Save A Lot hopes modern store redesign draws new customers

ST. ANN (KMOX) -- Save A Lot's newest store, in a food desert just miles from their headquarters, is a cleanly designed, modern prototype which the grocer hopes to replicate.

But is it enough to move the needle on the company's turnaround effort?

Jon Springer, executive editor of Winsight Grocery Business, says its impact depends on how many of the approximately 1,200 Save A Lot stores across the country can get up-to-date. Many are independently owned and operated.

This new location is in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood and has wider aisles, lower shelves, and better lighting. Springer reports an executive called the evolution a "major step forward."

"They're saying, 'here's what our stores can look like from now on."

Most of their stores move into existing buildings, but this one is new construction. The company boasts it's more energy efficient, and is also intended to be more efficient for workers to merchandise and navigate.

Springer says the interior design looks a lot like Aldi's newer stores -- which is kind of the point.

It's "a dynamic and fast-growing field. Limited assortment, efficient, discount stores. Even though they're a small percentage of the food retail industry overall, their influence is outkicking their coverage quite a bit," he says. "That's Save-A-Lot's opportunity."

While Aldi is finding success luring shoppers who may have considered themselves Walmart or Schnucks loyalists, Save A Lot remains focused on serving lower-income consumers.

Even if you don't shop there, their strategy could help bring down your food bill. Springer says every grocer has to be competitively priced on the weekly basics: bread, milk, and eggs.

"The expansion of discounters and their growing influence has really spread that practice across all grocers, including your upscale ones. They know they have to be competitive in price on those items."

For instance, Kroger, under investor pressure to lower costs, raise same-store sales, and create new revenue streams, gave more details Tuesday on robotic warehouses to pack lettuce and tomatoes for home delivery to full-line supermarket customers.

(Kroger operates in the St. Louis market under the limited-selection Ruler Foods banner, which competes directly with Aldi and Save A Lot.)

Save A Lot is also eyeing e-commerce. The company just announced a partnership to bring Amazon services into the store.

Save A Lot Food Stores is based in St. Ann. The tax incentive agreement for their new offices called for 470 headquarters jobs to be maintained, along with some growth.