Hy-Vee in Grimes intends to set a whole new template for supermarket experience
Hy-Vee's first location in Grimes is more than just a grocery store.
The company sees the 92,989-square-foot location as a complete reimagining of its brand and what it means to grocery shop.
Both architecturally and in its technology and product offerings, the Grimes store is distinct from the rest of the company's more than 280-store portfolio. It's intended to be a one-stop destination for customers, checking off all the boxes on shopping and errand lists.
The new location at 351 N.E. Gateway Drive has a W Nail Bar, DSW Shoe department, a Joe Fresh clothing line area, a new food hall concept, a redesigned wine and spirits department, a pharmacy, a Starbucks, and even a showroom for exercise equipment. It also has taken notes from e-commerce giant Amazon's jump into creating more fully automated shopping experiences with state-of-the-art technology.
The entire Hy-Vee is seemingly digitalized, with hundreds of video screens providing in-store advertising. Dozens of kiosks are scattered across the store, allowing customers to order food or other products. Some kiosks allow shoppers to type in an item they're looking for and find out which aisle it's in.
Throughout the store are hundreds of QR codes customers can scan on their phones to bring up coupons and other savings, order select products such as DSW Shoes not on display and provide other information.
Even the labels indicating the cost of an item are battery-powered digital shelf tags.
Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker said the development is ushering in a new era for the West Des Moines-based grocery store chain, establishing a contemporary aesthetic for new locations moving forward.
"We’ve been more than a grocery store for a long time," Edeker said during a Monday preview for reporters before the location's Tuesday morning ribbon cutting. "We feel like this is a lifestyle move. People are busier than ever before, there's more to be stressed about than ever before. Our mission statement is making lives easier, healthier and happier. This is the easier."
Edeker said Hy-Vee is constantly looking to compete with Walmart and Target as the chain aims to move away from mid-sized stores with narrow offerings. The new Grimes location will be the third-largest in Iowa after locations in Cedar Falls and Urbandale.
Aside from its wood-and-metal accented exterior and warehouse-like interior, the sprawling store includes several features that are new to the chain.
Edeker said he's particularly excited about the Cake This department, based on a cake designing show on the company's HSTV network, offering not only baked goods but cake-making classes and demonstrations. The department is the entryway to a food hall including HyChi, featuring the chain's popular Chinese food line, and a Wahlburger, both situated near a 185-seat casual dining area. The row of dining options was designed to imitate a city street, with distinctive storefronts for each of the brands.
Hy-Vee removed salad bars and other self-service, open-air food options in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the new Grimes location, it isn't looking back.
The store is instead introducing a Chowbotics machine, essentially a vending machine offering automated, customizable salad assembly. Ingredients are loaded daily, allowing for controlled refrigeration and sanitation.
"This is the next evolution of the salad bar," Hy-Vee spokeswoman Tina Potthoff said. "This is the first time we are launching something like this to see what the response will be. I think COVID has allowed us all to think about what we wanted to do with those open spaces. This is a safe way to be able to do that."
Edeker said that while the Grimes Hy-Vee is setting the standard for future locations, the company is intent on renovating existing locations to establish consistency within the brand. Each year, the company takes around $200 million from its growth budget to update existing stores.
Last year, he said, the company allocated $100 million to update all 22 locations in the Kansas City metro.
"You're not going to go there and they're going to look exactly like this, but they will have most of the touch points that you see in this store," Edeker said. "We will update all of those and we have a regular budget. We believe that we have to keep our stores fresh to keep up with the lifestyles of the customer."
Hannah Rodriguez covers retail for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @byherodriguez.