Saturday, August 2, 2003

Wraps off grocery's makeover


Multimillion- dollar facelift in Oakley

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Jinger Scheer of Hyde Park said the newly remodeled and expanded Kroger in Hyde Park Plaza in Oakley "looks spectacular."
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
Customers began pumping gasoline for the first time this week at the new fuel center at the Hyde Park Plaza Kroger, signaling the near-completion of the multimillion-dollar expansion of the largest and most profitable store in the Kroger chain.

The newly remodeled store now boasts 100,000 square feet of retail space after a new 30,000-square-foot addition on the west side. It will host its grand reopening Thursday to show off the store's new layout, products and features.

While the fuel center might be the biggest difference customers will notice before entering the store, numerous changes have taken place inside the store at 3760 Paxton Ave. in Oakley.

Kroger began the project just after Christmas last year.

Among the changes is the repositioning of the aisles - including the checkout lanes - which have been rotated 90 degrees to face the store's entrance.

Before the renovation, customers had to walk past the produce department to get to the checkout lanes and the rest of the store.

The aisles formerly ran parallel to the front of the store.

The produce department has been almost doubled in size to offer a wider variety of fruits and vegetables and other goods.

And liquor, which had been sold in a small area inside the supermarket, has been combined with beer and wine in one large department near the front.

"We just decided to give these departments the size and attention they deserve and expand the offerings in each department,'' Art Wulfeck, a Kroger spokesman, said.

And while bread and butter are still the "bread and butter" of Kroger's business operation, the Cincinnati grocery giant has broadened its general merchandise offerings, stealing a page out of the Wal-Mart superstore playbook.

Wal-Mart Superstores, which combine hard goods and groceries in big-box stores generally twice the size of the Hyde Park Plaza Kroger, have cut into grocery retailers' sales and profits by selling food.

Kroger has basically flipped the script by increasingly offering such things as lawn furniture, bookcases and computer desks in its food stores.

The Hyde Park Plaza Kroger has also created a double-wide promotional aisle for general merchandise in the middle of the store.

While most new or remodeled Kroger stores won't come close to the size of the remodeled Hyde Park Plaza Kroger, the layout and product offerings are considered prototypes for new or remodeled stores, Wulfeck, the Kroger spokesman, said.

E-mail rtucker@enquirer.com



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