Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fair-Anselm Plaza: needs something Fresh & Easy?

Seeing the news about Fresh & Easy opening stores in the Bay Area started me thinking about where they might find a site in Marin. One place that comes to mind is Fair-Anselm Plaza, which I had a quick look at when I was in Fairfax last weekend. This is a grocery-anchored center which lost its grocer when Albertsons closed just over a year ago. On the face of it, a large vacant retail site in affluent, anti-development Marin should be snapped up pretty quickly, right? Obviously Albertsons couldn’t make a dollar there, but then Albertsons isn’t exactly the world’s leading retailer.

As the name suggests, Fair-Anselm Plaza is located between Fairfax and San Anselmo. The center straddles Center Boulevard approx 0.5 miles from Fairfax, with the vacant grocery store on the north side of the road and a strip mall on the south side. Each side has adjacent parking and there’s a crossing for pedestrians right outside the grocery store door.

The first thing you notice is what an ugly sight the grocery store is. It’s an old (1970s?) box, which looks particularly bad when you drive by on Sir Francis Drake, which borders the north side of the store and is slightly elevated, giving you a great view of the nasty concrete walls and roof.

The site itself is nicely located, with great exposure to passing traffic and easy access. Despite the closure of the anchor store, most of the other tenants are still trading, so there’s clearly a customer base remaining for the center. Other stores that draw people to the center include the US Post Office and Iron Springs Pub & Brewery. There’s also a health club, video store and cycle shop.

The center’s primary trade area includes the whole of Fairfax, Sleepy Hollow and parts of western San Anselmo. Woodacre, San Geronimo and Lagunitas make up a smaller secondary trade area. The map below shows these areas. Total population probably hasn’t changed much since the last census in 2000, when 18,000 people lived in the primary and 4,000 in the secondary sectors. Total trade area retail spending on food to take home is estimated at $52.6 million in 2008.

An estimated 65% or $34.2 million of this spending is directed to supermarkets, with the remainder going to independent food stores, convenience stores, farmers markets etc. The majority of this $34.2 million is currently shared between five supermarkets: Delano’s and Good Earth in Fairfax, Safeway at Red Hill, Andronico’s and Quick ‘n Easy in San Anselmo, and United Market on the eastern side of San Anselmo.

A 10,000 square foot Fresh & Easy supermarket at Fair-Anselm should be able to capture a market share of approx 10%, or $5.3 million of trade area food spending. Add on another 15% for sales to people living beyond the trade area, and 10% for sales of non-food items (alcohol, household consumables etc) and total store sales would be approx $7 million per annum, or $700 per square foot, which is a viable sales intensity for a small supermarket like this.

Fresh & Easy has been pushing its green credentials, with organic produce and support for local communities. This should please the eco-warriors of Fairfax. If Catlin Properties, who are believed to be buying the Plaza, can make it work, it’ll please everyone to see the old Albertsons store demolished and something less nasty built in its place. There might even be room for some additional stores. Starbucks, anyone?

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