Address: 12312 Barker Cypress Road
Opened: September 2001
So it's here. Randalls, Tom Thumb, and the entire Safeway family are now married into the Albertsons family, which recently got back together from a painful divorce and the former American Stores rescued from their abusive stepfather SuperValu (okay, I'll stop with the analogies now), but that wasn't yet the case when I stopped at this Randalls after a job interview in the Houston area.
Sadly, I didn't pull out the camera inside for reasons unknown, but I did sample something from the bakery (a chocolate chip cookie baked onto a brownie!) and bought a coffee with the last of my Starbucks card. A bit about this store is that it was built in an era where Safeway had purchased Randalls and was still opening stores before changing gears around the start of the "Lifestyle" era and closing a bunch of Randalls stores in 2005 as market share deteriorated and a market pull-out seemed imminent. I visited this store hoping it hadn't yet been remodeled to "Lifestyle" yet (unfortunately, all of the remaining Randalls did get the do-over), but it was, and altogether wasn't a bad look. Because I didn't actually take any pictures inside, this post is going to be pretty brief.
When the Randalls opened in 2001, there wasn't a lot in the way of grocery shopping in the area. It was the last grocery store along the 290 corridor before a rinky-dink store in the Hockley/Waller area, but even in those halcyon days, Randalls wasn't bursting at the seams. The only other thing close was a 1999 H-E-B Pantry, a small-format store that lacked a pharmacy, deli, and fresh bakery (at least that was the prototype).
Even though the trade area continued to grow with subdivisions continuing to sprawl outward, the greatest threat to Randalls' well being happened in 2007 when H-E-B decided to replace a Pantry store a few miles away (despite the fact that said H-E-B Pantry was renovated at least once in its less-than-a-decade lifespan). Immediately, the new H-E-B zoomed to be the more popular in the area, packing out routinely. It was also larger than Randalls.
It's possible that the renovation came in the late 2000s to try to combat the influence of H-E-B.
Since that time, Randalls has still held on. The H-E-B is cheaper than Randalls as well as not requiring a card, and has continued to march west with new stores while Randalls has stagnated.
If Randalls wishes to take its closest competition on, it's got to lower prices to be competitive (an impediment to the original Safeway Inc.), follow the Albertsons lead and remove the card, and perhaps cannibalize its own shopping center to expand floor space (perhaps making the store deeper by going through the back!) It won't unseat the king anytime soon...Randalls will probably never take #1 in grocery market share (behind Walmart, of course) without an expensive and aggressive building strategy, but knocking Kroger and H-E-B down a few notches will at least secure its place in the market.
As always, comments are appreciated.