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Meijer’s continued strategic expansion, most recently into Wisconsin, and job creation in its financially struggling home state, particularly in downtown Detroit, have given the regional retailer ample platforms on which to grow and learn. So, too, has its ongoing investment in the natural and organic segment, underscored by its stake in the rapidly expanding Fresh Thyme upstart, which is quickly catching fire as a one-to-watch specialty-format grocer.
While there’s no direct connection between Meijer and Fresh Thyme, the established retailer’s major stake in the healthy-lifestyle chain is a natural extension of its studied journey toward continued retail enlightenment, notes Hank. “We are completely separate businesses, with completely separate operations. We see our role as part of an organic experiment to learn, but not to smother, to gain knowledge, but not to stifle creativity.”
In addition to cross-pollinating its retail brain trust with new platforms on which to strategize and stretch, Meijer seeks the most impactful ways to build meaningful connections with stakeholders in the communities where its stores are located.
With an average 450 team members per store, the retailer gets behind community activities while assisting nonprofit organizations through corporate and store donations. In addition to creating strong relationships, the chain offers countless volunteer hours, and abundant financial support, to a host of organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, the American Red Cross, Children’s Miracle Network, March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society, to name just a few.
Meijer’s support for a wide variety of nonprofits is also evidenced by its donating more than 6 percent of net profit to charity each year and sponsoring hundreds of community events that its customers hold dear.
The hallmark of its grass-roots outreach efforts is its Simply Give program, which since November 2008, has helped neighborhood food pantries keep their shelves stocked. The company’s signature hunger relief program has generated more than $16 million, thanks to the continued generosity and support of Meijer customers, team members and food pantry partners committed to helping feed hungry families. The 2015 spring campaign was the most successful in the program’s history: Customer donations, combined with a contribution from Meijer, pushed the total to more than $1.7 million.
No mention of Meijer’s role in bettering the communities it serves would be complete without a mention of The Meijer Foundation, which was established in 1993 as the Michigan Botanic Garden Foundation. Formed with the single purpose of providing an endowment fund to support the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, including the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, the foundation now also supports other local recreational causes and charitable efforts. Its legacy is felt most profoundly, however, in Meijer’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., where the 132-acre botanic garden and outdoor sculpture park serve as a first-rate venue for local residents and visitors to further their appreciation of the natural environment and the lively arts.
“Dynamic and measured” is how Hank describes his company’s growth strategy, “carefully thinking out, market by market, how to continue our expansion.”
Symancyk elaborates: “It really is a customer-first strategy that leads us into whatever our next investment will be. There’s no master plan. We really are looking at how to serve each community that we have the opportunity to be in — one community at a time, one customer at a time.”