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    Part 3: Meijer Retailer of the Year Profile

    Supercenter retailer strives for meaningful shopper solutions

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ | Meg Major, EnsembleIQ

    Beyond catering to different customers in new states, Meijer has developed new stores targeting specific demographics in its home state, such as two urban-format stores in economically challenged Detroit.

    The Meijer team, however, insists it’s not the format, but rather the assortment, that’s most unique.

    “It’s the offering that it’s important to adjust for an individual customer’s and community’s needs and expectations. Those stores in Detroit are 190,000 square feet, just like the stores we’re opening in suburban Chicago,” Hank says.

    Uniquely Similar

    Symancyk adds: “We really only have one format. What we do is try to make sure that the assortment in any particular store is reflecting what’s most important for each community that we serve. There’s where the variations would be, but the format doesn’t really change.”

    Getting that right means keeping up with the pulse of local shoppers to ensure demands are being met, whether in urban Detroit, suburban Chicago or rural Kentucky.

    “The determining factor is your people,” Symancyk asserts. “We have the benefit of being a regional company. That means we have a proximity and familiarity with our teams that some companies don’t have. We know our store directors. Our emergent teams had the opportunity to visit all of our stores over the course of the year. There’s some understanding around what might be most important in Fort Wayne, Ind., that’s somehow different than Manistee or Alpena, Mich., or newer stores in Wisconsin. Having that tight sense of communication,” he continues, “is really what we focus on — making sure we’re listening to customers and that we’re empowering our teams to take action on what they’re hearing that we’re doing well or what we’re not doing well.”

    Adds Doug: “The customers determine what we sell or what we don’t sell — whatever they ask for or what we see they need.”

    Beyond that, Meijer is striving to present its offerings to shoppers in a more meaningful, solution-oriented way.

    “That’s where the customer’s changed,” notes Doug. “Our mom used to cook every day of the week. My daughter’s mom barely cooked any days of the week. One thing that we do need to do a better job at is helping the customer plan for that meal, what he or she may want that’s quick and easy and convenient.”

    Enhancing the Center of Super

    Symancyk concurs, noting that Meijer will continue to up its game on meal solutions, “whether that’s about information, preparation, or the ability to take and go. We really do believe that beer, wine and liquor are the kind of growth categories that are important to our customers, and also provide that connection to local that’s really important.” Health and wellness is also a priority, he says: “That really ties our worlds together across both drug store and food — it’s something that we’re mentally focused on.”

    It’s all about Meijer’s core shopper, Symancyk explains. “One of the differences in a supercenter environment is that our customers walk in and they have a bigger basket,” he says. “The frequency [with] which they come to our store may be a little less, but the amount that is on their list when they walk in the door is a little more. That adds up to a little bit longer shopping trip. We believe the convenience of being able to get everything under one roof makes that valuable. That also means that she may not be as likely to want to sit down and have dinner in our store.

    “We’re much more focused on how to provide that experience of foodservice in a way that she can take it home and save time putting dinner on the table for herself and her family,” he continues.

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ | Meg Major, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.
    • About Meg Major Veteran supermarket industry journalist Meg Major brings a wealth of experience to her role as Chief Content Editor of Progressive Grocer. In addition to her editorial duties, Major also spearheads the retail food industry’s premier women’s leadership recognition platform, Top Women in Grocery. Follow her on Twitter at @Meg_Major, connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/megmajor, or email her at [email protected]

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