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Grocery Changing Formats Natural Food Market Adapts To Competition

A Spokane natural foods store is changing its product line, saying it can no longer compete with a larger competitor.

All-natural and organic grocery Bountiful Fresh Foods, 204 N. Division, will change half its product lines to lower-priced, regular groceries to try to attract more downtown Spokane customers.

Linda Fossi, co-owner of Bountiful, said the 4,200-square-foot grocery couldn’t compete with Rosauer Supermarkets Inc.’s new natural food chain Huckleberry’s Fresh Market.

“They have slaughtered us,” Fossi said. “We cannot survive. We cannot match their advertising. Either I was going to lose my house, or we were going to make some changes.”

Fossi and her partner, Rebecca Rebmann, opened Bountiful last June, pouring $500,000 into the project. In December, a 17,500-square-foot Huckleberry’s opened on the South Hill. In April, a second Huckleberry’s, twice as big as the first, opened in the Spokane Valley.

Larry Geller, president of Rosauer’s, said retail competition is a fact of life.

“I don’t like to see us being responsible for anyone else’s financial difficulties,” Geller said. “I hope their change is good for them.”

Fossi and Rebmann also own a natural foods store in Coeur d’Alene called A Trip to Bountiful, which will not be changed.

Fossi said Bountiful is discounting its natural and organic products 20 percent until the end of May, trying to clear space for the regular groceries they plan to bring in.

They decided to make the change to attract more downtown customers who have lower incomes and can’t afford higher-priced natural foods, she said. “We want to be the local downtown grocery store who also has natural foods.”

Bountiful will keep its deli, juice bar and espresso stand, but regular juice and coffee will be added to the organic varieties. The bulk section will remain the same, as will the organic produce department. They’ll continue to carry only the best-selling organic brands.

“What we’re going to be doing is adding a downtown audience. The good news is, we’re not going out of business. We’re doing a product mix change,” Fossi said.

Representatives of other natural foods stores say they haven’t been hurt by Huckleberry’s. They say that’s because they’ve been around longer, they’re more established and they haven’t tried to compete head-to-head with Huckleberry’s.

Chris Bansemer, assistant manager of Lorien Herbs and Natural Foods Inc., said Lorien has been in business for 20 years and always experiences a slight drop in sales when a competitor opens.

The customers always return, she said.

“A lot of people come back and say, ‘It’s not the same as shopping here,”’ Bansemer said, adding that Lorien is different from both Bountiful and Huckleberry’s, which offer a mix of gourmet and natural foods.

“We won’t carry any products with any preservatives, artificial colorings or flavorings. It’s just a different kind of environment,” Bansemer said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

Tags: business