RETAIL NEWS

Riverside, San Bernardino: Local chains corner market in the Inland Empire

BY DSN STAFF

Its roots may be in agriculture, but today the Inland Empire of California — which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties — is more known for its industrial development. The Inland Empire is a major distribution hub for Southern California due to its proximity to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Its vast warehouse complexes house fulfillment and logistics centers for the likes of Amazon, Georgia Pacific and others.

While it may be near Los Angeles and the high-rent district of Orange County, the Inland Empire could not be more opposite in terms of per capita earnings. Low- and middle-income families dominate the area due to its affordable housing. As the coastal communities become too expensive for many to live, more people are moving inland.

The Inland Empire was among the regions hardest hit by the recession in California, but it has since added back jobs at a pace exceeded only by the flourishing tech hubs in San Francisco and Santa Clara.

However, the region is not without its issues. Its poverty rate is exceptionally high by national standards. Both counties were rated as having poor air quality and were given an “F” by the American Lung Association recently, and traffic also is a serious issue.

The retail landscape has been in a transition, as well. Some companies such as Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons have been closing stores, while others, including Stater Bros., have been expanding their presence in the area with a number of new store openings planned. Headquartered in San Bernardino, Stater Bros. has been around for more than 80 years. It has been named by Forbes as one of top 20 com-panies in the United States to offer exceptional job security for its employees and has been rated as the “best place to shop for groceries” among full-service supermarket chains in Southern California.

Deeply entrenched in the community, the chain believes in giving back. In the past 10 years, it has contributed more than $75 million in food and funds to local organizations that support hunger relief, children’s well-being, education, health, and help for veterans and active service members.

Its Mission Grove store opened in the fall of 2017, in a space previously occupied by Ralphs market. Focusing on service, Stater Bros. did not shy away from offering employee-manned, service-oriented departments, which include freshly made sushi and a fresh fruit bar in the 45,000-sq.-ft. store. The bakery and butcher sections are generously stocked, with a large array of artisanal breads and marinated cuts. There’s also a nice selection of organic and international foods that shoppers rave about.

Within this market, Albertsons often gets cited by shoppers for its terrific in-store bakery, clean stores and customer service, but it’s no-frills WinCo that customers love for its low prices, convenient hours, weekly deals and bulk food section.
Another standout retailer in the region is Spouts Farmers Market, with one of its newest locations in Redlands touted by customers for its cleanliness, large selection of farm fresh produce, organic products, distinct ready-to-eat meals, vast bulk food section and sushi station.
Others cite the butcher shop and fish market and fresh seafood that’s delivered up to six days a week.

It also earns high marks for its customer service and friendly, helpful employees. Indeed, Sprouts officials take customer service more seriously than most, and their goal is to hire passionate people and invest in their training. The importance they place on having team members who are knowledgeable and approachable has not gone unnoticed by shoppers.

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