Amazon has collaborated with the Houston Astros to bring the e-tailer’s checkout-free Just Walk Out technology to two food and beverage stores at Minute Maid Park, just ahead of the first home game of the season, on April 18.
The Astros’ stadium is the first in Major League Baseball to adopt Just Walk Out, and it’s using the same slightly modified system that Amazon offers at select Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh stores. Just Walk Out shopping is made possible by using similar types of technologies used in self-driving cars, computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning.
Amazon’s technology is available at the stadium’s 19th Hole store, located on the Concourse level, and the Market store, located on the Honda Club level. Both stores offer a selection of snacks, soda, candy and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, with the Concourse-level store also offering pre-packaged salads, wine bottles and souvenirs.
Both locations require a customer to insert their credit card at the entry gate to begin shopping. Items will be added to their virtual cart after being grabbed off the shelf, and anything returned to the shelf will be taken out of their virtual cart.
Each store also features staff to greet customers and offer in-store assistance. To buy alcohol, customers will still have to show ID to a store attendant.
“Our technology is designed to deliver a fast and frictionless shopping experience, so we’re thrilled to help eliminate checkout lines for fans when they need to refuel during games and between innings,” said Dilip Kumar, VP of physical retail and technology at Amazon.
A new independent grocer is set to open in Florence, Ala., in the north part of the state. Coming in mid-2022, Cottonwood Farm & Grocery will sell fresh meats, produce, bulk grains, flowers, cheeses, grab-and-go meals and snacks and housewares, among other products.
Many items will be locally sourced from farmers and growers in the Tennessee Valley, and the retailer will team up with natural and organic wholesaler UNFI to carry organic brands such as Annie’s, Amy’s, Beyond Meat and Evol. Located at 318 N. Court Street in the downtown district, the market also will feature an assortment of vegan and gluten-free products and offer DoorDash delivery service and the use of EBT payments. As part of its community-focused efforts, Cottonwood Farm owners Hope and Brian Williamson are planning to provide items that are nearing their end date and haven’t sold yet to a local center for those in need.
“We opened this storefront to give local farmers a place to sell their goods, and we’ve succeeded,” said Brian Williamson. “And, keeping the shelves stocked with other organic items is something the community vocalized, so we’re trying to meet that need.”
As Blue Apron continues to add new offerings like breakfast and single-serve items to its portfolio, it’s also growing its product team. The meal kit company has appointed Josh Friedman as chief product officer, effective April 18.
In this recently-created c-suite role, Friedman will head up Blue Apron’s product strategy across several functions. He will oversee efforts in the areas of fulfillment, culinary and digital product, among other responsibilities.
Friedman joins Blue Apron from The Neiman Marcus Group, where he served as head of digital products. His retail background also includes positions at JCPenney and Dell, where he led product, digital, e-commerce, marketing analytics and omnichannel operations and teams.
A graduate of the MBA and undergraduate accounting programs at The University of Texas at Austin, Friedman served on the advisory board for the Digital Council at the National Retail Federation, and the University of North Texas Global Digital Retailing Research Center.
“Josh’s strengths in weaving digital experiences around unique physical products combined with his experience growing e-commerce, fulfillment environments as well as transforming a product-driven culture cross-functionally will be a great addition to our established leadership team,” said Linda Findley, Blue Apron’s president and CEO to whom Friedman will report. “His exceptional record in team building, leadership, growing direct businesses, marketing technology, and data-driven product strategy will be an asset, and I look forward to his contribution to the business.”
Friedman, for his part, said that he is looking forward to joining Blue Apron at a time of growth and expansion, both from a product and reach standpoint. “The team has established a strong foundation for the business and I am excited to work with them to build on top of the great work that has already been done,” he remarked.
Mitsuwa Marketplace Coming to Los Angeles Neighborhood
Mitsuwa Marketplace, the largest Japanese grocery store chain in the United States, will open a location in Northridge, Calif., its first in that Los Angeles community. Kennedy Wilson Brokerage, a division of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Kennedy-Wilson Properties Ltd., represented the landlord, securing a 10-year lease on a 9,600-square-foot space at 8940 Tampa Avenue that was previously occupied by a Pier 1 Imports store.
Torrance, Calif.-based Mitsuwa Corp. was one of several companies interested in this central location, which will make the busy neighborhood shopping center a grocery-anchored destination. The specialty banner, which expanded throughout the pandemic, is poised to drive consistent traffic to the center.
“Mitsuwa will bring a unique market and culinary experience to the North San Fernando Valley that’s been missing,” said Kennedy Wilson Senior Associate Kyle Fishburn, who handled the transaction. “It’s exciting to introduce the brand to Northridge, and I’m excited to see the impact it has on an already busy commercial corridor.”
The Northridge Mitsuwa Marketplace is expected to open in the fall of 2022. Operating in five states — California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas — its 11 current locations are open 365 days a year and offer food courts, fast-food stalls, bakeries, matcha shops, prepared sushi and sashimi, and a wide assortment of Japanese groceries.
Publix Creates Legacy Scholarship for Carol Jenkins Barnett
Carol Jenkins Barnett, the philanthropist, educational advocate and daughter of Publix founder George W. Jenkins who passed away last year, is being remembered with an award in her name. Publix announced that a new Carol Jenkins Barnett and Publix Community Service Scholarship will be given to company associates who demonstrate Barnett’s passion for serving others.
Beginning in fall 2023, the scholarships will be bestowed annually to two associates who are starting their freshman year at college. The awards are worth $5,000 each.
“Whether it was advocating to improve education, especially for young children, or serving the less fortunate, Carol made a lasting impact on so many,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “As a company, this scholarship is a way to remember Carol’s life and legacy of service.”
A longtime chair and president of Publix Super Markets Charities, Barnett was active in several other causes, including United Way, Florida Partnerships for School Readiness and Family Fundamentals, among others. Her name also lives on at the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children and at the Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland, Fla., that was made possible by her generosity.
More information about the scholarship, including application details, will be released early next year.
Employee-owned and -operated, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix has more than 1,200 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The grocer is No. 11 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
If the sky is big in Texas, so is the grocery landscape. One new addition is an Albertsons location set to open by the end of the year in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex.
According to officials in Irving, Texas, the latest Albertsons grocery store will be housed in a shopping center at 2200 West Shady Grove Road in the south part of that city. After a Fiesta Mart closed at the 50,000-square-foot site a couple of years ago, local residents lobbied community leaders to bring in another banner to improve access to groceries and household supplies.
Based on a report on the City of Irving website, at least $250,000 will be spent to upgrade the interior and exterior of the location. The project marks Albertsons’ return to Irving after 15 years; the chain currently operates 32 stores in the greater DFW market.
That market is getting hot for food retailers. H-E-B is in the process of building new stores in nearby Frisco, Plano and McKinney that will open later this year and into 2023, and Whole Foods is adding a location at a new mixed-use development in McKinney.
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates more than 2,200 retail stores with 1,700-plus pharmacies, 400 associated fuel centers, 22 distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. It has stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under more than 20 banners. Albertsons is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. With approximately 400 stores in Texas and Mexico, San Antonio-based H-E-B is No. 13 on The PG 100. Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and is No. 26 on The PG 100.