Seattle: The area’s retail scene is more than just Amazon
To say Seattle and its surrounds have been experiencing a growth spurt as of late is an understatement. Simply put, this region’s economy is thriving. The job growth rate during the past decade has been impressive thanks in large part to Amazon. But its growth stretches beyond Amazon in that a significant number of Fortune 500 companies, many of which operate engineering and research businesses, also call Seattle home.
Not surprisingly, the area is highly attractive to millennials. But it is not a region without challenges. Real estate prices and escalating rents have severally limited the amount of affordable housing options, and the increasing number of people moving to the area is heavily straining the city’s roadways. Additionally, Seattle has long struggled with effectively addressing its large homeless population.
Taking what some have called an aggressive stance to remedy these issues, Seattle officials are working hard to make changes, from increasing the local minimum wage to $15, working with developers to create more affordable housing and opening access to preschool. The city also has pushed through a tax on short-term rentals, the funds of which will be earmarked for services for the homeless.
Hometown drug chain Bartell Drugs has been expanding both its footprint to 67 stores while building out its services. It has opened new Kaiser Permanente CareClinics, growing the total number to 15, and recently named its first CEO who wasn’t a member of the Bartell family. All of this has taken place as it looks to meet the needs of its Amazon-friendly city, offering its products through Amazon Prime.
In terms of retail growth, the Kirkland area added a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in 2017, a new Fred Meyer’s opened in Gig Harbor, while a new Town & Country Market was built in the Village at Harbor Hill also in Gig Harbor.
Other key retailers with a strong presence in the area include PCC Community Markets; Kroger, under its corporate banner, QFC, Metro Market and Fred Meyer; Whole Foods; Safeway; and new addition Amazon Go.
For shoppers whose driving factor is cost, Fred Meyer remains a top choice, but for many of the younger, urban professionals, retailers offering unique assortments are sought out. PCC’s Fremont location in Seattle, for example, is routinely touted for its quality prepared foods selection, gluten-free offerings, coffee bar and bakery goods, as well as its exemplary customer service.
QFC earns high points as well from shoppers for its friendly staff, well-organized floor plans, quality food offerings and affordable price points. Often cited for its local/farm/organic produce options, the retailer also carries a wide assortment of higher-end items and ethnic foods, as well as has an extensive beer and wine offering. The cheese island, sandwich station and restaurant-quality soup are also well sought after. And QFC earns extra brownie points from shoppers for offering free parking.
All eyes have been on the much-discussed Amazon Go, the experimental cashier-free convenience store located in downtown Seattle. The 1,800-sq.-ft. mini-market is stocked with many items easily found in other convenience stores, plus some items normally found at Whole Foods. Armed with Amazon’s smartphone app, shoppers place whatever they want to buy in a shopping bag and leave without the need to check out using a traditional cashier system. Minutes later, their Amazon account sends them a receipt via their smartphone. It’s still too early to know whether shoppers will love or hate the new concept, and Amazon remains mum on plans for expansion, but it does have some wondering if Whole Foods stores will benefit from the technology in the future, or if Amazon is interested in selling the system to other retailers.
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