These 4 Grocers are Proving the Value of Physical Stores

“We have to give shoppers a compelling reason to continue to be with us,” says Amanda Fischer, a spokeswoman with New Jersey-based ShopRite.

According to an article on Retail Dive, grocers are finding clever ways to do just that. From personal shopping services to in-store cooking classes, grocers throughout the nation are introducing new concepts that are turning their stores into places to spend leisure time as well as shop.

“By becoming a destination for shoppers, grocers can increase traffic and deepen loyalty with their customers,” points out Retail Dive. “Some of the most innovative retailers are now go-to spots for daily workouts, wine tastings, family meals and, of course, buying groceries.”

Take a look at how four stores are maximizing their physical space to provide value and experiences beyond groceries:

1. ShopRite Creates a Wellness Center

When the ShopRite in Morristown, New Jersey, sought to create a lifestyle center where shoppers could regularly gather, it resulted in the Village Food Garden Wellness Center. Open since 2013, the wellness center offers free dietitian services, as well as a full service pharmacy, a learning area for children, and a fitness studio.

The fitness studio costs less than most gym memberships ($25 monthly) and provides classes in everything from Zumba and yoga, to barre and circuit training, plus invitations to special events, discounts at ShopRite’s juice bar, and reduced rates for its catering service.

Parents with kids ages 3 – 8 can take advantage of free childcare in ShopRite’s learning center, where kids can enjoy activities, games, movies, and toys for up to an hour.

The wellness center offers customers who are short on time an all-in-one shopping and lifestyle hub that has become a popular community gathering place. Shoppers become friends and often have drinks together at the store’s bar, Bin 37, or enjoy coffee in the mornings after their workouts.

“We’ve become this strong community hub and created a sense of belonging, which is not something you get in a traditional supermarket,” says ShopRite’s spokeswoman, Amanda Fischer.

2. Jungle Jim’s International Market Opens an Experience Center

Recently, Jungle Jim’s International Market in Ohio opened an airport-themed experience center called Jungle Experience Center (JXC), where its customers can take part in telepresence tastings, seminars and special events.

Events are presented through a four-panel 110-inch screen, and a two-way communication system connects visitors with people and places around the world.

The retailer regularly hosts a five-course gourmet meal paired with a tasting from it’s large wine collection. Guests eat and sip during a virtual tour of the winery. Other popular events include cigar and international craft beer festivals, as well as cooking classes and bourbon tasting. Jungle Jim’s offers about 20 to 30 events per year, with tickets ranging from $20 to $150.

Because the retailer’s 200,000-square-foot store can be overwhelming, founder and CEO Jim Bonaminio wanted to curate some experiences for the customer. “We focus on pairings and high-end dinners where we talk about ingredients, wines or cheeses,” he says. “Drawing on the vast amount of selection we have and distilling it down to very specific experiences.”

3. Gelson’s Markets Offers a Sip ‘N Shop Service

Southern California grocer, Gelson’s, offers a popular in-store wine bar called Sip ‘N Shop—a service that lets customers relax at the bar while a store associate does their shopping.

Customers hand the bartender their grocery list with their beverage or food order. If the employee finishes the grocery order before the customer is done at the bar, Gelson’s holds the products until they’re ready.

Launched in 2017, the Sip ‘N Shop service is now offered at 12 of Gelson’s 27 stores and will expand to 13 by the end of the summer, according to John Bagan, Gelson’s chief merchandising officer.  “As we introduce new concepts like our bars, we try to figure out how do we expand and build on that reputation for great customer service,” says Bagan.

The Sip ‘N Shop service is free, with no minimum order size. It is mostly used by regular customers, but has also attracted new customers who are curious to try it out. There is no agressive marketing for Sip ‘N Shop outside the retailer’s four walls because it’s positioned mainly as an added value for existing customers. But tent ads grace each table in the bar, pamphlets are placed in each menu and bartenders are always ready to discuss the service with customers.

After two years of offering the Sip ‘N Shop service, Gelson’s is enjoying a 35% increase in average basket size with grocery orders placed in the bar than without.

4. H-E-B Features a Live Music Venue

H-E-B’s new store at Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas, will feature a beer garden, food hall and live music venue to accompany a 110,000-square-foot grocery store.

In addition to indoor and outdoor seating, the vendor food hall will feature many of H-E-B’s classic restaurants, with local restaurant brands likely to be added to the mix, as well.

Although H-E-B has had live music at stores in the past, the new store will be home to the largest stage yet. The store will also include murals and art installations, as well as more organic, bulk and produce items.

The new venue is sure to be a welcome addition to a city referred to as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” But more importantly, the store is meant to be a “community gathering place,” Gelson’s told Eater.


“E-commerce sales may be growing, but the store is still the core asset for many retailers,” says Retail Dive. The four stores mentioned above are proving that statement by making their physical stores more than just a weekly shop.

“By turning their stores into more then just a place to buy something, retail brands will find increased foot traffic within their brick-and-mortar location.”

~ Second to None

Retailers must think outside the store box to turn their physical spaces into community centers with interactive experiences that customers can really engage in. Otherwise, they’ll be “stuck in storehouses filled with stuff, but empty of shoppers,” points out Second to None.

Find out how retailers like you are saving time and making money with the Rain POS system. POS, E-commerce, and Marketing all in one.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.