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Thread: How many people are needed to support a full service grocery store?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    How many people are needed to support a full service grocery store?

    I've heard that you need 5,000 people for a 30,000-50,000 sq ft. grocery store. Does anyone know anything about this?

    This is just slightly higher than the typical suburban density of ~3,000-4,000 people/sq. mi.

    Does this mean that if density is increased slightly - from 4-5 to 7-8 units/acre, that a full service grocery store could be located every square mile? This would be similar to the density of most streetcar suburbs which had stores within walking distance. Increasing density like this in low density suburbs could easily be done by allowing secondary dwellings in the backyard or by allowing people to convert their garages into an apartment.

    Obviously the number of people needed to support a store will vary depending on demographics (average income). There should be an average though that will apply to the majority.

  2. #2
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Grocery chains have their studies for determining location choice in particular catchment areas, with the variables being density, distance from store, population, store size (us in sf). So, 5k people in what radius?

    Simply upping density is great in theory, but application across larger scales in today's world is problematic for numerous reasons sure to be elaborated upon here (this is not to say densification is not needed). Wrt to store every square mile, again in theory this is OK, but (as always) this depends upon the street network and density as you say, but ADUs in everyone's backyards may work in Santa Cruz, but not in Midville or Oakdale.

    So, wrt your exercise, 5k in a mile for a 50k sf grocery store (chain) or 30-35k sf store (independent/small chain) is a decent starting point.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Discussion of grocery store: (For Emeryville, CA)
    - A population of 15,000-20,000 is needed to support a full-service grocery store
    (as opposed to a specialty grocery store that serves a specific market)
    - Full-service grocery stores are generally 35,000-50,000 square feet
    http://ci.emeryville.ca.us/archive/G...ittee/2535.pdf

    Northeast Oklahoma City Grocery Store Location Analysis
    While the demographics of each of the studied subject sites are similar, the ... full service grocery store. The essence of this study is to recommend the ...
    http://www.okc.gov/Planning/supermar...rket_study.pdf

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    You can do a quick calculation based on industry averages. The average store is 47,000 square feet with average weekly sales of $11.81 per square foot. The average household spends 5.8% of its disposable income on food purchases from stores (as opposed to restaurants). You can get more specific data for your state from the Economic Census. Use this information to figure out how many people are needed in your area to approximate the average sales volume. Of course much more goes into the analysis, such as market rents, competition, etc., but this can get you in the ballpark.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks all for the helpful responses. I have a couple more questions now:

    Roughly what % of car trips are trips to the grocery store? (in a low-density, suburban environment. Lets say 4 units/acre)

    Dan Staley:

    I'm confused as to why the radius matters. If a store needs 5,000 people to support it, than that's 5,000 people. If all of these people are to walk to the store, than the radius becomes important. If they are driving cars, than it seems like the radius is almost irrelevant. You could have 5,000 people within one square mile walking to the store, or you could have 5,000 people spread out over 5 square miles and the majority of them drive. Either way, the store has enough customers to support it. Am I missing something?


    Obama on Smart Growth:

    “Over the longer term, we know that the amount of fuel we will use is directly related to our land use decisions and development patterns, much of which have been organized around the principle of cheap gasoline. Barack Obama believes that we must move beyond our simple fixation of investing so many of our transportation dollars in serving drivers and that we must make more investments that make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access transportation alternatives.”
    It seems to me that if we want to make it easier to walk, it would be helpful to have stores within walking distance of where people live.

  6. #6
    It's relevant becuase of the proximity to other grocery stores. Not Necessarily just potential customers. Driving distance matters even more when everyone is driving to the store (rural)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    While I’m certainly in favor of walkable urban form and reduced reliance on cars, I would point out that in the US (and many other places), the tendency toward a busier lifestyle/two-income households tends to mean that households buy larger amounts of groceries less often (the proverbial “weekly shop”).

    Under those conditions (two to eight grocery bags depending on family size), unless people start owning had carts, there will be a need/preference for driving to the grocery store anyhow. Just to put things into perspective.

    Walkability still makes sense because: 1) some people will still buy little and often, 2) there are always unexpected shortages and it’s great not to have to drag out the car to go buy 6 eggs and a pint of milk), 3) even if one drives, more compact development means driving a shorter distance.
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by montclair View post
    It's relevant becuase of the proximity to other grocery stores. Not Necessarily just potential customers. Driving distance matters even more when everyone is driving to the store (rural)

    Yes, but if there are only 5000 people within a certain area and a store requires 5000 people, than only one store will be built regardless of how much space those 5,000 people occupy, correct?

    A store needs 5000 people.

    There are 10,000 people living in a 5 square mile area.

    Two stores are built.

    There are 20,000 people living in a 5 square mile area.

    Four stores are built.

    The radius is variable, depending on population density. As I mentioned before, radius becomes significant only if everyone is expected to drive, and only in a very low density environment. Then you would need a maximum radius - determined by the maximum distance which people are willing to drive on average.

    Am I missing something?

    Luca:

    While I’m certainly in favor of walkable urban form and reduced reliance on cars, I would point out that in the US (and many other places), the tendency toward a busier lifestyle/two-income households tends to mean that households buy larger amounts of groceries less often (the proverbial “weekly shop”).

    Under those conditions (two to eight grocery bags depending on family size), unless people start owning had carts, there will be a need/preference for driving to the grocery store anyhow. Just to put things into perspective.

    Walkability still makes sense because: 1) some people will still buy little and often, 2) there are always unexpected shortages and it’s great not to have to drag out the car to go buy 6 eggs and a pint of milk), 3) even if one drives, more compact development means driving a shorter distance.
    Luca, I am one of the people who believes that declining energy availability will make it impossible for everyone to continue driving everywhere for their daily/weekly needs, rendering the current suburban model obsolete.

    One option would be to have groceries delivered directly to one's house on a weekly basis, and walk to the corner store for small items. This would be both more convenient and use less fuel than having everyone drive to the store and back.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Radius is usually irrelevent, but a population count can be as well. It is the trade area that is important. Look at Walmart. In North Dakota they have a total of eight storespaced almost evenly apart along Interstate 94 and Highway 2. Each store has a trade area that extends 90 to 100 miles across. In an urban community they may have stores spaced just a few miles apart. One store may have 35,000 people in its trade area and the other store may serve 60,000 people. The determining factor is store profitability. Capital and operating costs, market share, competition, expenditure patterns, and other factors go into maximizing profitability.
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  10. #10
    Using a radius like that ignores competitions and demographics.

    will post more on this later.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Radius is usually irrelevent, but a population count can be as well. It is the trade area that is important. Look at Walmart. In North Dakota they have a total of eight storespaced almost evenly apart along Interstate 94 and Highway 2. Each store has a trade area that extends 90 to 100 miles across. In an urban community they may have stores spaced just a few miles apart. One store may have 35,000 people in its trade area and the other store may serve 60,000 people. The determining factor is store profitability. Capital and operating costs, market share, competition, expenditure patterns, and other factors go into maximizing profitability.
    Completely agreed on all points brought up by Cardinal.

    I think in general you'll see that fewer stores per capita exist in dense areas, simply because land and labor costs are typically higher. It makes more sense for grocers to try and squeeze more sales per square foot out of a store in a dense area, rather than build or lease another store.
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