In the ever-shifting grocery industry, retailers need to evolve or become irrelevant. Schenectady, New York-based Price Chopper/ Market 32 – The Shelby Report of the Northeast’s Retailer of the Year – is no exception.
The Public Service Market in Green Island, New York, was founded in 1932 by brothers Ben and Bill Golub. Three more stores quickly followed, one near Schenectady’s Central Park, paving the way for Upstate New York’s first retail grocery chain – Central Markets. Acquisitions and expansions helped the regional chain grow to 130 locations across six states.
While the chain remained a key player in its markets, it faced increasing competition from giants like Hannaford, Aldi and Walmart. Research revealed that consumers were shopping the stores for convenience, but the chain wasn’t generating the kind of loyalty it needed to meet the challenges of the current marketplace.
Mona Golub, VP of public relations and consumer services, added: “We wanted to continue to be innovative and reinvent ourselves to better serve our customers and our communities but maintain the best of what we’ve been all these years.”
Leaning into research
Over a five-year period, the company conducted extensive research and took a hard look at the strengths – and weaknesses – of its stores.
“Our goal was to pinpoint expertise in signature categories that matter to customers and own those categories throughout the store,” said Bringhurst, adding that one key finding was the company’s strength in foodservice, floral, seafood and bakery.
“We knew we were very innovative there and needed to grow those areas,” he said. “We also focused on having the best variety throughout the store and larger variety of fresh produce and prepared foods.”
That meant sacrificing part of the center store.
“We were focused on building a brand, which we had never done before,” said Tom Tomaselli, group VP of merchandising. “The whole exercise was eye opening.”
The company embarked on an aggressive SKU rationalization plan.
Nils Lundberg, VP of merchandising/marketing took a strict fact-based approach to SKU justification. “It provided a quantitative answer to how much newness we could be adding,” he said.
Price Chopper also examined its Own Brand strategy and realized that changes were necessary. In some categories, Own Brand failed to meet national brand equivalency, while it exceeded NBE in other categories. The company launched a total Own Brand overhaul to gain consistency and pinpoint areas of opportunity.
Customer service boost
Research also found the company was underperforming when it came to customer service.
“One of the things we knew we needed to get better at was customer service,” Bringhurst said.
Improving that feature became a rebrand pillar. Taking all the learnings from research, a large focus group and in-house project teamwork, the company created a new brand and designed a store concept around the new branding.
“The brand came first and informed the store design, down to the color palettes and the language we use in signage,” Bringhurst said. “Once we had our store design, we were not sure that store was really a Price Chopper.”
Further research revealed that consumers favored the word “market.”
“It connotates freshness and a place where you can find exciting food items,” Bringhurst said.
With a nod to the chain’s origins in 1932, the leadership team agreed to christen the concept Market 32. The new name addressed everything the company was trying to achieve – an innovative concept that had strong roots in its communities.
As part of its marketing program, the company developed a “32 reasons to love Market 32” campaign used in signage throughout the stores and in all touchpoint materials during grand openings.
“The campaign gives us an opportunity to build on the name itself and highlight our strengths,” said Shawn Gonzalez, VP of advertising.
With 42 stores now operating under the Market 32 banner, the company has an aggressive rebranding plan for many of the 88 remaining Price Chopper locations.
Price Chopper continues to invest in research and generate data to help the company continually adapt to the marketplace.
“We have to keep changing or we’re not going to exist,” explained Jody Plonski, SVP of operations.
Read more Retailer of the Year recognitions from The Shelby Report.