Fresh Market takes on Neighborhood Market

One of the biggest gripes residents of Northwest Arkansas have of the region, be they long time residents or recent transplants, is that Walmart is the only game in town when it comes to groceries. That situation will change later this summer when The Fresh Market opens its first location in Rogers.

The approximately 21,000-sq.-ft. store will be located in a former Borders location at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall less than half a mile from the best looking Walmart Neighborhood Market in the entire chain. The roughly 45,000-sq.-ft. Neighborhood Market sits just outside the gated entrance of the Pinnacle golf course community and nearby Shadow Valley community. The location is noteworthy because the upscale areas are home to Walmart and supplier company executives who are likely to be tempted by The Fresh Market’s reasonably priced premium offerings. However, to shop at the store they will need to drive past a format operated by the company upon whom their livelihood depends.

The situation promises to serve both companies well. Walmart’s top executives and food merchants will have a rapidly growing competitor with a novel food retailing concept right in their back yard to study and shop at occasionally while Fresh Market will be exposed to marketplace dynamics unlike anything faced by its other 115 stores.

“The open air feel of our market presents a feast for the senses as colors and fragrant smells fill the air while classical music plays softly in the background,” according to the company. “Our staff is on hand to answer all your food questions and to talk about the day’s fresh offerings. You will find it refreshing to have all of your perishables available unpackaged, allowing you to select just what you want.”

The new store, which could be compared with a small format Whole Foods with better prices, is likely to be a welcome addition to a region where shopper choice was previously restricted to one of Walmart’s formats or the regional Harp’s chain. Neither satisfied the epicurean aspirations of the region’s growing and increasingly affluent population, many of whom relocated from areas with a wider array of supermarket options.

The Fresh Market’s entry into Rogers is part of a plan to take the North Carolina-based company national. Its first store opened in 1982, but within the past five years its store count has nearly doubled to 115 units. A public stock offering was completed in late 2010 with a long-term growth target established to operate 500 units. Walmart will be encountering Fresh Market stores a lot more often.

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