Does it take cornichons to compete?
Council members criticized a group of City Market representatives for not responding to shoppers’ complaints about eliminating certain products from its aisles and selling poor-quality produce.
“Most people I talk to say they can’t wait for Wal-Mart to open,” Councilman Ron Wolfe said. “That’s not a good position for City Market to be in – when customers are gleefully saying they’re going to bail out out the place.”
The supermarket, however, doesn’t plan to get run out of town by Wal-Mart, said Mike Shunk, a City Market real estate executive.
“We’re here for the long-haul,” Shunk said.
“City Market is not going anywhere,” added Tom Bell, City Market’s director of retail operations. “We’re competing with Wal-Mart in multiple markets and we’re doing fine.”
Sales-tax revenues key
Super Wal-Mart, with its full-service supermarket, is expected to open this summer at the nearby Village at Avon. City Market, along with the existing Wal-Mart, is Avon’s biggest generator of sales-tax revenues. Town Council members say they’re nervous City Market customers will flock to the Super Wal-Mart because its prices are expected to be highly competitive.
That troubles the town because, under an agreement with Traer Creek, LLC, the developer of the Village at Avon, the town will not get any sales-tax revenues from either Super Wal-Mart or The Home Depot next door for a decade or more.
Traer Creek will use the taxes to pay off the bonds that helped finance the construction of the sprawling shopping complex.
“If people are getting complaints and concerns now,” Councilman Mac McDevitt said, “what happens when competition comes into town? Are customers going to jump ship quicker than normal?”
Council members said there have been few complaints about service at City Market. But Wolfe said many customers can’t find foods they want.
“You have some very good things –you have the best greeting cards around, good magazines and the selection of cheeses is surprisingly good for a big chain,” Wolfe said. “But there are also pockets of dismal stuff.”
Wolfe suggested City Market may have to start carrying more upscale, gourmet foods to differentiate itself from the supermarket inside Super Wal-Mart.
“You don’t sell cornichons,” Wolfe said. “You’d be surprised how many of my friends and neighbors are looking for cornichons.”
A cornichon is a small, crisp, French pickle made from gherkin cucumbers.
Wolfe and other council members said residents they’ve heard the complaints about City Market’s fruits and vegetables.
“The produce has really gone downhill,” Councilwoman Debbie Buckley said.
Mayor Buz Reynolds said he, and customers he’s talked to, didn’t understand why City Market discontinued certain products that, in the past, often seemed to be sold out.
“The products you carried seven, eight years ago were more desirable than what you’re carrying right now,” Reynolds said.
Not “going anywhere’
The supermarket’s representatives, including Avon store’s new manager, said they would look more closely at the complaints about City Market’s merchandise. They said the store also may do some minor renovations to improve its appearance. But Mike Shunk, a City Market real estate executive, was adamant the Avon store has a future in the town.
“We very much want to protect our interest in this community,” Shunk said. “This store is very valuable to the company … We’ve been here a long time and we’re not planning on going anywhere.”
Councilman Pete Buckley said “accessibility” would be key to helping City Market compete with Super Wal-Mart, whose customers will be able to get to the new store on direct roads from both Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 6.
Because City Market should remain one of the biggest contributor of sales tax revenues, Avon leaders are eager for the supermarket not to lose a lot of business to Wal-Mart, Buckley said.
“If you do well, the town does well,” he said.
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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