Journalist Brandon Holveck discusses potential changes in the retail industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic with Texas A&M researcher Venkatesh Shankar.
Delaware News Journal
More than 17 years after opening its first branch in Delaware, Trader Joe’s plans to expand into the first state.
The grocery chain is preparing to open a new store in place of the former Saks Off 5th at the Christiana Fashion Center, according to New Castle County permits.
The move ends years of speculation as to whether Trader Joe’s would open more stores in Delaware – its only existing location is off Concord Pike, near the Delaware-Pennsylvania border. Almost every time a big box store has closed in recent years, a choir of devotees have pleaded for Trader Joe’s to take its place.
Allied Properties, owner of the Christiana Fashion Center, declined a request for comment. Trader Joe’s representatives did not respond to several requests for comment.
It is not known how long it will take to open the store. From the outside of the building, there does not appear to be any significant construction work.
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With more than 30 stores across the region, Trader Joe’s has generated a cult following, specializing in products, high-quality frozen food, and a range of domestic and imported handicrafts. Items made under the store name are also very popular.
Some have argued that Delaware’s restrictions on who can sell alcohol prevented Trader Joe from growing in the state. At its Concord Pike location, Trader Joe’s cannot offer its collection of wines, beers and spirits.
Last year, Wilmington appealed to residents to ask Trader Joe’s, through its website, to build a store in the downtown area. At the time, John Rago, deputy chief of staff to the mayor’s office, said Trader Joe’s would be “a good choice for a growing and prosperous city” like Wilmington.
There is no indication that the company answered the call. The new location will be about 10 miles south of the city, in one of Delaware’s newest shopping destinations.
The Christiana Fashion Center, which opened in 2015, includes a variety of businesses, from traditional big box stores to “experiential” businesses, a growing trend as owners try to lure e-commerce customers to retailers of bricks and mortar.
Buyers seize grocery carts from Trader Joe’s on Rt. 202 Monday morning. The shelves were filled with food. Toilet paper was available but limited to one package per customer. (Photo: Jennifer Corbett, Delaware News Journal)
Trader Joe’s, the mall’s first grocery store, will join companies like Edge Fitness and the Main Event Entertainment Center in the non-clothing category. The center also offers several restaurants such as Chili’s, Turning Point and Shake Shack, in addition to stores like Best Buy, Homesense and Nordstrom Rack.
Saks Fifth Avenue factory outlet brand Saks Off 5th closed its only Delaware location in October, becoming the first department store to close in the Christiana Fashion Center. It was one of 10 stores to open in the first phase of the center in fall 2015.
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The mall is almost rented at full capacity, but most storefronts are dark due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, grocery stores are struggling to keep products on the shelves. Many resorted to shorter hours to allow time to restock and disinfect while implementing new protective measures such as Plexiglas screens in the registers.
Other options in the area to pick up groceries include Costco and Target at the Christiana Mall.
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Contact Brandon Holveck at [email protected] Follow on Twitter @holveck_brandon.
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