business news in context, analysis with attitude

While attending the Retail Tomorrow Immersion in Los Angeles, I found some time to visit the new Gelson’s store in Manhattan Beach - for lots of reasons, one of which is because, given the opportunity, why wouldn’t one visit Manhattan Beach?

What I found there was a compelling store - I have to say that Gelson’s has come a long way in the past few years, building and renovating stores that are both compelling and modern. (You can see some pictures below.)

One of the things that I liked best about the Manhattan Beach store was the seafood/tapas bar that also has a broad selection of beer and wine. It is long and beautiful and on weekends apparently does a lot of business with local residents (who can, if they wish, walk to the store and, after a drink or two or three, walk home).

Best of all, Gelson’s makes what I think is a pretty compelling offer 0- if you like, you can pull up a seat at the bar, give the bartender your shopping list, and order food and drink., The bartender, in turn, will get your list to an employee, who will then do all your shopping for you.

Local regulations prevent the store from allowing shoppers to wander the store with a glass of wine or beer in hand, but this strikes me as the next best thing. In fact, it may be the next better thing.

To be fair, it isn’t like Gelson’s is operating in a vacuum. There is a wonderful Bristol Farms-owned Lazy Acres store less than a mile away in Hermosa Beach (I wrote about it last December here on MNB), and both a Bristol Farms and a Trader Joe’s with Manhattan Beach addresses less than two miles away … and that doesn’t count the more mainstream supermarkets that are on and around that stretch of Sepulveda Blvd.

I think Gelson’s does a nice job, if one that is highly targeted on an upscale shopper who can afford to spend disposable income on fresh food and specialty grocery items. There’s nothing wrong with that, though it does, I think, increase the pressure on Gelson’s a bit to break outside the margins that perceptions (and history) create.

Good store, though, and one that reflects a company consciousness that has been raised in recent years, resulting in an approach to retailing that is itself raising the bar.

And the great thing is, you can go to that bar, have a drink and get someone to do your grocery shopping.

Sounds like a win-win to me, and an Eye-Opener.

KC's View: