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As much as Big Data may tell us that shoppers have changed, there are a handful of core demands that have remained constant which Meijer strives to own on a daily basis.
“I don’t think shoppers have changed as much as it sounds like they have,” Doug Meijer muses. “People still want clean stores and a good value, and still want to be treated” in a way in which their patronage is acknowledged and appreciated.
“I think that’s right,” Symancyk agrees. “One of the first big evolutions of this company was the birth of the supercenter. What drove that is not altogether different than what customers are looking for today, which is better assortment, better choices, more convenience and better service. There are more ways that we have the opportunity to deliver that to customers. As the world continues to evolve at a rapid pace, there’s going to be even more choices that customers have. It all comes back to friendly service, great assortment, great value and a convenient shopping experience. Those are the drivers that matter today, as much as they did when we started the company 80-plus years ago.”
Beyond that, it’s meeting the unique needs of each community. “We regard everybody as a potential customer,” Hank Meijer says. “We don’t have a certain demographic, income level or characteristic that says ‘that’s our customer.’ I think that’s where we’re differentiated from many of our competitors.”
Moreover, he adds, with food marketing increasingly fragmented among multiple channels, the same can be said for Meijer’s retail contenders: “Everyone is a competitor.”
Unlike most traditional grocers, Meijer has the further task of balancing its food and GM categories to ensure customers are getting exactly what they need. “That’s another area where the customer will define that for us,” Doug affirms.
Meijer’s store leadership structure defines responsibilities over each category, and it’s up to each store to drive its individual business.
“I don’t know if we do have a balance,” Symancyk says. “I think most customers walk in our door with their grocery list, their needs for the week being the primary driver of that trip. What we really look to do in general merchandise is to have the right assortment, the right value on those things that they need. Then, that we’re really paying attention to deliver good, better best in a way that truly surprises and delights customers who are in our store. We love the idea that someone is going to be at a dinner party or a ballgame, and be asked the question, ‘Where did you get that?’ and the answer is Meijer, and the reaction is, ‘Wow, I didn’t know Meijer had that.’ That’s really a big driver of our general merchandise strategy.”