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Five stores you should visit

America has some remarkable food retailers. Here are five that wowed me

Going on vacation? If our devalued loonie doesn’t deter you from a trip stateside, why not mix business with pleasure and visit a few stores along the way? No need for a map. I’ve made the trip and know which stores to check out.

Hop in the car and let’s go. First up…

Whole Foods, New York

Maybe you’ve been to Whole Foods’ flagship at Columbus Circle. But how about its store on the Upper East Side, just blocks from the Guggenheim? Sure, the real estate isn’t ideal, with two floors and a long, narrow lower level. But Whole Foods has gotten creative with the space. Case in point: the ground floor food-to-go and bakery. A mix of counters and self-service options cater to both locals looking for high-level service and workers who want to get in and out of the store quickly at lunchtime and after work. Digital order screens, where food and drink orders can be customized, support faster service; while large overhead displays enable shoppers to track the progress of their orders.

Roche Bros, Boston

Moving up the coast, Roche Bros, a strong regional operator, just opened its first store in Boston’s city centre. Downtown grocery stores are often small, but this one, situated in the basement of the iconic Filene’s Department Store building, is full-size. One of the best features is the street-level food-to-go section. Around 3,000 square feet, this area sells a range of grab-and-go options including sandwiches, soups and bakery items, all developed with speedy service in mind. The whole setup works incredibly well to meet lunchtime needs, and it showcases the rest of the store on the lower level.

Target Express, San Francisco

San Francisco is the backdrop for the second Target Express to open. Following the format’s launch, in Minneapolis, last year, Target has come up with a 20,000-sq.-ft. concept for downtown areas, with this store being the first of eight to open this year. The store has a curated range of fresh food, grocery, health and beauty, a pharmacy, plus integration with Target’s e-commerce business. First impressions suggest Target Express has real potential for the retailer in the U.S.

Sheetz, Henderson, N.C.

Sheetz is regarded as one of the top innovators in the American c-store sector, and this Sheetz did not disappoint when I rolled in from Interstate 85 on my way to Charlotte. Alongside the traditional fare of American gas stations, including a variety of coffees and flavours, a walk-in beer room and impulse snacks, this Sheetz has an outstanding food-to- go offering. Trading under the Made to Order brand, the store sells burgers, pizza, burritos and subs, all made fresh on the premises. With a drive-thru window, touchscreen kiosks that allow order customization and 24/7 hours, it doesn’t get more convenient than this.

Winco Foods, Phoenix

Winco is a hybrid format like no other. Part ware- house club, part discount store, part supermarket, the employee-owned chain recently opened its 100th store and is carving a niche for itself across several western states. At around 120,000 square feet, the store I visited felt like a Costco and offered a more extensive range of products than a supermarket. With an aggressive everyday low-cost strategy, a no–credit card policy and a no-frills in- store environment, the proposition is highly compelling and, most important, popular with shoppers.

So there you have it. Five stores in five cities I’m certain you’ll find some inspiration from to take back to your own business. Happy vacationing!

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