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Tour Showcases Grocer’s Strengths – Selection, Quality, Price

Super King

Super King Markets is well known for its produce department, which features vast quantities of well-known and lesser-known items. But that is not all that the eight Southern California locations have to offer.

For the company’s 30th anniversary, The Shelby Report of the West’s EVP Bob Reeves recently visited Super King Markets’ Anaheim store on Magnolia. Damian Valdez, VP of operations, and Harry Cherkesyan, director of grocery, led the tour.

The first impression of the store is the massive produce department. Customers crowd around the large bins of produce – massive boxes and crates.

Super King Markets

However, the glass-enclosed liquor department also draws attention. It has its own check-out station.

Valdez said the company made the decision a couple of years ago to invest in this area. “Our concept is a store within the store, where we’re giving our shoppers a unique experience when it comes to liquor.”

He said the department features many different wines and high-end liqueurs and liquors from around the world “that are really specialty items that are unique to this specific market. That’s what I think our customers enjoy. They come, and it’s almost like a treasure find.”

Cherkesyan compared the department to the duty-free section at an airport. “This is like duty free inside the store. We do an outstanding job finding items, unique items, that our customers are interested in…it’s like a toy store for adults.”

Valdez said Super King caters to all customers. “You have your high end that’s willing to spend $4,000 or $5,000 on a unique bottle, down to your average consumer that’s looking for a bargain and a deal for a party. They’re looking at our $9.99, $19.99 retails on a tequila or vodka or a scotch.”

Super King

He said Super King carries the product and inventory that many other stores don’t offer. “We care for every single customer from anywhere they come.”

Super King also offers gift boxes in its liquor department. “Liquor is a gift that keeps on giving…liquor is a universal thing that can be gifted out for the guests you’re going to visit,” Cherkesyan said. 

Super King has gift boxes supplied by the vendors, as well as its own gift packing services. “We have these nice deluxe boxes that we can package the bottles in so that you can take it with you and give out as a present,” he said. 

Cherkesyan added that they also will pack and ship the boxes for customers.

Coming out of the liquor department, shoppers can find a large selection of beer, including a variety of international brands. 

“It comes from all over the world – from Germany, from Armenia, from Poland, that’s what sets up apart. We cater to different customers, and they want to find these items,” Cherkesyan said.

In addition to traditional items, Super King’s frozen food section offers a selection of international ice creams. “We cater to different customers. This is, for them, like being home,” Cherkesyan said.

Shelves in the center store area feature overhead storage. Cherkesyan explained that this helps the company on the labor side. “We don’t have to take the product all the way back into the warehouse. We can keep our top-selling SKUs up in the overhead. It’s a lot easier and convenient for clerks to be able to fill up the shelves and maintain everything fully stocked for our customers to have a good shopping experience.”

Super King has invested in warehouse space, with two locations for the eight-store chain.

“That’s a lot of real estate when it comes to warehousing, and we’re definitely always looking for buy opportunities with the vendor community where it’ll be beneficial for both sides,” Cherkesyan said. “Not only is the pricing beneficial, but it also helps us secure inventory, especially during these turbulent times where a lot of the top selling items are scarce because of availability. It’s helped us out tremendously.

Walking to the rice section, shoppers find that Super King offers a large and varied selection.

“Our buyers, they do a very good job servicing different communities,” Cherkesyan said. “And in order for us to service them 100 percent, we bring the rice from a lot of different countries.”

The largest bags are 10 pounds, to cater to families. Super King customers do a lot of scratch cooking, eating more at home than in restaurants. They also like to buy in bulk.

“That’s why our produce department is big, because they buy big,” Cherkesyan said. “Our meat department is big. They cook from scratch.”

Super King also has its private label products. Cherkesyan said the company is “doing an excellent job on this.” Super King started its private label about 10 years ago. “It’s successful. Customers, they love it.”

The company packs the products, stores them in the warehouse and then ships to the stores. It controls the inventory. Even during the pandemic, when many stores were short on food, grain and other items, Super King didn’t run out. “We were doing our own warehousing. Private label helped us to be in business,” he said.

Private label items include water, meats, shrimp and fish. Spices are a big seller. “Our business in spice is huge,” Cherkesyan said. He noted that the company is looking to add more items under its private label.

Also found on stores shelves is a wide selection of grape leaves in several varieties, marinated tomatoes, marinated cucumbers, caviars, eggplant and olives from around the world.

Valdez said the varied selection of offerings sets Super King apart. “We encourage everybody to stop by and pick up something new and try something different. I assure you that you will not be disappointed.”

The selection of olives –from Greece, Morocco, Spain, Lebanon and Israel – takes up about 12 feet of shelf space. “We’re very big on olives. It sets up apart,” Cherkesyan said. “This whole thing will be gone this week.”

Boxed chocolates in a variety of choices are another popular item at Super King. “We try to cater to everybody. We have chocolates from all over the world,” he said.

Valdez pointed out that each Super King location is different. “Every store is unique in its own right.” Selection and quantity of products depend on the demographic a particular location is catering to.

For example, the Anaheim store has a small set of boxed chocolates, while the L.A. store has a 24-foot section of chocolate, Valdez said. “It’s a more established clientele for us there. And that store, specifically, there’s a lot of pairing with alcohol and chocolates” that many customers give as gifts.

Reaching the halva and honey section of center store, Valdez noted the two products are a huge category. Cherkesyan added that while many stores carry halva, they only have a small area. Super King offers a much broader selection of both.

Natural juice also does well at Super King, which offers a variety of choices, including some from Armenia. Cherkesyan said the selection is known to the community. “They know where to find us.”

“It’s definitely the offerings that we have in the store, the selection, the pricing and the quality that we offer both in the fresh departments and center store,” Valdez said.

Both agreed that at Super King, quality and price are No. 1.

Entering the produce department, the first thing many notice is its size. “It’s definitely the feature point of the store,” said Valdez, adding that produce is “probably 50 percent of the store footprint.”

Super King is known for its produce and its meat departments, he said. “As you walk in the store, you definitely have a good line of sight of both the produce and the meat departments…we’re big on our quality, we’re big on the pricing.”

He said the company has larger displays because “the rotation is going to be there for us.”

Super King buys about 90 percent of its produce direct from the growers, Valdez said, which affords an opportunity to maintain freshness in the department. Everything comes through the company’s warehouse. “We are our own quality control check. If a store director sees that something doesn’t look right, usually they’ll send out a picture. The buyer, within seconds – minutes at the most – is replying back, ‘pull it off the shelf. Let’s send it back, we’ll correct it.’”

Valdez said the Fermanians enjoy spending time in the produce department. He said they are the biggest advocates for quality control. 

“As they’re walking the stores, if they see something that’s bruised or maybe changing colors a little too quickly, they’ll let the buying team know. And as I mentioned, we’re reacting right away. The fact that we have our own distribution center when it comes to produce allows us to do those quick turnarounds, so that the customers aren’t fazed during their shopping experience.”

He again noted that many Super King shoppers cook at home. They start in the produce department, then go to the meat department and from there to the grocery shelves. 

“They’re really planning their meal for the day, for the week, sometimes even for the month if they’re not wanting to do frequent trips,” he said. “But that’s our customer base. They aren’t afraid to come in and do their full shopping experience so that they can prepare meals for their families.”

Also part of the Super King experience is music. 

“We’ve received several comments from our customers that they’ll come in and they’ll hear a song that will instantly take them back to when they were younger,” Valdez said. “You do hear people singing, and you see people dancing down the aisles. Not only are they enjoying themselves because of the items we have – the quality, the pricing – but because you’re getting that good overall atmosphere with the music, as well.”

Entering the seafood department, Valdez said the company is continuously working to find unique items in addition to shrimp, tilapia and salmon. He said they recently started to carry pompano, which has been selling well.

“It’s definitely a department that we’re proud of…the overall presentation and experience that customers are getting from it.”

Super King

In the meat department, pre-packaged meats of different cuts and sizes are on display in open, refrigerated cases. Cherkesyan said this is part of Super King’s open concept. “It looks modern, it looks unique and puts us apart from everybody else.”

Valdez agreed, adding that they want to stay with the open concept feel “so that you can really see the entire store from any point that you’re standing.”

Keeping in line with that open concept, Super King also emphasizes its full-service meat department. There are several employees available to help customers, Valdez said. A “huge selection” of marinated meats also is available and is popular, he said.

In an effort to stay ahead of the curve as far as technology goes, Valdez said the company uses digital tags in the meat, produce, service deli and liquor departments. He said this allows Super King to maintain schematic integrity “because employees don’t need to move the tags around.”

It also allows them to control pricing from one location. “We’re able to send down pricing by location from headquarters, or we can do a single batch that goes throughout the entire company,” Valdez said. “For these two departments – specifically meat and produce – you have a market that’s changing and fluctuating almost daily. It helps us keep within our margin target goals.”

Prices for items on sale are displayed in red on the digital tags. Customers have learned to look for the color. “Everybody’s looking for a bargain, everybody’s looking for a deal. That red call out is definitely our hot ticket item. It’s an item that you shouldn’t miss; you shouldn’t pass up,” he said.

The cheese department includes selections from all over the world, Cherkesyan said, adding that Super King’s cheese buyer is “probably one of the best in the industry.” 

Bulk cheeses are available to customers, as well, Valdez said.

Cherkesyan added that a lot of chefs and restaurant owners shop at Super King and like to buy in bulk.

In the bakery department, Super King is known for its pita bread and lavash bread. “Our customers come early morning to make sure they pick up fresh bread,” Valdez said. “All of this bread is coming in daily.”

Another area that commands a high profile is mixed nuts, a self-serve department that Valdez said is popular. 

In deli, Valdez said the Anaheim store is one of two locations that has separated its cold cuts from cheeses. It is a busy department, and the store wants to give customers a unique shopping experience.

The bakery is in the middle, with cheeses to the right and cold cuts the left “so the customer can really plan out their sandwich from start to finish, from corner to corner.”

Coffee is another popular item. Super King offers bulk coffee beans from several countries, including Colombia, Brazil and the Mediterranean. “We cater to everybody,” Cherkesyan said.

The store also has a grinding service, so customers can pick their beans and have them ground to order.

Super King offers online ordering and has its own delivery fleet to serve a select area, Valdez said. The company operates a separate division for its delivery services and drivers, which is operated from a different location.

“That’s really our hub, where we’re centralized to the population we’re trying to serve. And so far, it’s been very successful for us. It’s definitely expanding; potentially, it can grow to where we’ll have a fleet of 10-15 cars.”

Valdez said Super King has the same offerings online as in-store, but “the big deal about coming into the store is that you may find a treasure, something that you didn’t expect to find that you wouldn’t be searching for online.”

For more information, visit superkingmarkets.com.

To view the full anniversary section on Super King Markets presented by The Shelby Report, click here.

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