifying produce and free grocery delivery to SNAP users through December 31, the Detroit Free Press reports. And come January, Meijer will come full circle, rolling out new Meijer Grocery stores with a streamlined focus on food.
The Meijer Grocery stores opening in Orion Township and Macomb Township in Michigan have been created with the weekly shopping trip in mind. These stores are not a place to buy in bulk or stock up on items to be used for weeks to come, but rather for a quick stop for produce, bakery items, deli foods, and other groceries.
Because these stores are smaller and, as of now, regional, Meijer says there will be a focus on stocking the shelves with products from Michigan-based vendors, keeping things as local as possible. That specialty sourcing is also in line with how Fresh Thyme operates.
Both the supercenters and the new stores will make use of the Meijer app and rewards system, which can be used interchangeably at all locations. That’s good news, because we deemed it the best grocery store app out there.
Meijer still doesn’t have a huge national footprint, with just under 500 locations concentrated in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. But as we’ve come to see, bigger isn’t always better.