Thanks to its team, suppliers and vendor programs it had in place – along with an independent’s ability to quickly adapt – Rouses Markets made it through the COVID-19 pandemic with an increase in sales and a shift to e-commerce, according to CEO Donny Rouse.
Rouse added that the company hasn’t fully recovered due to supply chain disruptions and inflation.
“Whenever there is a disruption in the supply chain, it throws that plan out the window and you have to start from scratch,” he said.
In facing the challenge of inflation, Rouse said the company is promoting its private label brands.
“We’re proud to put our name on them,” he said, adding they offer great quality and value. “We’ve seen a big uptick in our private label brand sales. We are also absorbing some of the inflation costs, so we don’t have to pass the costs along to our customers.”
Labor shortages continue to be a big challenge for the Louisiana-based retailer.
“We continue to offer very competitive rates across the board, as we always have,” Rouse said. “We have a very good benefits package, and we’re very flexible.”
Rouses also saw success by shifting the focus to its e-commerce program. While it “grew significantly” during the pandemic, it has declined a bit as the in-store customer count goes up and there is more foot traffic in the stores.
One of the lessons learned from the pandemic was to be “a lot more adaptable,” Rouse said. “When the pandemic really set in, there was a sudden – and, in many ways, unprecedented – rush on our stores. We scrambled to supplement the supply line.”
In an effort to further improve the customer experience, Rouses is incorporating retail digital signage in its new stores to direct customers to specific products and offers.
“With digital signage, we can change the content very quickly, which is good, because we move quickly,” Rouse said.
The company also is using its partnership with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints – as the team’s official supermarket – to benefit its customers and residents along the Gulf Coast.
The company had partnered with the Saints before COVID and is excited to do so again.
“There is a loyal Saints fan base in every market we serve across the Gulf Coast, and we built in fan and community activations and ticket giveaways for customers and team members,” Rouse said.
“We have a lot of partner initiatives with the Saints, too. I am especially proud of Tackle Hunger, which supports local food banks, food pantries and community refrigerators. The pandemic has pushed the number of families on the Gulf Coast that are food insecure even higher.”
Rouses has locations in three states – Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. More than 7,000 employees work in the company’s 64 stores – 54 in Louisiana, three on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and eight in lower Alabama
Rouse said the company will have three new stores breaking ground this year while five stores will be remodeled.
Asked if the company has plans to enlarge its footprint, Rouse didn’t give any secrets away. “We’re always looking at new opportunities,” he said.
For more information, visit rouses.com.