After taking a look at the upscale concept Mariano’s in a previous blog, it’s now time to cast an eye at its smaller sibling in the Roundy’s / Kroger family: Metro Market. Metro Market is another upscale concept, trading in the Milwaukee and Madison areas, and has steadily expanded over the last 14 years from a single store in Milwaukee to a chain of around half a dozen stores, boosted by new build sites and a couple of conversions from the larger Pick ‘n Save chain.
Originally conceived as an urban store concept to serve shoppers in downtown locations, Metro Market has since opened for business in the suburbs. The store I got to pop into was a suburban site, located near a rapidly growing residential estate and was pitched well for the location – a full service supermarket with plenty of aspirational touches as well as strong pricing, promotions and PL as a result of the Kroger acquisition of Roundy’s back in 2015.
Produce was a nice highlight to kick off the experience: great, well-lit wooden fixtures showing off the fruit & veg very well indeed. The overall look and feel of this section was fairly upscale, although the garish promotional signage took the edge off the sumptuous atmosphere a little. There were plenty of graphics that featured local suppliers, helping to build a sense that this chain is fully supportive of the growers and farmers for which Wisconsin is rightly famous.
The meat and fish counters were one of several that straddled the back wall of the store, sporting a quasi-industrial look and offering a broad swathe of value-added services like free grilling and steaming for seafood. As one would hope for a store in Wisconsin, the cheese selection was world-class and displayed very well – lots of wine and other lines being cross-merchandised effectively.
The main wine range – over 900 lines of it – was beautifully done and was set alongside an extremely extensive range of beers and spirits, the beer range in particular leaving very few stones unturned in terms of variety and authenticity. As across the rest of the store, there were many deployments of ‘Wisc. Made’ POS to alert shoppers to locally sourced items.
Value credentials were impactfully underlined buy some hefty savings on gondola ends as well as yet more of the Kroger standard issue red & yellow promotional signage. Again, while this is great for visual cut-through, it did little to support the more aspirational and understated narrative of the broader Metro Market concept.
The international foods section was a real highlight. Featuring a huge variety of foods from countries and regions as diverse as Germany, Taiwan, Ireland, Brazil and the UK, the department was festooned with national flags and other POS that made for excellent navigation. Great range and great merchandising.
Heading out of the store, clutching some delightful local beverages, there was still a chance for a couple more enjoyable aspects – notably the checkout conveyors exhorting shoppers to arrange their groceries in alphabetical order and the pleasant surprise that was the spice shop, a quirky little area devoted to herbs, spices and coffee.
Overall, this store strikes a happy medium: benefiting from national scale to offer value, while enjoying enough local identity to resonate with shoppers. Would happily return (ideally with more time and a larger wine budget.)
Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director