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[9 comments]

Usual suspects top regional grocers list

July 25, 2014

Wegmans, Publix, Hy-Vee and Costco were named by consumers as the top grocery brands in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West respectively in the 2014 Harris Poll EquiTrend study.

According to Harris, this was the first time in the study's 26-year history that it surveyed consumers about grocers on a regional level. Included in the list of choices were supermarkets, warehouse clubs, mass retailers and deep discount grocers such as Aldi. The research measures brand equity based on three traits: familiarity, quality and purchase consideration.

In the Northeast, Wegmans led a top-10 list that included Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, ShopRite, Hannaford Bros., BJ's Wholesale Club, Stop & Shop, Costco, Price Chopper and Giant Food.

Down south, employee-owned Publix came out ahead of Walmart, H-E-B, Trader Joe's, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Kroger, Sam's Club and Target.

Also employee-owned, Hy-Vee ranked first in the nation's heartland followed by Meijer, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Walmart and Jewel/Jewel-Osco.

"Hy-Vee has strong purchase consideration scores and very 'connected consumers,' meaning they have strong feelings for the brand and believe it's a good fit for them," said Michael Treboni, EVP of retail professional services at Nielsen, in a statement.

Trader Joe's was the only chain to show up in the list of top grocers in every region of the country, while Whole Foods came up three times. Costco and Walmart showed up in two regions.

Discussion Questions:

Do you find any commonality between the list of top regional grocers in Harris' research? What grocer do you think is the best in your region of the country and why?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Which of the chains in the Harris research do you think is the best grocer?

Comments:

Good customer service seems to be a top commonality among these top regional grocers. In my area the same would be true of Lowes Foods. They go out of their way to be friendly.

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

The commonality between top regional grocers is: comfortable customers. That feeling comes in high measure because two of the four winners are customer-owned, and a third (Wegmans) is a dynamic outgrowth of its notable merchant founder. The fourth winner, Trader Joe's, is new, different and imaginative, and very customer-attentive.

There are some very good grocers who didn't make the cut in their region. As good as they might be, they didn't ring the loudest bell in their regions on the comfort index. And what makes the winner's customers so comfortable? A very strong association with its customers. It seems that may be more important than price.

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Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Publix is not in every region, but their customer service model should be. Trader Joe's is new to this area. I am anxious to visit one and see what they are about.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

Where are the details of the Western USA here? The commonality is quick to spot here; great customer service and customer focus, first rate marketing, shelf support, and delivery of key product SKUs in clean, well-managed stores by employees who enjoy their jobs and share this happiness with everyone around them.

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

I shop both Wegmans and Publix. Both have great customer service, but Wegmans by far has a much larger selection and appeals to all consumers.

Paul Stanton, V.P.Sales, P.Stanton & associates

I've become an ardent fan of Trader Joe's. Every shopping experience I've had there has been pleasant. They carry all the staples I need and make it quick and easy for me to check out—without u-scans.

The associates are easy to spot wearing their brightly colored Hawaiian shirts which helps create a festive atmosphere. Someone is always at hand to help me if I can't find something or have a question about a particular product.

The stores are well layed-out, well-lit and the promotions are clearly displayed and accessible. There's always fresh brewed coffee to sample along with a tasty food item. On the rare occasions when I've found a need to return something, it's always been done quickly and without fuss.

Their prices are competitive enough not to hassle with going elsewhere. I now only shop at other stores for items Trader Joe's doesn't carry.

'RetailRetell'

I find the methodology lacking: comparing Costco (a high volume membership store) to the local supermarket seems questionable...why not throw in the gourmet foods counter at Neiman Marcus as well?

Another problem is sampling variability: while Costco comes in at the top in the West, it actually comes in "below average" in the South, whereas Walmart does just the reverse...do the stores really vary between the areas or is it regional favoritism?

One thing that's (nearly) constant though: Target comes in near the bottom.

'notcom'

Woodmans in Wisconsin and WinCo out west. Employee owned, no debt, no rent, no union, no credit cards. A place where a stock clerk can become a millionaire.

Crest in Oklahoma City comes to mind too. Basically any chain that can beat Walmart on price and provide a high level of service.

David Livingston, Principal, DJL Research

Commonality among the top brands is the in-store shopping experience. Let's assume that price competitiveness is a must.

To be able to exact a price premium or to "break the tie," the experience of a Wegmans or Trader Joe's makes a difference. I have not visited a Hy-Vee store, so I cannot comment on their shopper experience.

In Florida, it is easy to see why shoppers could split their monthly grocery basket among Publix, Walmart/Aldi's, Costco, and Fresh Market/Whole Foods. I don't see that any of these chains gives the consumer a reason to earn 100% basket share. Each has its purpose in the value chain.

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Bill Hanifin, Managing Director, Hanifin Loyalty LLC

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