With consumers forgoing brick-and-mortar shopping to buy via the internet, retailers are counting on new in-store food and bar operations to counter the decline in foot traffic. Walmart, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble and Publix have all recently disclosed plans to lure customers away from their screens with more ambitious foodservice operations. The onetime amenities are now being positioned as a main draw, with merchandise positioned as possible add-on purchases.
The plans came to light right before the government reported a 0.5% decline in total retail sales during August. Sales for “nonstore retailers,” the broad category that includes online merchants, jumped 10.9% for the same period.
Here’s a look at how some of retailing’s biggest names are counting on restaurants to temper that theft of business.
Walmart puts a stick in it
A restaurant promising the indulgences found at Texas’ mega-sized state fair is slated to open next week inside a Walmart in Plano. Called State Fair Treats, it’s promising to whip up any of 45 selections that usually come from a trailer at the event, from Cookie Fries (deep-fried sliced cookies, a signature of operator Isaac Rousso) to corn dogs, funnel cake and other items usually eaten off a stick.
According to local media reports, the State Fair Treats concept will be duplicated in other Walmarts within the Lone Star State, and then possibly beyond.
Macy’s wants Starbucks’ beer and wine initiatives
After disclosing plans to close 100 stores, the department store powerhouse said at a financial conference last week that it intends to buttress more of the remaining and future units with Starbucks outlets. But the coffee may be secondary as a draw to beer and wine, the nighttime menu extensions at a fast-growing tally of the cafes. What Starbucks calls its Evenings program could be the draw that gets consumers into a Macy’s, where they might spot that must-have item of clothing.
About 49 of Macy’s almost 700 department stores currently boast a Starbucks. It’s unlikely that any of the cafes currently offer beer and wine.
The arrangement would hasten Starbucks’ transformation into a nighttime bartender. Its on-site partner, concessionaire HMSHost, recently revealed plans to add beer and wine at the Starbucks it operates inside airports.
Barnes & Noble’s local bid
The retailer intends to test new stores that are as much restaurants as they are book nooks. The cafes in four test units will be double the size of B&N’s current in-store refreshment areas. They’ll also offer beer and wine, and the chain said it’s shooting for better-quality food. The idea is to draw customers with the food and drinks, hoping they’ll poke around and find some books worth buying.
The test is part of an effort by B&N to position its stores as local independent bookstores rather than links in a huge vanilla chain. “Some of the new breed of independents are food operations with a small bookstore,” Leonard Riggio, founder of the chain, noted last week in a presentation to financial analysts.
Publix’s mini-Starbucks test
A Publix supermarket in Tampa, Fla., is replacing its current coffee outlet with a 286-square-foot Starbucks kiosk, according to local media. If the arrangement proves beneficial for both parties, the mini stations may be rolled into other Publix stores as well.
Publix is serving as a licensee of the initial on-site coffee station.