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E-Commerce At Core Of Hy-Vee’s Expansion Southward

Randy Edeker

Jeremy Gosch was named sole CEO of Hy-Vee, The Shelby Report of the Midwest’s 2022 Retailer of the Year, at the beginning of 2023 following a six-month shuffle. 

In July 2022, the company announced that he and Aaron Wiese would serve as co-CEOs. That changed when Wiese was named president of Hy-Vee Healthcare. Another longtime Hy-Vee executive, Donna Tweeten was named president, the first woman to hold that position in the company’s history.

“It’s really a way to get all the synergies, all the powers of our health and our brands together,” said Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s executive director and executive chairman of its board. “We’ve really transformed the face of Hy-Vee over the last 10 years, and I’m proud of that fact.”

Hy-Vee announced last year plans to move into the Southeast with stores in Louisville, Kentucky, and Spring Hill, Tennessee. It also will be opening its first store in Indiana. 

In a previous article, Edeker shared the company’s plans to eventually move into Alabama. However, he noted at the time that construction has been delayed due to rising building costs, as well as the scope of the project.

Approaching e-commerce has been Hy-Vee’s opening move for new markets. The company has been using its platforms to introduce its brand in areas that don’t have stores. 

“We’ve got plans, eventually, to have a distribution center down [South]. But we’ll start out in the early phases distributing from our current footprint. So we’ll just be transporting product down there,” Gosch explained. 

“But we will open with a micro-fulfillment center with e-commerce – both pickup and ship to home – throughout the region before brick-and-mortar hits. It’s exciting for us to get down there and get going.”

Hy-Vee’s marketing has developed a multipronged strategy to get the grocer’s name out there, Edeker said. In 2022, the chain held the first INDYCAR race weekend in its home state of Iowa. The race drew more than 80,000 fans.

The weekend was the brainchild of Edeker, who along with the company’s marketing team, saw it as a way to promote the company’s e-commerce platforms. They are now taking that same idea and applying it to more races across the INDYCAR circuit. 

“We’ve really activated around the race. We’re going to do more of that in August when [there is a race] in Nashville,” Edeker said. “You’ll also see us in Indianapolis, activating Indianapolis with the Indianapolis 500. 

“We’ve run the entire INDY series. Three of those races happen in Indianapolis. One of those races happens just over the line in Wisconsin. So you start to look at where the races are actually held…there’s a lot of focus and attention in the town as we’re [there].”

Hy-Vee also is activating its Disaster Recovery Fleet, which comprises 26 trucks to help communities that have been affected by natural disasters. 

“We decided disaster relief is a critical part of [activating a new market]. You go out and you do good for the community when you don’t have to. And we think that pays benefits in a lot of ways…how people think about us, where we put our time and effort and, of course, we’re helping the people in the community we want to be a part of.”

The grocer also is hoping to expand its “fresh meal replacement store” format, Fast and Fresh and its dollar format store, Dollar Fresh. 

The 7,000- to 10,000-square-foot Fast and Fresh stores will go ahead of the e-commerce strategy, Edeker said. They also act as “outposts” alongside the upcoming 135,000-square-foot retail sites. 

Edeker didn’t offer additional details on when or where these would occur, just that “it’s all part of our e-commerce strategy on the backside.”

(Editor’s note: Jan Meade of Shelby Publishing attended the recent FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando, Florida, where she caught up with Randy Edeker and Jeremy Gosch of West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee’s leadership team. Her interview was compiled by Shelby’s Jack Jordan.)

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