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Retail Weekly News

Week of 8/23/13

Below is the list of articles you will find for the week ending 8/23/13 edition of Retail Industry News.

  • Food Lion, Seeking A Differential Advantage
  • Sansolo Speaks: Learning and Growing from Mistakes
  • United Supermarkets: We Are Family
  • Bi-Lo Plans IPO
  • Whole Foods Challenges High Price Image With Sales, Selection, Sites
  • Free Admission To Walmart's Layaway Program
  • FastNewsBeat
  • Executive Suite

Thanks to MNB
for this selection of


Food Lion, Seeking A Differential Advantage

The Charlotte Observer has a long piece about the future of Delhaize-owned Food Lion, noting that new CEO Beth Newlands Campbell has to provide "clean stores, fresh produce, helpful associates and consistency from store to store," but also has as her primary goal finding ways to differentiate the company from fierce and ubiquitous competitors that include the likes of Whole Foods, Publix, Harris Teeter, Walmart and Aldi.

“There’s an imperative to set us apart,” Newlands Campbell says. “You can’t be middle of the road ... Am I a change agent? Absolutely."

You can read the whole piece here.

Sansolo Speaks: Learning and Growing from Mistakes

by Michael Sansolo

There’s a bit of wisdom passed down from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche through pop singer Kelly Clarkson. It reminds us that anything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. In many ways, it’s a great business philosophy too.

In recent weeks we’ve had discussions here on the growing challenges facing businesses from outside the usual competitive box. What’s more, for years we’ve all talked about the vicious pace of change and growing hurdles that confront everyone. Who knew that was supposed to be good news?

But in reality, it is good news.

Earlier this summer, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an excellent piece in the New Yorker on the value of struggles and failure. Gladwell, a master of discerning lessons from large tendencies, data, correlations and even happenstance, cited a number of wonderful examples of well-meaning projects that went array. And he makes a powerful argument that it was due to those unexpected challenges that solutions were found and greater achievements were made possible.

You can read the entire article here.

In other words, necessity—whether it arose through need, accident or simply poor planning—was the mother of great inventions and solutions.

Taken in that light, some of the major trials facing the food industry might well be some of the reasons for greatest optimism.

Sure, the emergence of Walmart and other non-traditional players meant numerous companies couldn’t survive, but those that did are likely stronger merchants and better at monitoring costs that ever. That makes them better able to face the challenges of the future, whether those challenges come from Amazon, Whole Foods or some force we cannot yet even identify.

There’s no two ways about it: competition makes life hard, yet it makes us better if we can survive. As Gladwell’s article also makes clear, there’s tremendous risk of stagnation when competition and challenges are absent. Anyone doubting that need only consider the increasingly uncompetitive state of individual Congressional elections.

Likewise, the growing challenges of the new economy, changing consumer demographics, altered eating habits, technologies and even government regulations make life harder from one moment to the next. But, those same challenges also have made companies more nimble, more flexible and better able to react to local market issues.

In short, it might be why a long-time industry stalwart like Kroger is so heavily praised these days because the company (and others like it) found the way to evolve and grow despite all the hardships. Who knows, in time we may even look back at failed experiments and examine all the incredible lessons they taught the industry at large.

Obviously, the goal isn’t to make mistakes, but neither is it to avoid risk. As a skating coach told me many years ago, you never learn to do anything new on ice that doesn’t involve you falling down a lot of times.

I’m thinking the same holds true for pretty much everything. It’s only a failure if we don’t learn from it. Otherwise, it makes us stronger.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here.

United Supermarkets: We Are Family

Texas-based United Supermarkets announced a name change for the parent company that it said was "the result of a strategic branding initiative for the entire organization. Moving forward, United Supermarkets, LLC will be known as The United Family ... reflecting the company’s multiple store brands as well as its rich family history."

The company said it has formed an internal Brand Stewardship Committee to help "define and articulate" the organization’s brand portfolio, which consists of 4 retail brands: United Supermarkets, Market Street, Amigos and United Express, along with its subsidiary operations, R.C. Taylor Distributing, Praters and Llano Logistics.

“The clearer we are about who we are and what we offer, the better we can stand apart from other grocery retailers ... Our goal is to create more distinct and consistent brand identities so we stay relevant to current and future guests," says Monica Schierbaum, United Family's senior marketing director.

Bi-Lo Plans IPO

Reuters reports that Bi-Lo Holdings, the ninth-largest traditional supermarket chain in the United States, is planning an initial public offering later this year and has tapped banks to lead the deal. The IPO follows a time of fast expansion for the company.

The story notes that "Bi-Lo operates 206 grocery stores throughout the southern United States under its own banner ... In late 2011, it bought supermarket chain Winn-Dixie Stores for $560 million. Winn-Dixie's 480 stores in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi continue to operate as a Bi-Lo subsidiary under the Winn-Dixie brand. In May, Bi-Lo bought 165 stores from Food Lion parent Delhaize Group for $265 million in cash."

Whole Foods Challenges High Price Image With Sales, Selection, Sites

The Wall Street Journal reports on how Whole Foods is challenging conventional wisdom about its "whole paycheck" image, "increasingly emulating the discount tactics used by traditional supermarkets ... One of the chain's latest initiatives: nationwide "flash" sales on specific items promoted on Twitter and Facebook that run for just a few hours, like a five-hour buy-one-get-one-free deal on ice cream last month. The chain also is increasing one-day sales on items like salmon, blueberries and organic chicken to 17 this fiscal year, from 14 last year."

At the same time, the story says, Whole Foods "is moving beyond the realm of grass-fed beef with more lower-priced items like frozen meatballs and vacuum-packed fish fillets," has "added more conventional fruits and vegetables at lower prices than the organic offerings," and is "opening new stores in smaller markets, suburbs and lower-income urban areas."

Free Admission To Walmart's Layaway Program

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Walmart is eliminating the $5 fee charged to customers who want to use its layaway program during the upcoming end-of-year holiday shopping season.

According to the story, "The holiday layaway program is slated to kick off Sept. 13 and will last until Dec. 13. About 35,500 items will be available, 1,000 more than a year ago. At the same time, Wal-Mart is bringing back its $10 cancellation fee that was eliminated last year."

Walmart revived its layaway program in 2011, five years after having phased it out, as a response to what it saw as a recession-driven slowdown in consumer spending.


• The Detroit Free Press has a piece about Kroger’s first Marketplace concept in Michigan, describing it as "two to three times the size of the average Kroger store you might know from the neighborhood ... In addition to groceries, the new Marketplace stores offer clothing, furniture, and a jewelry store. The format is an effort to compete with Meijer, Target, Wal-Mart and even Costco. But its focus is still on food and items for the home."

• Weis Markets announced it has expanded its Weis Online Shopping service to eight New Jersey and Pennsylvania locations. Weis Online Shopping is now offered at Weis Markets’ New Jersey stores in Newton, Franklin, Hackettstown and will be offered at its Hillsborough store when it opens on August 25. In the Delaware Valley, it is available at Weis stores located in Conshohocken, Doylestown, Lansdale and Norristown. This brings the number of Weis locations offering online shopping to 14.

Weis online Shopping is powered by MyWebGrocer.

• Bristol Farms opened its newest and 13th store yesterday, on Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, California, offering local shoppers what CEO Kevin Davis says is "all the bells and whistles of a regular Bristol Farms with an expanded everyday grocery section that allows for all of your every day shopping needs."

• In Indiana, the Star Press reports that Kroger plans to open one of its discount-driven, limited assortment Ruler Foods formats in Muncie by the end of September. The story notes that Kroger has not had a store in Muncie since it closed its unit there in 1973.

The store is the 22nd Ruler Foods to be opened by Kroger.

• New York-based Fairway Markets said yesterday that customers with hearing loss now can place orders at the Broadway store's deli counter with greater ease, thanks to the installation of a hearing loop. The hearing loop, the company says, "works with an individual's telecoil-equipped hearing instrument or cochlear implant. The person behind the deli counter will speak into a microphone that is connected to the hearing loop, which transmits the signal (speech) wirelessly to the T coil. The system blocks out ambient background noise and amplifies the clerk's voice, making everything clearer."

Fairway said that it is the first supermarket in New York City to install this technology.

Executive Suite

• The Park City Group announced that William "Bill" Wolfe is joining the company as Senior Advisor, with responsibility for developing business solutions, consulting and expanding sales efforts in the retail channel. Wolfe most recently was Chief Marketing Officer at Resource One, a private label sales and marketing company.