Marcus & Millichap: Competition on the rise in Milwaukee grocery market

Walmart has made a big splash in the Milwaukee area with its Neighborhood Market concept.

Think about those retailers that are doing well even in today’s challenging economy. The odds are good that they’re selling groceries.

The retail specialists I’ve interviewed consistently tell me that grocery-anchored retail centers are the ones most likely to thrive today. After all, people still need groceries, even if they’re worried about losing their jobs.

That’s why the new report by Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services on the retail sector in Milwaukee wasn’t surprising. According to the report, the market’s grocery segment is in the middle of a solid expansion period.

Marcus & Millichap’s researchers point to recent job gains as a major reason for the grocery segment’s recent surge here. According to the report, employers in the Milwaukee area added 8,600 jobs during the past 24 months, something that has helped keep the Milwaukee-area unemployment rate below 7.5 percent.

The grocers have noticed. In the third quarter of 2012, a new 135,000-square-foot Target — with grocery — opened in Brookfield, Wis. The first Walmart Neighborhood Markets opened in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. And Cermak Fresh Market, a newcomer to the market, also opened its doors in Milwaukee.

At the same time, the Pick ‘n Save grocery cahin is remodeling its stores, while specialty grocer Trader Joe’s is scheduled to open in Brookfield in the fourth quarter. The Woodman’s chain is building a third store in Waukesha. This store is scheduled to open in 2013.

Then there’s the Meijer chain, which is planning a big move into the Milwaukee region. The company plans supermarkets in the area communities of Grafton, Franklin, Sussex and Wauwatosa that would open in 2014.

This, of course, is good news for consumers, who will be able to choose from a wide range of grocers in the Milwaukee area. But it’s good news for the commercial real estate business, too. It’s good to see any segment thriving today. And as consumer confidence increases, and we get past the presidential election, the hope is that other retail segments will start to see mini-booms of their own.

— Dan Rafter

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