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    PG Web Extra: The Super 50

    A closer look at some of the grocery retailers on our annual ranking of top companies

    By Jim Dudlicek, Bridget Goldschmidt and Meg Major

    Progressive Grocer annually ranks the top 50 grocery retailers based on sales in its Super 50 report. The full report can be found here, with analysis of the top 10 companies; the following is a closer look at some of the other top performers.

    # 11 Bi-Lo Holdings Inc.

    The biggest change at Bi-Lo Holdings of late was the accession of veteran international retail executive Ian McLeod as the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company’s new president and CEO in March, following weeks of speculation as to the future direction of the Southeast regional grocer after the previous CEO, Randall Onstead and COO Mark Prestridge abruptly departed at the end of 2014.

    McLeod, who previously ran more than 2,200 Coles food, liquor and convenience stores across Australia, was credited with leading “a major turnaround in that business, improving the quality and value of products as well as the service and store standards offered to customers," as his new employer put it, adding, “We are confident he will be instrumental in driving continued growth and success at Bi-Lo Holdings as we execute our strategy and work to further enhance our customers’ shopping experience.”

    Before the current round of executive moves, the Southeast regional grocer, parent company of the Bi-Lo, Harveys and Winn-Dixie banners, had seemingly “lost its way,” as illustrated by faltering same-store sales trends and a failed IPO. When contacted by Progressive Grocer, industry observer Burt Flickinger attributed the chain’s problems to heated competition in its market area, along with a combination of leadership conflicts, costs and operational incongruities – all of which the company aimed to address by appointing McLeod.

    Going forward, to allay shareholders’ fears, the company will need to boost its top-line and same-store sales, as well as operating profits, Flickinger noted. With a new leader at the helm, Bi-Lo seems poised to do just that.

    #12 Trader Joe’s

    Ranking among the top 12 retailers on the 2015 Temkin Experience Ratings, the Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s is, in the words of Business Insider, “making brand names in food obsolete.” The 433-store chain sells twice as much per square foot as Whole Foods, yet offers very few brand-name products.

    As GfK Retail Industry’s Bill Romania wrote in a PG.com exclusive in January, Trader Joe's provides a well-curated, fun place to shop, with great customer service and a high-value, low-price model centered on its private label items.

    Trader Joe’s customers, who tend to be more health-savvy and environmentally minded than average, flock to the retailer’s markets for great deals on wine (remember Two Buck Chuck) and a host of creative products like Cookie Butter, Triple Ginger Snaps and Unexpected Cheddar Cheese, served by quirky associates in Hawaiian shirts.

    The stores’ limited selection (about 4,000 items, compared to as many as 50,000 at typical supermarkets) is dominated by organic, natural and vegetarian foods sold under its own brands, which pledge not to contain artificial ingredients, MSG, trans fats or GMOs.

    The chain recently entered the Birmingham, Ala., market, putting its coverage at 39 states. Owned since 1979 by the same German family trust that owns the hard-discount Aldi chain, Trader Joe’s has proven itself a leader in aligning food shopping with healthy, sophisticated consumers.

    “Trader Joe's customers want to buy healthy food and help the environment. They get a lot of what they want when they visit these stores,” Romania says. “But in the grocery business, just like every other sector, there is always room to introduce innovative programs that make customers happier, smarter and, in this case, healthier than they already are. The challenge will be for grocery retailers to innovate in this space while remaining true to their brands and the experiences their shoppers expect.”

    #15 Giant Eagle

    Three years after launching its eight-store discount Good Cents discount format stores and roughly one month after about a month after Belgium's Delhaize Group closed all 66 of its discount Bottom Dollar Food stores on Jan. 12, Giant Eagle shuttered the experimental format in favor of concentrating on its corporate flagship and companion upscale Market District banners.

    Focusing heavily on revenue-generating and cost-saving measures as part of its Vision 2020 companywide improvement process, the multiformat food, fuel and pharmacy retailer has prioritized sustainability as a key component.

    With 12 LEED-certified retail locations and nearly half of its distribution fleet converted to CNG-powered vehicles, Giant Eagle's latest such move aims to reduce water consumption by five percent by July 2017. As a result, all corporately operated Giant Eagle supermarkets will be retrofitted with water conservation equipment by June 30.

    #17 Hy-Vee

    Brands that build and keep their promise over time – and develop strong differentiation – stay relevant for the long term. And so it goes with Hy-Vee, which has bolstered its well-respected brand on sound dietary, nutritional and wellness empowerment.

    The company’s commitment to healthy lifestyles is increasingly evidenced by its ever-growing HealthMarket departments featuring natural and organic products, consulting services of in-store dietitians and chefs, and consumer and employee wellness programs.

    Earlier this year, Hy-Vee tapped retail services firm Interactions to launch a series of experiential marketing events throughout 2015 in roughly two-thirds of its 235 stores.

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