Lorie Beare swooped in for cheap soda and any other bargains that jumped from the shelves Wednesday at the sparkling new Safeway store.
“When Safeway has a grand opening, I know there’s going to be some good things here,” said Beare of Post Falls.
She usually shops the Tidyman’s store in Post Falls but hunts for specials at Coeur d’Alene supermarkets when she comes through town. Beare wasn’t quite ready for the madhouse of rambunctious shoppers who flooded the new Safeway.
The new store on the corner of Neider Avenue and Government Way becomes the latest warrior in a hard-fought battle for Kootenai County’s grocery dollars, joining a cluster of big supermarkets.
For shoppers, more stores usually means lower prices and aggressive sales as grocers try to woo customers away.
Cars and trucks parked on snowy berms ringing the jam-packed parking lot. Eager shoppers munched complimentary cookies and gobbled up food at the China Express.
At one of the checkout counters, Bob Diens bagged some canned goods and pushed overflowing carts out the doors of the big new store. Not your ordinary bag boy, Bob’s the senior vice president of the whole division.
“I started in this business cleaning grease traps,” said Diens, who works in Seattle but previously lived in Spokane. He has opened two other stores in just the last few weeks, and likes to roll up his sleeves to help out. “This is the fun part for me.”
Across Highway 95 from the Safeway lies a Tidyman’s store, which will likely lose customers and dollars to the new competitor, said Jack Heuston, president of Tidyman’s in Spokane.
“We’ve been fortunate in that our stores don’t typically lose much business from new square footage nearby,” Heuston said. “But we do expect to lose some business.”
There hasn’t been much sales growth in the grocery business recently, Heuston said. Location usually makes a big difference for supermarkets, and Highway 95 has become Grocer Row in Coeur d’Alene, sporting an Albertson’s, Rosauers, Tidyman’s, Super 1 Foods and now a Safeway all within a couple of miles of each other.
“We’re basically just trying to survive,” Heuston said. “That area is beginning to look a lot like Sprague over here.”
Other supermarket chains recognize that Coeur d’Alene continues to have more stores dividing up the grocery pie.
Plans for a Fred Meyer store in the future could put another large store off Highway 95, and Albertson’s plans another store at Prairie Avenue and Government Way.
“We’re always concerned about having too many supermarkets around,” said Bill Haraldson, executive vice president for Rosauers Super Markets in Spokane. “But there’s really not much we can do about it. Our store there is priced with the leaders, and it just depends on what the customers do.”
Jeff Buchanan, district manager for Safeway, said he wasn’t too concerned about the number of stores nearby.
The new Safeway’s amenities, such as the China Express, make it competitive with other new stores, he said. Other stores like Super 1 have freshly prepared Chinese food as well.
Shoppers were happy to see another supermarket simply because it likely means price wars between the big stores.
“I like the competition,” said Janet Scuitti of Coeur d’Alene, who looks for organically grown produce in her supermarket.
“When I shop, I look for customer service,” said Tammy Thornton, who works at Safeway’s store in Newport, Wash. She came down just to see what the crowds would be like.
She too shops the row of supermarkets when commuting from school here back to Blanchard. “I wanted to see what it was like in a really busy store.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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