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Feb 25, 2008 08:46 PM

Anyone know why Central Market is so expensive?

Well, half the stuff you get at CM is the same stuff you can get at HEB, except everything is marked up. The typical thing you can say is that they can get away with it and it makes them more money. And heck, that CM is often crowded as well. The only thing they really have over HEB would be meats and cheese. Most of the produce in the store bear the same labels as their HEB counterparts, and the other half are really expensive produce that your wouldn't buy anyway.

But I was also wondering if maybe they weren't just money-hungry people who are legitimately trying to run a business that's fair to them and their customers. I know that there are some pretty expensive specialty items in the store that no one is going to touch and will probably have to be thrown out at some point, particularly in the produce department. Are those the bargain items that have to be sold at a lower cost and made up for by other costs? Kind of like eating fancy stuff in a restaurant; your halibut is going to have a lower markup than the chicken pasta dish.

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  1. I think it's the convenience that they charge for on non specialty items. Being that they have limited space(hard to believe)they can justify a markup w/o the customer having to go to HEB as well. I enjoy just walking around CM sometimes but even when I go there for a few specialty items I invaraibly have to go to HEB for staples on the same trip. And that's where the Super HEB's came in(I think). I still can't help but wonder who buys all this stuff. And where it goes when it's not bought.

    2 Replies
    1. re: crippstom

      The discount specialty food shelves at Marshall's, TJ Maxx, etc. are full of things that probably started life at CM or somewhere like that. I've found balsamic vinegars, gourmet-brand pasta sauces, etc. there at half of what I'd pay at CM.

      1. re: jim1126

        Yeah you're right.I work part time at TJMAXX,and see many of the food stuff you mentioned.
        Central Market does carry some H.E.B. basic stuff,but it carries the higher priced goods to cater to the upscale market,to people who live in Alamo Heights and the Dominion.
        Some of the stuff at H.E.B.Central Market may get donated to the South Texas Food bank for which I'm sure they can get a tax write off or to some place like Seton Home for unwedmothers, St.Peter -St.Joseph's Children's Home or some other charity.
        There was an ad in today's paper for the new H.E.B.Plus Store on Blanco and Loop 1604. They sell tvs,sheets,etc.etc. plus groceries.It's H.E.B.'s answer to Walmart.
        I'll have to check that place out.

    2. I have only been to CM a couple times, because it is inconvenient for me. Even if it was around the corner I still wouldn't shop there. I agree that it is a glorified HEB, with less hispanic goods and more "gourmet" items. I found it to be crowded, cramped and full of some of the rudest yuppies I have ever been around. There were a lot of samples being passed out and they would park their carts in front of them and you couldn't get around them. If you asked, politely, to please scoot over they would just ignore you. It was aggravating, and not worth the time. When we checked out, my DH asked if he should make the check out to HEB. The clerk sneered and said "We are Central Market." He replied "No, you are just a very expensive HEB."

      1 Reply
      1. re: danhole

        Your DH is correct. When our new Whole Foods was being built, our nearby HEB (which was already a very good store) suddenly remodeled and got all Central Marketized. The cheese selection, the deli...I have no need to go all the way to CM when the best of CM has already come to me!

      2. While I think that HEB and CM are both very expensive by my standards, I will give HEB credit that unlike the super megamarkets (Krogers, Safeway, Supervalu), they seem to know what type of store each area will support and tailors the stores to the local market.

        Maybe my 10-15 trips to Texas in the past five years have mislead me a bit, but is there any real competition to HEB in the large cities of Texas? I know Randall's is in Dallas and Fiesta in Houston.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jlawrence01

          Our neighborhood HEB is not expensive at all. They have some great bargains, and in store coupons that offer package deals, such as; buy this meat and get 5 other items free (and they compliment the meat.) The problem is that they are very limited in their selection. They only have 4 kinds of cat food, or 2 brands of tissues, etc. But their house brand pre cooked meats are very good and not much at all.

          As far as competition, and I live in Houston, they are really competing with the smaller chains like Food A Rama, Food Town, Food City, Fiesta, and some of the markets that are mainly catering to the mexican community. They really can't compete with Krogers or Randalls. I think that is why they came up with CM, but there is only one store in all of Houston and it is in an upscale area. I think that Krogers dominates Houston. But Wal Mart has gotten in the game, and they have good deal, too, so who knows?

        2. HEB pretty much has the monopoly on groceries here in the valley, unless you count walmart. the HEB plus is awesome, though. they do have a huge selection of cheeses and even sell waygu beef.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hellpaso

            I really enjoy shopping at the Houston CM, but all the points noted above are well taken. Yes, their prices are higher on certain things, but the selection is huge in most departments (and honestly I think Whole Foods has higher prices on their produce). I go to CM for all the things that my Randalls and Krogers dont have. CM also offers the Foodie Card, and sends out coupons for something free (a pound of shrimp, a pound of chicken, etc) with a minimum purchase (it used to be $40, now it has jumped to $60). Foodie club members also receive "foodie cash", and every 3 months they send me a coupon for $10 off my purchase. There are giveaways around the holidays -- I have a Wusthof cutting board, knife and set of small paring knives. as well as a nice set of salt/pepper grinders thanks to them.

            Yes, their prices are high on a lot of things. But their demographic is quite different from FoodTown, Foodarama, etc. There's a Food City just a few blocks from my house but I never shop these because the place just smells nasty. If the first thing you smell is ammonia, you just know that it is covering up something worse.

            I concur with Danhole about the gridlock in the store. They have a little coffee bar where you can get a teeny paper cup of coffee, and this area is usually clogged beyond belief. They took it out for a while and that made negotiating that area (next to bulk foods) easier, but now its back, so I guess a lot of people asked, and they answered. I NEVER go there on the weekends, as people tend to bring the whole family and turn it into an event. I prefer to go in the weekdays afternoons, when the professionals shop (you often see people in chef coats from various restaurants there) and I enjoy being around the serious foodies who know what they are buying and will chat about what they know. The CM staff is VERY knowledgable in their given departments, and will help you find just the right item to go with your meal. Every single staff member Ive ever intereacted with seemed to love their job and their specialty.

            That said, I often buy my oils and vinegars at Marshalls and TJMaxx, where they are about half what they cost at CM. Its always fun to prowl through the dreck and find a little gem now and then. But for me, CM is more of an experience than just a shopping trip. The local HEB supermarkets are upgrading to keep up with Randalls and Kroger too. The HEB in Clear Lake and the new one in the Woodlands Town Center are now featuring more "gourmet" items next to the Coke and Pampers. There's something for everyone.