Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good Bye Sunshine, Hello Hy Vee

So, Hy Vee has purchased three stores in Sioux Falls and plans to close one and convert the other two to Hy Vee stores in the near future. Yikes.

I hate to see this kind of thing happen, because in the end it is going to affect the choices grocery shoppers have every day. With this move, there will only be two major grocery retailers in Sioux Falls: Hy Vee and Walmart. (Don't even get me started on Walmart.) Sure, there will be other small, independent grocers like Andy's and Franklin Food Mart, and specialty stores like Look's, Cleaver's, and even The Market on Phillips. Even though some people enjoy grocery shopping and will seek out certain products from certain places- steaks from one place, wine from another, fresh vegetables from the Farmer's Market- for a whole lot of people going to the grocery store is a real chore and a large expense, so if it can be done in one fell swoop, all the better. And, at some point, almost every consumer has to stop for something at one of the big grocers.

Hy Vee tends to drive me nuts. I am often astonished by the poor quality of produce at 26th and Sycamore, assuming they even have what I wanted in the first place. I've been confronted with pricing on fruit that could have easily formed the basis of a math problem on the SAT. The bakery bread selection sucks unless all you want is soft wheat or white formed into different shapes. The meat pricing at Hy Vee is an absolute sham- I nearly stroke out while I stand at the meat case running the numbers in my head. Seriously, it's a screw job. But, glutton for punsishment that I am, I keep shopping there. It also turns out that the Secret Teaspoon is a member of a local sports team that takes advantage of scrip programs to help fund the activity, so a part of our purchases at Hy Vee are credited toward our tab with the team.

The thing I don't think a lot of people realize about Hy Vee is how deftly they have been able to remove some barriers to their business model. For instance, there used to be a limit to how many retail off sale liquor licenses a corporate entity like Nash Finch or Hy Vee could hold. The South Dakota Legislature passed a bill to revise that limit. That's why you see huge liquor departments in every major grocery retailer these days. When the bill was making its way through the Legislature, it was referred to as the Hy Vee bill. See the connection? Remember when you could only buy beer on Sundays? That was a city ordinance, and a dumb one at that, but who do you think led the charge to get that one changed?

Sunshine isn't exactly a grocery palace itself, but they did several things better than Hy Vee. Honest meat that isn't sealed in little portable gas chambers priced in a straight-forward manner comes to mind. Sunshine also has some sales and specials, including Milk Mondays. that we usually took advantage of. The bottom line was, at least with Sunshine, you had an option. Now, not so much.

The loser here is the consumer because Hy Vee will be the dominant grocery retailer in the area. If you think you can't get decent produce at 26th and Sycamore now, just wait until they know that your options are to go to Hy Vee on E 10th, Minnesota, or 57th and Cliff. Good luck with that. And good luck seeing a major competitor come in and try to muscle into the market in the near future.

I might just have to swing into Andy's one of these days. I wonder if we can get Andy's on the scrip program?