News Briefs


Little Red Box Grocery Working to End Food Deserts in Houston

Houston Map Teaser

Small-format community market Little Red Box Grocery, which is located in Houston’s underserved Second Ward, has teamed up with The Arena Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Woodlands, Texas-based Arena Energy LLC, an independent oil and gas exploration company focused on the Gulf of Mexico Shelf, to tackle the pervasive issue of food deserts. 

“We wanted to build a store for everyone,” explained Samuel Newman, who opened the 800-square-foot retail location this past May. “A true gathering spot for Second Ward residents, and a counterpoint to current neighborhood grocery offerings that are either inconvenient or offer high costs and poor choices, specifically when it comes to fresh produce and pantry essentials. Little Red Box is grateful to have this sustained and committed support from The Arena Foundation, which will help us offer more products to — and provide better service for — our customers and our community.” 

“The Little Red Box Grocery store is bringing healthy, affordable and convenient food to an area that has gone without for too long,” said Arena Foundation President Ben Pigati. “Arena’s roots in Houston run deep, and we are proud to support Little Red Box Grocery as they work to fight food deserts here in our hometown and beyond as they expand into future areas of need. Approximately 40 million Americans, including 5 million Texans, live in food deserts with little access to healthy food options. This must be addressed, and we are grateful the Little Red Box Grocery team is working towards a solution.” 

Last month marked the debut of Little Red Box Grocery’s online store and digital marketing program, powered by Grocerist, which offers an industry-specific solution built on e-commerce platform Shopify


How Corner Stores Are Crucial in Underserved Communities

SurgePays chart

The perception of neighborhood grocery stores as both a hub and heart of communities – especially underserved communities – was affirmed in a recent survey. According to insights from technology and telecommunications company SurgePays, Inc., an overwhelming 94% of consumers say that their local independent grocery, c-store or bodega is important to their friends and neighbors.

It's a fairly even split on the degree of importance. About a third (34%) of survey respondents said that nearby indie locations are very important, while another 34% said they are somewhat important and 26% said those retailers are extremely important.

[Read more: "Indies Make Food Insecurity Commitments"]

The results speak to the important role of local grocers in underserved neighborhoods. SurgePays, which provides mobile broadband to low-income consumers and works with corner stores to become tech hubs for underbanked areas, enlisted its survey firm to oversample for adults with a household income under $25,000 and without bank accounts or credit cards.

SurgePays’ survey also found that consumers in underbanked and underserved areas are twice as likely to go to a nearby c-store almost every day (14%) compared to the general population. More than a third take part in SNAP. As for what they are buying, the survey revealed that top categories are snack food (71%), coffee/beverages (50%) everyday foods and meals (48%), milk (47%) and lottery tickets (32%).

Shopping is a personal experience for those who frequent corner stores. The poll shows that 37% of customers who patronize nearby independently-owned or operated c-stores say they know the name of their favorite clerk or owner.


Amazon Tech Debuts at Kansas City Sports & Entertainment Venue

816 Market T-Mobile Center Amazon Tech Teaser

Amazon Just Walk Out and Amazon One technology have rolled out in 816 Market, located at Section 105 on the main concourse of T-Mobile Center, a sports and live entertainment venue in Kansas City, Mo. The store enables customers to select snacks and beverages without waiting in line to checkout, and shoppers can enter the store and pay with a scan of their palm. Customers aged 21 or older may buy alcohol after showing valid ID to a store attendant for age verification.

“816 Market is the first frictionless store location in both a Missouri and Kansas sports and live entertainment venue to employ Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology and Amazon One,” noted Jay Cooper, general manager of T-Mobile Center. “Collaborating with Amazon and [Chicago-based restaurant and hospitality company] Levy to debut a faster concession experience through innovation is an incredible opportunity.” 

“T-Mobile Center has a rich history of hosting some of the most popular events in the U.S., like NCAA basketball tournaments, world-renowned musicians and top-performing artists,” said Dilip Kumar, VP, AWS Applications. “We’re thrilled to be collaborating with T-Mobile Center and Levy to enable an effortless shopping experience using Just Walk Out technology and Amazon One for guests so they can grab what they need and get back to their seats as fast as possible.”

An award-winning venue operated by Los Angeles-based ASM Global, T-Mobile Center has welcomed more than 12 million guests since opening in 2007. 

Last month, the Amazon technologies debuted at Bridgestone Arena – a first for a Nashville, Tenn., sports and entertainment venue – with another store powered by both frictionless shopping solutions slated to open at the same arena early next year. 

Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on The PG 100,  Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Caribbean Conglomerate Buys U.S. Indie Grocery Chain

IGA Sign Teaser

Massy Holdings, a Trinidad and Tobago-based conglomerate with diversified interests and businesses throughout the Caribbean, has acquired U.S. grocery store chain Rowe’s IGA Supermarket for $47 million. The acquisition was completed on Dec. 12 by Massy’s wholly owned subsidiary, Massy Stores (USA) LLC.

[Read more: "IGA Reveals USA Retailers of The Year"]

According to a notice posted on Massy’s website, “Massy Stores USA entered into a membership interest purchase agreement with the sole owner of Rowe’s IGA, Robert A Rowe, to purchase 100% of the equity interest of each of the seven limited-liability companies within the Rowe’s IGA Group.” 

The notice added: “The acquisition of Rowe’s IGA, an independent supermarket chain with seven stores in Jacksonville, Fla., is aligned with the Massy Integrated Retail Portfolio’s strategy to expand its retail footprint in the U.S. market. Rowe’s IGA was established in 2005 and is a well-recognized brand within the Jacksonville area.” 


More Than Half of U.S. Consumers Plan to Be With Others for Holidays

Festive Family Gathering Teaser

After two years of pandemic-driven lockdowns, consumers are eager to get back to holiday entertaining. A recent survey conducted by The NPD Group has found that 52% of consumers are less concerned about COVID-19 this year versus a year ago, up 20 points from 2021, and 55% said that they intend to host or visit family and or friends during the holidays, an eight-point increase from last year.

“After two years of dealing with pandemic concerns, consumers are anxious and excited to entertain and attend parties this holiday season,” noted Joe Dreochowski, home and home improvement industry advisor at NPD, a global market information company that merged with Chicago-based IRI last July. “As a result, they are increasingly looking to socialize, shop and gather with friends and family, which will naturally spur more retail growth opportunities during the holidays.”  

In the housewares category, the entertaining-related subcategories that usually experience a sales bump during the holiday season include barware tools and sets; bottle openers; coasters; corkscrews; ice buckets; pie/cake/brownie servers; tea tools; non-electric wine aerators; and wine tool sets. Alcohol-related beverageware shapes, such as wine glasses, highball glasses/tumblers, old-fashioned glasses, goblets, pilsner/pub, and martini glasses, are also in demand for holiday entertaining, and cheese/charcuterie boards, chip-and-dip servers, tiered serveware, and platter trays all unsurprisingly see sales increases ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“Traditionally, holiday parties are held the two weekends before Christmas,” added Derochowski. “This year, with Christmas falling on a Sunday and Hanukkah beginning on Dec. 18 and ending on Dec. 26, could mean more extended celebrations. Holiday guests may stay further into the next week, which means more opportunities for baking together, entertaining or preparing extra food to have leftovers.”


Publix Brings Bedside Medication Delivery to Florida Hospital

Publix Cape Coral Teaser Teaser

Publix Pharmacy is partnering with Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton, Fla., to bring patients access to bedside delivery of prescription medications prior to being discharged. The service is free of charge, and patients can make payments upon delivery and obtain future refills from any Publix Pharmacy location.

“At Publix Pharmacy, caring for our customers and communities means continuing to look for ways to provide services and convenience for our patients when they need it most,” said Publix VP of Pharmacy Dain Rusk. “We are excited to extend bedside delivery of prescription medications to patients of Manatee Memorial Hospital and hope to help with their road to recovery after discharge.”

[Read more: "Publix Ups the Ante in Kentucky"]

“Our goal in our collaboration with Publix Pharmacy is to provide our patients with the medications they need to keep them healthy before they leave the building,” said Manatee Memorial Hospital Director of Pharmacy James Wengerd. “Patients will leave our hospital knowing what medications to take and how much they cost.”

Employee-owned and -operated Publix has close to 1,300 supermarkets in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix is No. 12 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.