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How Much Does It Cost to Build a Grocery Store or Supermarket?

Grocery Store Business

Do you want to start a grocery store and want to know the cost breakdown? If YES, here are 15 factors that determine how much it cost to open a supermarket.

For grocery stores or supermarkets which are more or less in the form of single-story long-span construction, their layout is driven by the target market.

The key issues to be considered will depend on the extent of the perimeter available for display, the collocation of preparation, and display areas.

In terms of the external layout, the location and visibility of the store entrance and its relationship with parking and public transport are very crucial factors.

In this age and as logistics become more common, the location, size, and operation of the goods yard, which is necessary to the efficient operation of a store, need to be efficiently considered, particularly on restricted sites.

Estimated Cost Breakdown for Building a Grocery Store or Supermarket

Supermarkets are generally single-story buildings that leverage sophisticated climate control (cooling and heating). These buildings also have extensive back-office facilities and often architecturally interesting entrance areas, façades, and roofing, including canopies.

They are generally planned on a 10m x 10m grid, which allows for aisles and chillier cabinets on either side. This tends to lead to columns at 10m spacing although the span can be increased to 20m.

Most supermarket structural systems consist of beams and columns with additional bracing in the walls at certain locations, such as at the sides and rear of the building. The building height is generally about 4m and often one façade at least is glazed to full height.

Offices, staff accommodation, and specialist areas such as in-store bakeries, are more or less located between the retail and storage area which is usually located at the rear of the store. Note that the use of modular construction is becoming very popular in single-story retail-type buildings, especially where the speed of construction is very important to the success of the project.

1. Building Construction Cost

According to experts, the cost of building stores is divided into two categories: building shell construction costs for freestanding locations, and tenant fit-out costs for stores in malls and other types of centers.

For the freestanding store category, the estimated cost for constructing a store shell (includes concrete slabs, structural steel, structured masonry, roof, HVAC, exterior wall assembly, and insulation, but excludes dirt work, utilities, and interior fit-out) averaged $62.77 per square foot in the United States.

Generally, supermarkets always had the highest building costs, at $77.06 per square foot, followed by convenience stores, at $60.45 per square foot.

Then the cost of tenant fit-out work for stores in shopping centers (includes drywall, ceiling, floor, wall finishes, and interior construction, but excludes the fixture package) averaged $56.53 per square foot for all retailers surveyed.

In terms of all construction clients, supermarket chains are more concerned about reducing initial build costs, but as owner-occupiers, they also consider the long-term impact of investment decisions. They tend to leverage payback and life cycle costing assessments to determine additional investment in flexibility, reduced running costs, or sustainability.

Note that a store’s target market will also influence the architectural design of the exterior of the building, and the materials that are used, glazing systems, floor finishes, etc. are partially determined by location, target market, and projected turnover.

Grocery stores and Supermarkets also have extensive back-of-store facilities for staff, offices, and storage. Target figures for total back-of-house space have fallen from 50% of gross internal floor area to 25 – 40%, depending upon the size and target market of the store.

Also note that parking, access, and distribution are also primary aspects of the design solution. The space for car parking is also extensive and in some locations, double-level car parks are required. Most supermarkets are serviced at night which requires suitable access, turning, and off-loading space.

2. Outfitting Cost

In the supermarket or retail store buildings, display fixtures average $9.17 per square foot. Heating, ventilation, and air – conditioning costs averaged $2.61 per square foot, while roofing costs is estimated at $3.59 per square foot.

Ceiling costs averaged $1.81 per square foot, and interior signage averages $0.93 per square foot, while exterior signage is estimated at $1.43 per square foot. Note that the cost of interior lighting is estimated at $3.85 per square foot, while flooring costs average $2.76 per square foot for all retailers

3. Energy

In the United States, energy costs average $1.98 for supermarkets. However, some retailers are beginning to shift to alternative energy as a way to combat rising costs and help the environment. Solar power ranked as the most common renewable energy source, followed by geothermal power, and wind power.

4. Town Planning & Regulation

In times past, planners have had a powerful influence on the appearance of grocery stores encouraging bespoke solutions which can be difficult to extend or adapt.

Nonetheless, in order to make or achieve maximum value from their supply chain, achieve fast construction, and allow for long-term adaptability, supermarkets are adopting a ‘kit of parts’ approach. This gives room for flexibility in the specification of external and internal finishes while retaining the benefits of a standardized ‘shell’.

Another planning issue that can affect retail developments, particularly main stores, includes the potential cost of the Community Infrastructure Levy for community improvements and highway works.

Accordingly, Supermarket construction is fast, with contract duration for new build stores of 6000–7000m2 typically ranging from 22 to 26 weeks. Rationalized design and standard products are necessary to achieve such compressed programs.

11 Special Factors to Consider When Building a Supermarket

There are several special construction situations that are considered unique or specific to the supermarket industry. During the construction of a supermarket or a grocery store building, the contractor or even the owner should be aware of these special construction aspects of this industry. Some of these considerations are;

a. Refrigeration

Note that refrigeration is very important to the operation of the store. Once you consider the number of coolers in a supermarket, both vertical and horizontal, you can appreciate the extent of piping, drainage, electrical, and data that is required to keep the coolers operational.

Any contractor constructing a supermarket is expected to understand the workings of these sophisticated refrigeration units as well as the behind-the-scenes equipment necessary to allow these coolers to function.

Have in mind that the coordination of the installation of this equipment is important and essential to the overall success of the project. In most instances, the refrigeration subcontractor is one of the first on the project, once the building shell is erected, and the last to leave the project after all punch list items have been dealt with.

Condensation build-up, building enclosure, heating, and ventilation equipment functioning all must be coordinated to properly allow these refrigeration units to gain time in operation. Too much moisture and humidity in the air and the condensation will freeze causing the coil to freeze up and unit failure. All of this must be monitored and managed to ensure against failure.

b. Box coolers and freezers

In direct relationship with the refrigeration within the supermarket are all the box coolers and freezers that are needed to store frozen products within the store. Have it in mind that these coolers and freezers are in many instances, installed on the exterior of the structure, and are separate structures inclusive of their own roofing systems.

All these box coolers and freezers normally have a concrete pad that they are assembled on as well as an epoxy floor installed within the cooler. If there is an extended roofing system, in many instances a sprinkler will have to be installed within these roofing systems.

c. Cash registers, check stands, and self checkout registers

In this construction endeavor, the placement and coordination of all of these elements within a supermarket are necessary for the successful coordination of the electrical and data lines that must be installed in the floor slab prior to the placement of the concrete floor. The proper positioning of the stub ups within these pieces of equipment is essential to a clean and precise installation.

d. Loading docks

Note that the layout of the loading docks for a supermarket is very important to the proper functioning of the store. All layouts must coincide with the coolers to allow the frozen products to be directly moved, and stored in the coolers from the refrigerated transportation.

Supermarket loading docks are more or less equipped with dock levelers, bumpers as well as dock seals to seal the truck to the loading dock, eliminating precipitation as well as the hot and cold temperatures entering the loading dock area.

e. Compactors

The installation of compactors and specialized garbage removal from the store is another specialty that is without a doubt very important in supermarket construction. The cardboard compactor is very crucial to ensure that all the packaging of the product is compacted and baled for recycling.

Each supermarket sells their cardboard to a recycle company and the baling of this material makes this process very efficient and economical.

f. Grocery cart storage and protection

In supermarket construction, the need for a large number of grocery carts necessitates the proper storage and management of these carts. Even though this item is taken for granted by the general public, the carts must be coordinated and managed.

Critical questions to analyze include: when should the shopping carts be delivered to the project? Will there be a security ring of wired detection surrounding the parking lot to prevent the removal of the shopping carts from the premises?

Will there be shopping cart corrals located in the parking lot to allow customers to park their carts once emptied in various locations around the parking lot? There are several coordination and management issues, regarding shopping carts that must be properly dealt with.

g. Health Department requirements

Almost all new supermarkets have included the preparation of foods as well as the cooking of purchased products such as lobster. Owing to the inclusion of food prep areas within the supermarket, the local Health Departments are now intimately involved with the issuance of certificates of occupancy for these projects.

h. Dehumidification

Note that the need for dehumidification within a supermarket is very critical. The amount of cooling that is circulated around the entire store will cause any condensation to crystallize and become hazardous on the floors and in the coolers.

Without substantial dehumidification in supermarkets, the condensation and the icing will be intolerable and cause negative issues within the store.

Big rooftop dehumidification machines are mostly installed on the top of the supermarket. These machines are similar to the equipment necessary to provide dehumidification within enclosed ice skating rinks and are capable of removing incredible amounts of moisture from the environment.

i. Exhaust hoods

The need for commercial exhaust hoods, as installed within commercial kitchens, has become popular in the newest supermarkets. In this age, the supermarket model has expanded to provide offerings of cooked food and short order grilling.

These cooking surfaces will now require commercial hoods, as well as commercial fire suppression systems, specially designed for cooking appliances and grills.

j. Hanging soffits and electrical fixtures

With the prevalence of grilling areas, as well as short-order cooking capabilities, the need for specific and specialized designations for these products and services has been introduced. In many stores, the use of a hanging soffit will enhance the layout of the grill, deli, and prepared foods areas.

Note that these hanging soffits and lights are being used to designate the cooking areas within the store itself, from the larger open areas where the actual groceries are located.

The accurate layout of these hanging soffits, and the placement of the grills and cooking appliances, must be carefully coordinated and managed. In the days prior to computerization, this type of coordination would be accomplished by drawing overlays.

This was a technique that placed one drawing over the other to make sure that every dimension and the subsequent layout were coordinated and aligned. Computers are now being introduced to provide coordination among the equipment and millwork on the project.

k. Gondolas

More or less a pet name for all the shelving found in a grocery store. All the shelving that contains the cereal, condiments, canned vegetables, etc. is referred to as gondolas. Note that the new supermarkets are now beginning to illuminate their specialty gondolas with LED lighting, to distinguish the different products on the shelves.

In addition to the lighting creativity within the gondolas themselves, the use of different shelving angles, depths, spacing, etc., are all customized, for whatever product is being stored on the shelves.


The construction of big retail stores, whether they are small specialty shops or one of the largest mega markets in the country, has several items and characteristics in common.

Any contractor selected for these projects should have both knowledge and experience regarding each of the specific characteristics required for the completion of the project. Coordination and proper management are necessary elements of a successful construction project; however, they are even more important in the construction of a food store.