Like so many other independent grocers, Delaware Supermarkets Inc. – owned and operated by the Kenny family – continues to face challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wilmington, Delaware-based company owns and operates six ShopRite stores in the state and has been a member of supermarket cooperative Wakefern Food Corp. since 1995.
According to Melissa Kenny, a second-generation grocer and EVP of Delaware Supermarkets Inc., the company has experienced some staffing and supply chain challenges, but “customers will find our stores stocked and staffed,” she said.
She expressed her thanks to the company’s employees and shoppers for their patience and understanding.
“While there may be limited availability of some items, we are confident that our customers will find everything they need, thanks in large part to our strong relationships with vendor partners, local growers and suppliers,” Kenny said.
The challenges brought by the pandemic also turned into some new opportunities for the company, as it turned to local businesses that were also being impacted.
“We worked with restaurants, bakeries and other vendors to get their products into our stores, stocking soups, pastas, bakery goods and other products from businesses that were forced to shut down early in the pandemic,” Kenny said.
Good communication helps retain customers and may help attract new ones. Kenny said DSI’s ShopRite stores connect with customers in store and through a circular, along with Price Plus club loyalty cards, the ShopRite app, digital coupons and store brands like Bowl & Basket, Wholesome Pantry and Paperbird, “all of which offer top value at low prices.”
“We also believe strongly in connecting with the communities where our stores operate and where we work and live,” Kenny said. “We live and work here and our associates know our customers. Our family, stores and associates also support dozens of local, nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving and investing in sustainability, education and the well-being of our communities.”
Kenny serves as chair of the Kenny Family Foundation Board of Directors. The nonprofit has donated more than $2.3 million to more than 1,000 charitable groups in New Castle County through micro-grants and partnerships, she said.
Recipient organizations feed hungry neighbors, care for the elderly, educate children and enrich lives through the arts and humanities, she added.
Online demand surges
Another impact from the pandemic was seeing demand for Delaware Supermarkets Inc.’s online service “skyrocket,” Kenny said. The increase prompted the company to add capacity and expand its online services to its entire coverage area.
Two additional pop-up ShopRite from Home locations were implemented at stores and have since been made permanent, said Kenny, adding that Delaware Supermarkets Inc. continues to add capacity through its online shopping service by working with Shipt and DoorDash to expand delivery options.
“We are really proud of our online shopping service, ShopRite from Home,” she said. “Specially-trained associates personally shop online orders in store and we offer in-store pick-up, as well as curbside pick-up and home delivery for online orders.”
Technology making a difference
In addition to upgrading its online services, DSI is using technology to improve customer service and focus on sustainability.
The Kenny Family ShopRite stores have added self-checkout/fast lanes to address customer demand and meet the company’s goal to provide the “best possible checkout experience.”
“New technology and upgrades at the front-end offer our customers a more open and convenient layout as they checkout and leave the store,” Kenny said. “We embrace technology that helps our customers have a better shopping experience but also understand the importance of personal service. That is why customer service associates are available to help customers at checkout, and customers can still be rung up by an associate.”
She said they also are keeping some lanes for traditional checkout and noted that no jobs are being eliminated by the self-checkout stations. Delaware Supermarkets Inc. continues to hire for both front-end and many other positions at all its ShopRite stores, Kenny said.
Many ShopRite stores are individually owned and operated and the decision to convert to self-checkout in the Delaware stores was made by the Kenny family and Delaware Supermarkets Inc. The same does not apply to other ShopRite stores.
Sustainability in its stores and communities is a big focus for DSI teams. The company uses energy-efficient lighting and refrigerated cases in its stores and has programs in place to maximize recycling and reduce waste and water usage at retail.
“Our Delaware Supermarkets Inc. was one of the first retailers in the state to join the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, a decade ago, with a focus on more fresh food donations to local food banks and composting at retail to reduce waste headed to landfills,” Kenny said.
Sustainability and environmental stewardship also is important to Kenny personally. She joined Keep Delaware Beautiful – a chapter of Keep America Beautiful – in 2019 as a founding board member. She also is a member of the Delaware Energy Leaders Roundtable and has served on Wakefern Food Corp.’s Environmental Committee for several years. She also serves as vice chair for the Delaware Food & Farm Policy Council, under the direction Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse.
Delaware Supermarkets Inc. was founded by Bernie Kenny, Melissa’s father, and he serves as chairman of the company’s board. Her brother, Chris Kenny, serves as president and CEO.
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