Last updated on August 16th, 2012 at 12:08 pm[gn_note color=”#66cc66″] The 2012 Southern California Profile originally ran in the March 2012 edition of The Shelby Report of the West. The profile will be published on theshelbyreport.com one month after it has run in print. [/gn_note]
The marketplace is constantly evolving, and nowhere is that more evident than in Southern California. Sue Klug, president of the Albertsons Southern California division of Supervalu, says consumers have changed how, why, where and when they buy. As a result, grocers are merchandising differently. She tells The Shelby Report about her company’s “hyper-local” campaign involving tailored itemization based on the customer demographics a store serves.
SK: Hyper-local is based on empowering every store director to do the right thing, to serve the guests in his or her marketplace. And we invested a tremendous amount of time and energy into that in 2011. So, for example, if we’re in a college environment—we have several stores that primarily serve college students—that store is merchandised incredibly different, the services we offer are different, the hours we operate are different, the portion sizes we offer are different.
SR: It’s taking neighborhood marketing to the next level?
SK: Yes, it is. If a store were predominantly male, there are some things we would do differently, as we would if it were predominantly senior, or we have a lot of young families, or we have lot of Chinese Americans or Korean Americans. There are many iterations of that…lifestyles, life stages, demographics—it all plays into it.
SR: What do you want consumers, when they think about Albertsons, to come away with? We’ve been seeing some commercials regarding “fresh.”
SK: One of the things that’s always been tough in this market is there’s a great degree of sameness among all the chains, and people visit the various competitors and don’t see a large deal of difference. We think fresh is an important difference that makes the difference, if you will, with guests at large. It’s a megatrend. It’s here to stay and it can be a differentiator—we believe in that.
Having said that, I think this hyper-local thing is a really big deal so, yes, I understand that you’re going to have fresh product—but let’s say I’m a senior. I always want to know that you’re going to have the right kind of products that I’m looking for in the right portion sizes, on signs that are big enough for me to read, with benches in the store that allow me to sit down and rest as I’m shopping. All of those things are going to be really important. “Fresh” is an umbrella that we think makes sense, an important point of difference, as is the notion of really catering to the local neighborhoods we serve.
We’re going to build on that (this year), and our store directors are getting better and better all the time at figuring that out. Because, honestly, at first they thought it was all about the product, just having the product. But it goes well beyond that. Referring back to the example with the seniors, it also goes to a team member of ours who’s willing to pay a little extra attention. You know, “Oh, Bob, it’s great to see you again, how’s your leg, how was your daughter’s visit?” It’s so much more than just the product. It’s the whole experience that makes someone feel welcome.
SR: How do you teach employees this, get the message to them?
SK: The store director is the one who has to drive that. Let me go now to a college store. College kids don’t want to talk, have that conversation at the checkout (they typically prefer self-checkout), and they’re going to want smaller package sizes probably as well. They’re going to want to use technology in ways that seniors perhaps would not be interested in. They want different music in the stores; they want us to communicate with them in different ways. And I can’t sit here in Fullerton and say this is a senior store, this is a college store, this is a Hispanic store. I can’t do that. We rely on the store director and, in the example of college stores, we say hire from the school (college/university) because they understand, they’re going to intuitively understand. We think hiring from the community is a big way to drive that local relevance.
SR: Switching gears a bit, you’re excited about Supervalu’s diverse workforce initiative. Tell us about that.
SK: It relates to how we best serve our guests, and I think that is through a diverse workforce and that’s something that I’m really proud of, too, for our division.
It’s not just (about) gender or age or ethnicity. It’s bringing everyone to the table and having a diverse group of people attack various issues and having that sense of inclusion where everyone has a voice. We’ve seen amazing things happen when we allowed those diverse opinions to be heard and when we’ve reacted to them appropriately. I’m really proud of the way people within our organization have stepped up to make a difference and it helped us better serve our customer base.
We call them business resource groups, we have an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), we have Asian, Hispanic, young professionals, Women’s and African American groups. And every one of them have a seat at the table and help us better serve the diverse communities that are in our marketplace. And they’re amazing.
The groups are made up of management and store team members (associates) and they come together and help us solve business challenges. They’re not compensated for that. The diversity, for me, is making sure you have that representation; the inclusion is then really letting their voices be heard. It might be 30 little things that send a very different message (to a store’s guests).
That’s one of my big passions, and for Southern California, given the diversity that we have in the marketplace, I think it’s really important. More diversity equals better results if you allow every voice to be heard. www.supervalu.com