Retail Safari: San Francisco Bay Area

Date : 01 February 2016

In our city feature series, Retail Safari, we highlight some of the best stores we have visited in European and North American cities. For our first feature of 2016 we’re heading to the San Francisco Bay area, the host location for this month’s Super Bowl 50. Stewart Samuel, Program Director at IGD Canada, shares his pick of the stores to see.


San Francisco was one of the first locations for the launch of Target’s smaller format store concept last year. Previously known as TargetExpress, the store now trades under the core Target banner. Located in the heart of the city’s financial district, the store offers a tailored range of products from across the retailer’s broad category assortment. This includes a great range of grab-and-go food items such as sandwiches, salads, breakfast items and snacks. A range of fresh fruit is located at the front of the store, reflecting the retailer’s drive to offer a wider range of better-for-you products.

Source: IGD Research

Given that the retailer offers such a wide selection of non-food products in its larger format stores, it has done a great job in curating this within this smaller footprint. Located at the rear of the store, the pharmacy is an important traffic driver. It is clearly signposted and easy for shoppers to identify, along with a significant range of OTC products.

Source: IGD Research


Walgreens chose San Francisco as a location for one of its flagship stores. Located in the heart of the tourist district, the store offers an extensive range of fresh foods and groceries, focused on eat-now and eat-later missions. It also features a juice bar coffee barista, self-serve frozen yoghurt as part of its ‘Upmarket Café’ proposition. The store is tailored to the local catchment; look for a number of San Francisco elements.

Source: IGD Research

The ‘LOOK Boutique’ beauty department features a number of prestige and niche cosmetic, skincare and hair care brands not typically found in drugstores. The investment which the retailer has made in this area has been important in enabling this, including dedicated fixtures, lighting and flooring. This upgraded look and feel has also been extended to its more general health and beauty ranges, with illuminated headers and shelving, dedicated fixtures and an emphasis on customer information and product knowledge.

Source: IGD Research


The Bay area is natural Safeway territory, with its Home Office located in nearby Pleasanton. While there are a large number of potential outlets to visit, one of the most interesting is The Market by Safeway, located adjacent to San Jose University. This store was Safeway’s original small format test, launched in 2009, and at around 2,400 SQ M, is half the size of a typical Safeway store.

Source: IGD Research

With a large proportion of students among its shoppers, the retailer has tailored its ranges to better meet their specific needs, including Signature Café prepared foods and grab-and-go products. Recently the retailer has indicated that smaller format stores could play a role in its development strategy going forward.

Source: IGD Research

Smart & Final Extra!

While there are a broad range of fresh food focused operators to visit in the region, there are also a number of differentiated store formats. Smart & Final’s stores are a hybrid between supermarkets and warehouse clubs; Extra! branded stores are larger format. However, no membership is required and stores are significantly smaller than warehouse clubs at around 3,000 SQ M.

Source: IGD Research

The offer is tailored towards individuals and small businesses, with an emphasis on catering ranges. This includes a strong fresh food offer, which helps to drive traffic to the stores. The retailer has also partnered with Google Express to offer online shopping in the area.

Source: IGD Research

Walmart Neighborhood Market

Although Walmart’s presence in California is relatively limited, it has developed a network of stores in the San Jose area. This includes its core Supercenter format and smaller Neighborhood Market stores. The latter is its primary growth format in the US and operates with strong value credentials, helping it to build appeal in urban areas.

Source: IGD Research

Neighborhood Market is a food-first format, with its produce and fresh meat offer particularly strong. The retailer is currently undertaking a broader re-thinking of the model, with all new stores set to feature bakery and deli counters and better integration of the its ecommerce operations.

Download our comprehensive guide to stores to see in the San Francisco Bay Area, located in close proximity to the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, including details on where to find the stores.

Retail Safari: study tours

At IGD we have a team dedicated to facilitating study trips for retailers, manufacturers and other companies engaged in the food and grocery supply chain. Gaining perspectives and learnings from other markets can help you to:

  • Drive your format and category innovation
  • Discover new product and packaging trends
  • See the latest display concepts
  • Understand successful price and promotional tactics
  • Get hands-on experience of the latest in-store digital initiatives

Through working with IGD, our team can build a customised and relevant tour for you and your teams, selecting the best stores for you based on your criteria and our unique insight into the operators in major cities in Europe and North America. We’ll join you on the tour, to lead and help you get the most from the session, and we can call on our extensive global network of retailer contacts to help you get unique access to stores and operations.

Talk to our team today to see how we can support your innovation strategy and drive business performance.