OGDEN -- Wangsgard's supermarket offers shoppers a free ride home if they've bought more than $30 of groceries.
Smith's uses the latest technology to get customers through checkout lines faster than before.
And Harmon's features local products and a line of gourmet foods to attract customers.
Every market needs an angle, from the independent grocer to the big box to the neighborhood supermarket, to get shoppers to push a shopping cart down their aisles.
Finding a niche is necessary for grocery stores, which typically operate on a very low profit margin and use volume sales to make money.
And Northern Utah is a very competitive market, with a full range of competitors trying very hard to set themselves apart.
For decades, Wangsgard's Market and Bakery at 120 N. Washington Blvd. has offered a variety of services within the store.
Aside from the aisles of grocery store items, the store has a cafÃ© offering breakfast and lunch, as well as an ACE Hardware store that has a large garden shop in the spring, Grocery Manager Erik Peterson said.
"While they buy flowers," Peterson said, "a lot of them end up buying groceries."
The store has been in business since 1919, so it has established a loyal customer base.
"We do appreciate all of the support we get from the community," Peterson said.
The store is always looking for ways to provide savings for its customers. Management explores new vendors, not limiting their products to items from Associated Foods, which supplies products to independent grocery stores such Wangsgard's or Harmons.
"In order to stay competitive with them we've had to use other supply lines," Peterson said.
Wangsgard's always running in-store specials, always providing a deal on a central component of a family dinner, using lower prices to be competitive in the market.
It also continues traditional service such as taking groceries to a customer's car even offering home delivery.
Shoppers can come in by taxi, bus or on a bicycle and do their shopping and Wangsgard's will deliver them and their groceries. For a $10 fee, a shopper can even order from home for delivery.
Wangsgard's has offered the service for decades, Peterson said, perhaps going as far back as the 1930s.
"It's just remained," Peterson said. "We've just kept the store truck for all those needs."
However, grocery stores continue to be affected by the down economy.
"Obviously people are still spending money on groceries," Ogden Weber Chamber of Commerce President Dave Hardman said, but during a weak economy, people tend to buy the least expensive options to feed their families.
Discount stores do well.
"All of the Walmarts in Northern Utah have seen growth," Hardman said.
The Winco in Ogden is one of the chain's more successful locations in the state, Hardman said.
However, even that discount grocer has seen hard times since it announced its intentions to move into the Utah market in 2009.
"They have not built as many stores as they planned to," Hardman said.
Yet some stores have found a way to compete besides just offering the cheapest option available.
Harmons currently has 14 locations across the state with Emigration Market and City Creek locations opening soon. Three of those stores are in the Top of Utah: Ogden, Roy and Farmington.
In about 1998, Harmons Vice President for Customers Bob Harmon said the stores felt the impact from an increase in big box stores. Harmon said company needed a way to set itself apart.
"We knew at that time that we needed to change," Harmon said. "Obviously we need to be competitive."
The market began selling gourmet products from around the world as well as locally grown and produced products such as fruits and dairy.
The food made in the store is less processed and has no additives or preservatives.
Shoppers can find artisan products such as breads, and stone-milled olive oil.
"What we're trying to do is provide a high quality fresh and cleaner food," Harmon said. "When you do that it's adding value, it's adding more than just price."
Since a lot of products are made in the store, Harmon said there is a big emphasis in training and educating employees.
"You can always build new facilities and buy equipment," Harmon said, "but the real asset is in the associates. We are trying to be that place where we can provide those products and that knowledge."
Other stores have also begun selling higher quality pre-made items in their deli, Hardman said.
"This is a really nice thing for our busy people," Hardman said.
Latino markets also offer their own products and services.
In the past few years, several Hispanic markets have opened in the city, including Anaya markets and Viva! Although the majority of their customers are Latinos, many also function as neighborhood markets, serving non-Latino customers as well.
"They want most of their business to be Hispanic," Hardman said, "but in the end they want everybody's business."
At the stores, shoppers get specialty cuts of meat, products from Latin America and a variety of produce items, including some not found in larger stores.
Since it became part of the Kroger Company about 10 years ago, Smith's has had access to the products and services the national chain can provide.
"We put a special emphasis in putting the shopping experience from the view of the customer," Smith's Marketplace spokeswoman Marsha Gilford said.
Through Kroger, Smith's, which started in 1932 in Box Elder County, has access to the latest developments in shopping innovations.
"That tells us we have access to greatest technology to help customers," Gilford said.
Through the technology, Gilford said Smith's can quickly tailor the shopping experience to fit the demographics in different areas.
In many ways, Gilford said, Smith's strength is that is it owned by Kroger, but Kroger allows Smith's the autonomy to buy from local producers such as produce or dairy.
"We get the best of both worlds," Gilford said.
Those years of experience also help Smith's prepare for a new store moving into an area.
"We've been a part of the community for decades," Gilford said, "we get prepared for competitive openings long before the competitive opening."
Smith's also did a major remodel in 2010 of its store at 12th Street and Harrison Boulevard.
Decades of service have helped other stores find footholds in the market as well. About 90 years of service have given Wangsgard's the comfort to wait out the opening of new stores as well.
"We notice a dropoff at first," Peterson said, "but within four to six months, we get it back."