Last updated on July 11th, 2023 at 10:12 am
Brad Brookshire, chairman and CEO of Brookshire Grocery Co., shared some thoughts on the industry with The Shelby Report of the Southwest during the recent FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando, Florida.
While supply chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic have improved, Brookshire noted they’re “not 100-percent resolved.” Problems with out-of-stock items remain.
“It’s a lot better than it was, but when you see empty shelves as you walk around the store, it’s still a concern,” he said.
Labor issues were unpredictable and created uncertainty during the pandemic, Brookshire said. And while the company would welcome more employees, it is in good shape in several areas.
BGC has had a driver training program in place for a number of years. It trains forklift operators to become truck drivers. In the difficult-to-staff deli/bakery area, the company has instituted in-house training for positions including meat cutters and cake decorators.
“Filling these positions is a challenge. It takes a unique talent,” Brookshire said.
He added that a few stores are fully staffed, but he sees labor as an ongoing challenge. “I don’t expect labor issues to improve significantly anytime soon.”
As for inflation, Brookshire said while it has “eased up to some degree,” ongoing issues such as supply chain and weather affecting produce prices remain. He also noted the increased cost of eggs after an outbreak of Avian flu. “It’s difficult to know what the next wave may be.”
Looking at trends in the industry, online shopping will continue to grow. While it has dipped some following COVID, Brookshire said it likely will become more popular as younger consumers start having families. “They’re very comfortable with the digital experience,” he added.
However, brick-and-mortar locations aren’t going anywhere as people enjoy the social aspect of shopping at a grocery store.
Brookshire noted that the rising costs of construction make it more difficult to build new stores. “There are still going to be new stores…but probably not on the level of the past. It’s just going to be more challenging to build from the ground up.”
BGC is opening two new stores – in Bossier City and Shreveport, Louisiana – on Feb. 10 and March, respectively.
In March 2022, a Fresh by Brookshire’s store opened in Fate, Texas. According to Brookshire, it has been well received by the community. The company’s design team is looking at how to tweak the model of future stores. The company’s first Fresh by Brookshire’s opened in 2011 in Tyler, Texas.
“We’re not 100 percent sure where the next one will be, but it won’t be 11 years until the next Fresh store opens,” he said. “It’s been a good learning experience for us.”
In August 2022, BGC opened a Super 1 Foods store in Jacksonville, Texas, and in May opened a Spring Market in Blanchard, Louisiana. The company has been remodeling several of its stores, reinvesting some of the revenue gains from the pandemic.
“It gives customers a better shopping experience and our employee-partners a nicer place to work, and it makes the community proud,” Brookshire said.
He added that BGC will be on a “better pace” going forward for updating its stores.
Technology is another trend that is not slowing down. “We have more projects than ever on the drawing board,” he said.
In conclusion, Brookshire said BGC must ultimately provide a great shopping experience and make it unique, along with clean stores staffed by friendly people.