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Meijer supercenter slated for Janesville in 2016

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Frank Schultz
March 7, 2014

JANESVILLE—They call them hypermarkets and supercenters. These big-box stores sell groceries but also carry goods you'd find in a department store.

Janesville is slated to get a new one in 2016.

Michigan-based Meijer (pronounced like Meier) plans on moving into Wisconsin, and Janesville is on its list, the company's CEO announced Friday.

Meijer plans a distribution center in Pleasant Prairie and stores in Wauwatosa, Oak Creek, Kenosha and Grafton in 2015 and in Janesville, Sussex, Greenfield and Waukesha in 2016.

“We expect to concentrate a lot of our expansion the next few years in Wisconsin,” said Hank Meijer, quoted by the Milwaukee Business Journal. “As a company, we'll probably be opening 10-12 stores a year, and a significant number of those will be in Wisconsin each year for the next several years. We'll be looking at a lot of other communities beyond Milwaukee.”

The Gazette was not able to reach Meijer officials for comment.

Meijer officials had an initial meeting with city of Janesville staff, said Gale Price, manager of building and development services for the city.

The company has not chosen a site, although location was discussed, Price said.

Price could not reveal a possible location because Meijer hadn't authorized it, he said.

Meijer's typical supercenter is 192,000 square feet, Price said. That's close to the 194,000 square feet of the Janesville Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Any building over 25,000 square feet or any site over five acres requires a conditional use permit, and the city would guide Meijer through the approval process, Price said.

Meijer sites typical include gas stations, Price said.

Friday's announcement came as a surprise to city staff, said Price and City Manager Mark Frietag.

“That's wonderful news. We're excited to hear they're coming to Janesville. I don't have any other details to provide at this time,” Frietag said.

Staff members were calling their Meijer contacts Friday to learn more, Freitag said. Price said he had no success Friday afternoon.

Meijer did not ask for economic assistance, and the city does not give incentives for retail developments, Price said.

Meijer would draw shoppers from surrounding communities as well as Janesville, Price said.

“They're a regional shopping kind of player, so if you think about where our regional shopping is, most of those retailers like to compete against one another,” Price said.

Forward Janesville President John Beckord said big, new taxpayers are always welcome here, but he knew no details.

A UW-Whitewater economics professor questioned whether another grocery store would boost the local economy.

“I don't think there's a pent-up demand for groceries in Janesville,” professor Russell Kashian said. “No one who can afford it is going without food.”

Kashian said there might be room for a new store if a lot of Janesvillians were driving to other cities to shop, and if the new store keeps them in town.

But if Janesville already has enough grocery stores, then ultimately, one or more of them would be forced to close, Kashian said.

Beckord suggested that kind of analysis would need to take into account growth of the local market, and he said the local economy appears to be gaining steam.

Existing stores might make changes to distinguish themselves in the marketplace—going all-organic or offering free delivery, for example—Kashian said. Or some might try lowering prices.

It's difficult to compete with big chains on price, however, Kashian said, because grocery profit margins are small.

“Eventually you'll have a bit of a price war,” Kashian said, but after a store closes, prices would rebound.

“It's more competition, no doubt about that,” Beckord said.

The lure of a new store probably would attract shoppers initially.

“I'll probably end up shopping there, just to see what it is,” Kashian said.

Price said he had shopped at Meijer in Illinois and loved their produce.

Forbes magazine rates Meijer as the 19th largest privately held company in the United States, with revenue in 2013 of $1.5 billion and 74,000 employees. It has 204 grocery stores and supercenters in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

Hendrik Meijer opened his first store out of his barbershop in Greenville, Mich., more than 75 years ago. Today, brothers and co-chairmen Hank and Doug Meijer lead the company.

Meijer touts itself as the pioneer of “one-stop shopping." Its stores have evolved through the years to include fresh produce and meat departments, pharmacies, electronics departments, garden centers and clothing, according to its website.



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