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Phoenix: Retailers focus on experience as city resurges

BY Carol Radice

It is important to city officials that Phoenix never loses sight of its original intent — to be a city that welcomes everyone and respects everyone, with an economy that creates real opportunity for everyone.

Since the mid 20th century, Phoenix’s goal has been to expand its population, and it appears to have achieved that. It is currently ranked the fifth-most-populous city in the United States behind New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. This, in stark contrast to the mid-1950s, when Phoenix’s nickname was America’s Eden for its vast open spaces.

Flash forward to present day and a time where much has changed in the region, both physically and economically. City officials have been diligently working to rebuild the city’s economy, an effort that has not gone unnoticed. Phoenix has been earning kudos for its efforts to stabilize its economy and for its sustainability progress.

For its citizens, life in Phoenix has been improving, as well. Unemployment rates are down and average wages are up. The proliferation of high-tech jobs helped Phoenix become one of the nation’s top-10 fastest-growing economies in 2017. In addition to technology, more than half of its workers are employed in advanced industries, such as business and financial services, health and life sciences and precision manufacturing.
Phoenix continues to attract a large number of new businesses, which in turn are creating new job opportunities for area residents. Its economy also is being boosted by Phoenix’s trade relationship with Mexico, which estimates show to be an $8 billion business venture for the city.

By some estimates, retail also is helping to boost the local economy. More than a quarter of a million people work in the retail sector in the greater Phoenix area, making it one of the top-three industries for employment. At the same time, the landscape of retail is changing, and the makeup of all those once-famous power centers the Phoenix market had become known for is changing face. Today, it is becoming more common to see owners chop up vacant big-box space and put in two 20,000-sq.-ft. anchors, or develop empty parking lots into space for fast-casual restaurants.

Grocers have been leading the new construction wave with several Fry’s Marketplaces opening in the past year, including the first-ever grocery store in downtown Phoenix, as well as Sprouts Farmers Markets. Given the steady job and wage growth, as well as a strengthened housing market in the area, experts predict the momentum in retail will continue and extend beyond 2018.

Fry’s Marketplace on East Shea boulevard knows service. The retailer offers valet parking, covered parking and complimentary curbside pickup, plus its staff routinely is noted by shoppers as being helpful and friendly. Customers also appreciate the retailer’s large kosher section, in-store café, large assortment of prepared foods, garden center, cooking school and car wash. This upscale Kroger banner is in many ways an exact opposite of another area favorite — Trader’s Joes, the closest of which is just a few doors down. Its staff also is often cited for being friendly and knowledgeable, and its floral section earns points with shoppers for its deals. But its signature move of constantly refreshing its shelves with new products for shoppers to try is what makes this retailer stand taller than its competitors.

Shoppers also appreciate the assortment of healthy food choices, but it’s the products sold under the Trader Joe’s label — representing hard-to-find, innovative products at a value — that keep customers coming back.

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