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Rosauers ‘Definitely On A Growth Trajectory’

Photo of Rosauers Supermarkets CEO Cliff Rigsbee
Rosauers Supermarkets CEO Cliff Rigsbee

Last updated on July 1st, 2024 at 10:07 am

Rosauers Supermarkets is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, and CEO Cliff Rigsbee said the company is on a trajectory for continued growth.

The grocer, based in Spokane, Washington, is a fully-owned subsidiary of URM Stores Inc. and operates under three banners: Rosauers, Super 1 Foods and Huckleberry’s.

CEO Cliff Rigsbee said there are 24 stores in the company: 19 Rosauers Supermarkets (including a proposed acquisition in Twisp, Washington), four Super 1 Foods locations and one Huckleberry’s store.

Rigsbee, who described his role at Rosauers as “the best job I’ve ever had,” has been with the company three years after working for Albertsons in many different operations and merchandising roles throughout the West – having started as a courtesy clerk.

Huckleberry’s was the first natural organic market in Spokane, according to Rigsbee. It offers exclusively natural and organic products. The Huckleberry’s store in Spokane features the Ninth Street Bistro, with made-from-scratch menu options and live music nights.

Super 1 Foods, with four locations, offers “a little more price impact,” Rigsbee said.

While URM offers support with IT services, insurance and capital, Rosauers handles its day-to-day functions in-house. As a co-op, the majority of the profits go back to the member-owners.

“Obviously, we’ve got to keep the business running and keep capital for future growth, but we strive to give money back to the member-owners of URM as well,” he said.

Rosauers is continuing to grow, and in November opened a new store in Pullman, Washington. Rigsbee said it is a great location for the company, as it is close to the campus of Washington State University.

“Growth wise, we’re looking at deals every single day, what makes sense for us and for our format, and obviously for URM from a distribution standpoint to make sure we’re inside of that umbrella … But we’re definitely on a growth trajectory. It’s just a matter of what makes sense and what’s right fiscally and what our customers are telling us they want.”

Rigsbee said the company has a “really good brand” in Huckleberry’s. The store-within-a-store concept for the natural and organics brand is strong in several markets. Also, the stand-alone store in the South Hill neighborhood performs well.

“It’s got an unbelievable scratch bistro, and a great neighborhood feel,” Rigsbee said.

He noted that the Huckleberry’s employees know the products they sell and can help customers get the products they may not have on the shelf. “Most traditional grocers are into the mainstream, natural organic business, but they’re not into why somebody would want it or how to get other products that aren’t necessarily widespread.”

[Related: From Humble Beginnings, Rosauers Serves Inland Pacific Northwest]

 

Technology upgrades

In addition to installing a new POS system, Rigsbee said the company is looking at starting a loyalty program. Rosauers has four fuel centers, and a loyalty program would offer customers discounts on gas, among other benefits.

Upgrades and improvements to its technology will allow Rosauers to build on the deep relationships it has with its customers.

“We’re in the process of transitioning our POS system so we can have a robust loyalty program,” Rigsbee said.

Rosauers is using Instacart, which purchased Rosie, for its e-commerce platform and launched the Instacart Marketplace about two years ago. The company launched with DoorDash in April.

However, Rigsbee said Instacart will be the platform for all things e-commerce in-house going forward. Instacart is coming out with a new platform that most of the Rosie customers will transition to, which will be managed and supported by Instacart.

Rosauers is working with ECRS on its new POS system and is using BRdata Cloud “where we can aggregate data and see down to the SKU level,” Rigsbee said.

He added that it is important that the company move forward with technology, as today’s customers expect stores to connect with them on a personal level. “I feel our customers expect great service when they walk into the store. And to my mind, we’ve got to extend the omnichannel environment where everything they know about Rosauers should be as personable and relevant as it is when you walk through our doors.”

Rigsbee praised Rosie and Instacart as great partners.

“They’ve been great to work with folks like us that don’t have real big infrastructure from an e-commerce perspective,” he said. “I appreciate those guys. And as we start utilizing Instacart even more, it’s just going to make it even more powerful.”

Rigsbee said Rosauers is on a journey to be relevant in today’s society as a full-service, quality assortment grocer. He noted the company must continue to evolve to stay competitive. “Smaller, independent grocers don’t have nearly the firepower that the big power buyers do, for sure.”

Rigsbee said they have been making some changes and recently had a successful online April Fool’s sale. He was surprised by how many people follow Rosauers on social media and shared the event.

In an effort to attract the younger generation, he said it is important to show them value, which doesn’t always need to be in pricing. “I think people are looking for quality and convenience. I think they’re looking for answers from ‘a what’s for dinner’ standpoint, they’re looking for some understanding on how to cook things. They’re looking for the experts in food.

“And that’s what we want to be, we want to be the experts in food. When somebody thinks about what’s for dinner, I want them to think about Rosauers and all the different options that we have.”

He said the company also will be sponsoring community events that resonate with younger families.

“We have just agreed to be the grocer sponsor of the new professional soccer team that has just come to Spokane. This will give us some great opportunities to get in front of a great growing demographic in our market.”

Encouraging diversity

Rigsbee said diversity is important to the company. “There is all kinds of diversity, whether it’s racial, religious, ethnic, gender … Especially as our communities get more diverse, you have to be diverse to compete because you can’t just continue to do the same thing how you always did. That’s a huge factor for us to move forward.”

From a gender perspective, about 56 percent of department heads in the company are women. He said his team recently had a meeting on the topic.

“We’re moving some assistant managers around. We had a conversation about how we make it more attractive for some more diverse folks. How do we actively find some folks that wouldn’t necessarily be raising their hands?”

Giving back

From a giving back perspective, Rigsbee said “the Rosauers brand and the Rosauers team has been great.” He noted that when he joined the company, Rosauers had a reputation of making a difference in the communities it serves. One of the company’s biggest fundraisers is the Rosauers Open, which benefits Vanessa Behan, an organization that provides immediate refuge for children and support to strengthen families.

Behan was a 2-year-old who died from child abuse injuries. Following her death, a group of business people in Spokane established the organization to provide a safe place for parents to bring their children in the face of crises. The organization opened its doors in 1987. Three months later, Rosauers founded the event, which has become the biggest pro golf sectional tournament in the Northwest. Since its launch, it has raised nearly $4 million for the organization.

The company also supports local food banks and school lunch programs in its communities.

Employee appreciation, recognition

One thing that stands out at Rosauers is the longevity of many of its employees. The company recognizes them through its Long Service Awards.

With 24 stores across a four-state footprint, Rigsbee said the company has about 14 banquets every other year.

“At each one of those banquets, you have a person that’s been with us for at least five years, and then it’s in five-year increments. They get to bring a spouse or a guest, and we get to sit down for the evening and honor them and tell them ‘thank you’ for everything they’ve done. Because everybody knows the grocery business is all about the people.”

He said the program started about 30 years ago. Today, members of the senior leadership team attend each event.

The most recent banquet was held in Hood River, which honored 50 employees. A photo of each person was shown with the number of years they have been with the company.

“Just thinking about it still has my hair raised on the back of my neck. The camaraderie and support as they clapped for each other as each anniversary was shown was just awesome.”

Rosauers also holds an Employee of the Year program, where each store manager brings a top employee to the event held at Bozarth Mansion, owned by Gonzaga University, in Spokane. Also at the gathering, a store number is drawn out of a hat and the person representing that store gets to spin a wheel for a prize.

A couple of years ago, an employee won $20,000.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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