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Format Agility Helps Brookshire Brothers Meet Community Needs


Brookshire Brothers expanded its super­market count by five and convenience operations by six stores over the last year. Jerry Johnson, president and CEO, uses the word “vibrant” to describe the state of the Lufkin-based company, and 2014 looks promising as well. Projects include rebuilding an Apple Springs facility destroyed last year and incorporating a North Texas chain into the company.PRO HOUSTON BBros logos

Jerry Johnson
Jerry Johnson

“We currently have plans to add two new ground-up locations, replace one existing store that burned on Thanksgiving Day, remodel seven, in addition to welcoming the David’s group into our organization,” he said. “Improving existing operations and executing on our acquisitions are priorities.”

Brookshire Brothers doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to its stores. Each is tailored to reflect and provide for the community it serves. The employee-owned company operates seven different concepts under the Brookshire Brothers, B&B Foods, Brookshire Brothers Express, Cormie’s, Polk Pick It Up and Tobacco Barn banners.

Its “standard” supermarkets operating under the Brookshire Brothers and B&B Foods banners measure an average of 14,250 s.f. Offerings include fresh meat and produce and some locations have a pharmacy as well, but no deli-bakery.

PRO HOUSTON BrookshireBros04 Deli
Contemporary Brookshire Brothers stores offer
in-store bakery and delis.

“Contemporary” supermarkets add to the standard format with in-store bakery-delis and pharmacies in most locations. These stores, operated under the Brookshire Brothers banner, average 35,500 s.f.

Also operating under the Brookshire Brothers banner are “next generation” supermarkets. The contemporary supermarket concept is enhanced in these stores, which average 14,250 s.f., to focus on fresh department offerings and forward-looking trends, Johnson told The Shelby Report.

Brookshire Brothers Express and Cormie’s stores are convenience-supermarket hybrids averaging 8,700 s.f. They offer both convenience and traditional supermarket offerings with a focus on relevancy to the “fill-in” shopper looking for a shopping alternative to larger box and dollar-type formats.

Polk Pick It Up is a traditional convenience concept. These stores average 3,000 s.f.

Meanwhile, standalone pharmacies operate in areas where the company may or may not have a supermarket presence and average 2,000 s.f.

The company’s Tobacco Barn format averages 900 s.f. and offers discount tobacco products in stores designed for the convenience customer.

The concepts cover the gamut to ensure shoppers have a choice.

“We customize stores to match the uniqueness of the communities we serve,” Johnson said. “This format agility is a key differentiator for us across our market area, which extends west to Wimberley and north to Tatum, Texas, east to Lake Charles, La., and south to Ganado, Texas.”

Expansion grows not only the company, but communities as well.

“When we commit to a community, we not only provide the infrastructure of a store, the employees we hire in those communities have an opportunity to become an owner of the company,” Johnson said. “As Brookshire Brothers achieves success, so do those employee owners. With this approach, Brookshire Brothers’ success has a direct impact on the economic development in the communities we serve.”

Brookshire Brothers carefully selects the areas where it will grow, looking for “the right cultural fit,” he said. “When we go into a community, we are thoughtful in our approach, developing strategic partnerships focused on the community as a whole,” Johnson said. “We will aggressively continue to identify opportunities that align with our core values and create an exceptional shopping experience for our customers.”

In this way, Brookshire Brothers continues to grow not only in southeast Texas, but across The Lone Star State.

“The pending acquisition of the assets of David’s Supermarkets is indicative of our commitment to expanding the celebration of family and community and represents our entrance into a new market territory in North-Central Texas where we will add the David’s, David’s Express and Pecan Foods banners to our portfolio of consumer solution offerings.”

Johnson believes it takes more than a physical presence to attract shoppers today.

“Customers want more than stores. They want a relationship with our company on equal terms,” he said. “We recognize that and are making investments in marketing, procurement and information technology to increase collaboration within our company, with our suppliers and most importantly with our customers. These initiatives enable us to increase the speed at which we create value for our customers.”

Brookshire Brothers is monitoring feedback as it tests bulk items.

Agility also is apparent in the company’s willingness to experiment. For example, it is testing bulk offerings and monitoring consumer feedback.

The company also continues to develop prepared offerings made on- and off-site, Johnson said. It is the area where Brookshire Brothers is seeing the fastest growth.

New Brookshire Brothers locations and those that are remodeled have linear footage and variety in fresh produce, Johnson said.

Brookshire Brothers plans to continue to offer more private label products as well. Johnson said that will be a “primary developmental focus” for the company over the next several years.

PRO HOUSTON BrookshireBros01 produce
Newer or remodeled Brookshire Brothers stores get extra linear footage and variety
in fresh produce.

“We believe that uniqueness in store brands builds loyalty, and we are committed to innovating throughout the store to meet the evolving needs of the consumer of today and tomorrow,” he said. “As our customers’ needs continue to evolve, so will our private label program.”

The company’s future prospects are good in part because of the promise in the regions it serves, Johnson said.

“While we expect challenges with economic conditions in our marketplace, we remain very optimistic about Texas and Louisiana as a whole,” Johnson said. “We feel that both states offer excellent growth opportunity based on underlying economic foundations.”

Nearly 30 grocery stores to open in 2014

The Houston Business Journal, citing information from Wulfe & Co., reports that 28 new grocery stores are planned in Houston for 2014 alone. The city’s strong job growth, with the addition of about 82,000 new jobs in a recent 12-month period and a projected 70,000 new jobs this year is a strong draw, Wulfe & Co. said.

Austin-based Whole Foods Market will complete four stores in the Houston market. Phoenix, Ariz.-based Sprouts Farmers Market will open one and The Kroger Co. will open three stores and expand one location.

Aldi, which last year opened about half of the 30 stores it has planned for Houston, will add 10 more this year and break ground on a 650,000-s.f. distribution center and divisional headquarters in Rosenberg.

Trader Joe’s moved into Houston in 2012. This year, the specialty grocer will open two more stores in the market.

The Wulfe & Co. report says that H-E-B will open five new stores this year. The San Antonio-based grocery company also is looking at long-term growth in the Houston area. It has closed on land near what likely will be the largest master planned development of its kind in the Houston area as it is built out over the next two decades. The Houston Business Journal reports that Howard Hughes Corp.’s 11,400-acre Bridgeland will include not only homes, restaurants and retail stores, but also as many as eight schools and thousands of acres of parks, green space, trails and lakes.

In addition, H-E-B is planning a new Lake Jackson store at the corner of Oyster Creek and Oak drives with a tentative opening date in spring 2015.

The Fresh Market sees mixed results in Houston

North Carolina-based The Fresh Market came to Texas last year when it leased four former upscale Rice Epicurean Markets stores in Houston. It opened its first on West Holcombe, and then another on Memorial Drive last July. Last August, The Fresh Market opened the other two, one at 3745 Westheimer in the River Oaks area and the other on San Felipe Street.

During its March 6 fourth quarter and full fiscal year earnings call, The Fresh Market announced that it will close the River Oaks store, which is located less than two miles from the San Felipe store. That close proximity weighed on their profitability, said Craig Carlock, CEO, president and director of The Fresh Market.

PRO The Fresh Market River Oaks
The Fresh Market is closing its
River Oaks location.

The company also is closing three stores it opened in the Sacramento, Calif., area in 2012 and 2013. One, in Roseville, was the company’s first foray into California.

Carlock said that in other markets, like Chicago and Atlanta, the company built its presence gradually. But in Houston and Sacramento, the company tried to “give ourselves a jump start in the markets and accelerate brand building by opening several stores in a relatively short period of time.”

That did not allow the company time to get to know local tastes, train its employee base as carefully as it should have or to build the brand through word-of-mouth publicity, Carlock said.

As a result of the new California stores in particular as well as the new Texas locations dragging down corporate profits, The Fresh Market is refining its real estate process, Carlock said. As the company seeks “more predictable future results,” he said The Fresh Market will take a more cautious approach to entering new major metropolitan markets, and instead focus on existing marketing expansion as the company slows the pace of openings west of the Mississippi for now.

The company will open 23 to 25 stores in 2014, and no more than five will be in Texas or California, Carlock said. One will be in the Houston. The company previously announced plans to open in the Houston suburb of Webster in the Baybrook Village Shopping Center. The other three stores will open in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The deals for these stores were struck in 2012.

This market profile by Terrie Ellerbee, associate editor, also appears in the April print edition of The Shelby Report of the Southwest.



















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