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Service, price and productivity remain key to growth.

Joe bonfiglio, assistant director, Super Fresh Food Markets, Devin, Pa.: Competing with other supermarkets is the challenge we will have to face in 1985. Since we went over to Super Fresh, we are doing very well. We have taken this growth opportunity to expand our departments. This year we will have a fresh fish department and an in-store bakery. In fact, we are remodeling the entire store. Remodeling costs money, but you have to spend that kind of money if you are gong to stay competitive. While expanding aggressivly, we also have to be price-conscious and competitive. We have to keep our present customers and look for new ones by being more attractive than the next store. Our sales people will have the challenge of coming up with good programs to help us to grow in the community. We're going to make it, because our company has the foresight to take every opportunity to make this store an attractive place for the consumer.

Bob Romanowitz, manager, Mac's IGA, Miles City, Mont.: I see 1985 as more competitive and the challenge will be maintaining profit margins. It's a real tough business, and I don't see any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It's going to get tougher to make a profit for several reasons. There isn't any industry here, and the agriculture is depressed. We lost a couple of railroads, too. The opportunity, as I see it, is to work harder, be sharper and more competitive. This is a tight money market, and there are just so many people and just so many dollars to go around. We have the opportunity to go after out fair share.

Eugene S. Kay, owner, Michaels IGA Super Market, Washington, D.C.: As a Korean-American, I see many opportunities for other Korean-Americans who are coming into this industry. Right now, there are 400 or more medium-size supermarkets and convenience stores that are operated and owned by Korean-Americans. In 1985, and in the years that follow, we will have more opportunities to grow. Some of the wholesalers believe that eventually the Korean-American will operate most of the independent grocery stores in this area, and we have been greatly encouraged by their recognition of our efforts and abilities. Our opportunities are only limited by our imaginations. The challenges we face are real ones. Running a store is a challenge. The operational costs are great, and everybody in the supermarket business needs a cash flow, and a good, strong relationship with the financial world. This is not easy for us, because we have not been in business that long. Also, many Forean-Americans are operating stores in undesirable, high-crime areas. In the low-crime areas, we have met some strong prejudice against Koreans owning a business. So between high-crime, prejudice, and money, we have plenty of challenges. But, most importantly, we have opportunities in America that are fantastic.

Gary Young, owner, Gary's Super Valu, Memphis, Mo.: Until we can get some new agricultural programs from Washington, D.C., we're going to be pretty set in our inability to increase sales in this part of rural Missouri. The challenge for us is survival. Our whole economy is tied to the agricultural programs in Washington. Twenty percent of America is directly tied into agriculture; the rest don't know they are. I guess there are always opportunities. We're going to make it, but I think we're going to make it better when Americans start pulling together. There's opportunity for all of us if we realize that first.

Vaughn Callaway, owner, Callaway Brothers Food Savers, Bridgeville, Del.: The challenge for 1985 will be to maintain the stronghold that we have in the communities we serve. We have three stores in communities very much like this one. You have to know your community and its economy. There is only so much business that you can do in a given community. You have to realize this and then try to maximize your profitability by running your operation carefully while, at the same time, making your store as attractive as possible. There are a lot of determining factors in our business. Success is not always determined by the way you run your business, and how you handle the perils of inventory. It is also governed by population and demographic shifts, and employment. You encounter all of these factors, and you have to be sensitive to them. You have to keep your own work force employed. We have met this challenge in the past, and plan to meet this challenge in 1985. We have the opportunity to stay in business by providing services that will keep our customers coming back. We have the opportunities to satisfy our customers with quality and a variety of products that will be responsive to their buying habits. We have opportunities in pricing and in increasing our emphasis on customer satisfaction. The opportunities for customer service are almost endless, and we must understand this if we are to stay in business.

Rick Rouse, manager, Ken's Super Duper, London, Ohio: Competition is probably the biggest challenge we will see in 1985. There are some stores that have non-competitive locations; but for the ones that don't live in that kind of rose garden, competition will get together. We're looking not only at competitive pricing, but competition for productive employees, and matching of salaries. Competing against a store which is willing to absorb the cost of double couponing will be another big challenge. There will be many opportunities for the independent to be sharper, to manage better, and to innovate. That may sound like a challenge, but I look at it as an opportunity for continued growth.

Tom Thompson, night stock manager, Rainbow Foods, West St. Paul, Minn.: The challenge, as I see it for 1985, is to keep the fantastic image that we have as a warehouse store. This is a beautiful store. It's first class. There isn't anything in this store that is left to chance. Our facings are full, we have a European flower market, an in-store bakery, a fresh sausage department, a deli kitchen, parcel pick up, bag assistance, a video store, a complete natural food section, and fresh homemade pizzas. This store is so beautiful that some of our customers don't realize that we are a warehouse operation. Applebaum's has always been known for quality, and they sure put the emphasis on quality when they went into warehouse merchandising. I see 1985 as a year of both opportunities and challenges by keeping our stores attractive and by offering services seldom seen in a warehouse operation.

Craig Waldrom, manager, Safeway, Tremonton, Utah: I see the challenge as one of keeping pace with the growing market place. In the past 12 years' I've seen changes in ordring and merchandising. People are reticent to change, and I believe the most difficult part of any change is to convince your employees that the changes are for the better. That alone can be quite a challenge. The opportunities, on the other hand, are unlimited. Just about anything the mind can conceive the body can achieve. With a positive attitude from upper management on down to the box boy at store level, you can tackle every opportunity and meet every challenge.

Ron Gambrel, manager, Red & White, Fairfield, Ill.: We're just putting the finishing touches on our bakery-deli. For me, that is a great opportunity to bring a new service into our store and to make us more competitive. If you don't do things like this, your customers will find stores that do. My biggest challenge for 1985 will be to enlarge our store and make it more profitable through productivity gains and increased sales. We're offering the consumer one-stop shopping in 1985, and we're going to have to sell the idea to the public and back it up when customers walk into the store.

Leon Hickman, grocery manager, Valu Food, Ellicott City, Md.: Our opportunities have never been better. We're on our way up. The whole chain is experiencing a strong growth. Our challenge was to get the business, and we have done that by being courteous to both customers and employees. If you can create a happy working relationship with your employees, you will create a happy atmosphere in your store. We have that kind of atmosphere, and the customers keep coming back. Prices are important, but not as important as they were a few years ago. They have tended to stabilize over the past few years, along with the economy. Consumers' attitudes have changed. Today, they are looking for courteous service, although they are still price-conscious. Our challenge is to meet the competition in every area, and to find ways to be better. We are in a tough, competitive area, and we're winning. The competition studies our ads, and we study theirs. We not only want to be number one, but we want to expand while staying on top. That's challenge for everybody in the chain in 1985, and in the years to come.

Mike Miller, owner, Mike's Red Owl, St. Charles, Minn.: The challenge I see for our store--a small store compared to some of the larger warehouse and chain operations--is to keep a low price image. We're between Rochester and Winona, and competition is 30 miles in either direction. The stores in those areas advertise in this area. That's a challenge. We're expanding. That's another challenge. We are trying to build, meet the interest payments, increase our customer count, pay higher costs for materials and labor and then show a profit! That's about all the challenges I can handle in 1985. The opportunities are coming from the new, young families that are moving, raising families and settling down. We've got an opportunity to smother them with service.

Jake Bender, manager, Randall Foods, Dubuque, Iowa: There's no end to the opportunities. We're finally out of the slump and America's on the move again. I wish I was 25 years younger. I'd start with one store and, within 10 years, I'd have 30. I started in 1945 and unfortunately, I didn't start with a great company like Randall's, where the opportunities for growth are in abundance. There are opportunities to continue our excellent management-employee relationship. We have a union store, but we also are a family. That's an opportunity for a lot of people, if they see it. Every department offers a merchandising opportunity, but you have to be willing to work at it. I guess the challenge would be the willingness to give your company your best. Everything else in an opportunity.

Jim Forberg, manager, Colonial IGA Market, Mystic, Conn.: I feel that the biggest challenge is going to be keeping a high level of service for our customers. People are being enticed to shop in warehouse stores and superstores. With the high level of service that we give to our customers. I'm certain that we will be able to maintain what will keep us on top of the market. I think the opportunities for the independent grocer in this area will be in the addition of new departments, new equipment, and continued training of our employees, so that we will maintain the high level of service that we have always set as a standard of excellence. We will have to add to the varieties found in superstore, but on a smaller scale. We wil have to add new and attractive cases and expand our selection in the salad bar and deli areas, in order to attract new customers in this commuter area. I believe if we upgrade our departments--one at a time--we can keep pace and maintain our level of business in this area.

Bob Bell, manager, Valu Supermarket, Louisville, Ky.: The opportunities and challenges are great. In ethnic, gourmet and health foods we have the opportunities to expand all of our lines to meet the new demands of our customers. People are getting more and more into a variety of foods and that is always an opportunity. I started as a bagger when I was a kid. At that time, I didn't know about opportunities as much as I knew about stocking and sweeping the floors. The opportunity to watch and help your employees to grow is a very special one for me but the list of opportunities is endless. The only challenges I can think of are meeting your margins and staying ahead of the competition.

Bob Purrington, owner, Rexburg Food Center, Rexburg, Idaho: The opportunities look great. This is a farm area--mostly potatoes--and last year was a good one for the farmers, which helps everybody in the area. We also have a new state tourist program. We're very close to Yellowstone National Park and we see thousands of tourists in this area every summer. As long as people have money and are happy, a grocer has lots of opportunities to keep them smiling. The challenge is to train your employees to understand the necessity of keeping the customers happy. Happy customers are good customers and good customers make your challenges easier and your opportunities greater.

Mike Laurenti, store manager, Shop-Rite, Hamilton Township, N.J.: I believe the opportunities for 1985 include meeting customer demands through careful investments in newer equipment and larger stores. We have a lot of Spanish clientele, so we are investing in ethnic products to meet the opportunity to serve these customers. We're moving in the direction of in-store pharmacies, bakeries, self-service frozen fish, and possibly, a fresh fish department. The challenges for 1985 will be with labor and management. Wakefern, our headquarters in Elizabeth, N.J., has already started a human resources unit, and we are training management in more effective labor relationships. If we are going to grow and prosper together as a team, we can't have negative feelings of distrust. People in the stores should feel comfortable coming to management with their problems without fearing that their jobs may be in jeopardy; and, in turn, labor will have to want to do a good job, to be conscientious and dependable, so we can prosper together. I believe we are going in the direction, and I believe that the big challenge will be growth in labor management relations.

Mike Mitchell, assistant manager, Niemann Foods, Keokuk, Iowa: To answer the opportunity part of the question in depth, I believe it will depend on who wants to be aggressive, and who will be responsive to his customers' needs. Those are the opportunities. The challenges will come from setting realistic goals for growth and going after them. The old adage for success, 'Plan your work and work your plan," still applies. If you don't become well disciplined and work a plan--daily, weekly or monthly--you're not going to meet the challenges of the highs and Iows of our economy. I carry a notebook 100% of the time and write down what I have to do each day in it. It's up to me to see that my work is done and done properly. Those are basic daily challenges. If you take care of the little challenges, the big challenges will become routine.

Craig Erb, grocery manager, Giant Foods, Lancaster, Pa.: Personal spending is up. We want to respond to this opportunity by maintaining an attractive store, any by offering bonus-buy items that will give the customer an opportunity for some real savings. Our company has installed a bakery in each of the stores, and now we have the opportunity to offer fresh baked goods at attractive prices. We also hav deli departments that are new and attractive. To offer an item at the right price, or to have an attractive bonus-buy program, means that your opportunities for customer satisfaction are almost unlimited. To me, every day is an opportunity to please a customer. The labor challenges are changing. The unions are getting out of this business. We now have the opportunities to create more part-time jobs for more people, thereby helping the economy. It's a challenge to meet the schedules of so many part-timers, but it's worth the effort. We're now able to help more high school students with after-school jobs, and we're also able to help those who are just looking for part-time work.

Larry McConnel, assistant manager, dick's, Platteville, Wis.: We've continued to grow ever since this store was opened. The challenge for 1985 will be to continue increasing our customer count and growth. We're getting involved with Scan Lab, which I understand will analyze shel allocations and shelf allocation profitability. This is a tremendous opportunity to improve our P and L statement. We will be working on this program throughout 1985. it's unbelievable what you can do with the right information. It's hard to believe what we did before scanners. Our target program is another challenge-opportunity situation. We target our labor hours to our projected sales for productivity increases. This is fascinating company. It is progressive and innovative and i believe I have a great opportunity to grow just by being here.

Ray Jerman, owner, Jerman's IGA Foodliner, Gambrills, Md.: For 1985, I see opportunities for any independent grocer to run a clean store, with the rightprices and courteous service. I believe that anybody who can do that will do well. The challenges that are facing many independents are the increases in shopping centers and the increases in chain stores that are being built in many areas. The solution will have to be an increase in aggresiveness. The independent will have to think about adding on stores. if he has one store, he must look at the possbilities of opening another. If he has four, he should consider opening a fith. We're out in the country, and we have to find ways to keep our customers down on the farm for their shopping. We can meet the challenge of the city or suburban shopping center by offering broader lines and by understanding our customer's needs.

John Forster, manager, Key Market, Evansville, Ind.: I see challenges and opportunities pretty much as the same item. We have both opportunities and challenges to make a profit and compete successfully. Our city is changing from an industrial area to a service area. This is going to mean a change in the customer demographics as people come and go. We also are seeing different types of community living from homes to apartments. The challenge will be for us to keep up with those changes as they take place. The opportunity will be to serve our customers well, no matter what the community changes create in our area.

Keith Nash, number three manager, Overland Thirft Market Inc., St. Charles, Mo.: The challenges will be in the areas of customer service and competition. As an independent, we're just going to have to work harder to compete with the bigger chains. Employee productivity is another challenge. That's an everyday challenge. We have opportunities though, and they are good ones. We're not so large that we can't create the atmosphere of the friendly neighborhood store. We can do that by saying "hello" to our customers in every way possible. Price is important and we're OK in that area; so we will have to work overtime on service. I think we can do it. We're working at it now.

Wayne Wahl, manager, Leevers Super Valu, Jamestown, N.D: There are opportunities in this industry for anybody who is willing to work. I would say the challenge for 1985 will be to keep up and improve on customer relations and service programs. Finding and hiring the right people--the ones who willingly work because they want to grow with us--is also a challenge. Another challenge is for management to motivate the employees properly. When you compete against three warehouse stores, and you are the only service store in town, you just know every day of 1985 will be a challenge with pricing. However, we also have unlimited opportunities for service.

Jim Knox, assistant manager, A & P, Hillsborough, N.J.: I believe we will always have opportunities and challenges with our customers. We have opportunities to be responsive to their wants and needs, and we have challenges in meeting those demands. For example, we just installed a fresh fish section and a cheese section. Consumer response to both sections has been phenomenal. Keeping the consumer happy will be a challenge that every supermakret will have to face in 1985. Every department will have to stay on top of new trends and new items. It's important to know about new items, whether or not you can get them, and how soon you will be able to have them on the shelf. As competition becomes more intense, so will the challenge of keeping the customer happy.

Shan Meadows, assistant manager, Harts Big Bear, Reynoldsburg, Ohio: There is an abundance of challenges as we see more and more warehouse operations coming into the area. As a conventional supermarket with full service, our situation becomes more competitive in terms of maintaining customers and maintaining our gross margins. I believe we have the opportunity to learn how to cut our costs, but not our service. This store is a good example. Recently, we remodeled and expanded our retail floor space. We have all of the equipment to make this store an attractive place to shop. The real challenge is up to management and employees to consistently do our best for both customers and company.
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Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Jan 1, 1985
Words:3563
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