Is the time right for Publix to begin a major rollout of its GreenWise stores?

Discussion
Photo: Publix
Apr 04, 2017
George Anderson

Last week, Publix announced plans to “reignite” its GreenWise store concept with the opening of a new store in Florida and plans to scout locations throughout its operating areas.

“We are committed to being the retailer of choice for consumers who are looking for specialty, natural and organic products,” said Kevin Murphy, senior vice president of retail operations for Publix. “Over the past several years, we have gained valuable insights from our existing GreenWise locations. By combining these learnings with customer feedback and market trends, we are better positioned to deliver on our vision of being the best at serving the evolving lifestyles of today’s consumer.”

The GreenWise organic and natural foods brand, which Publix created in 2003, spurred the development of a new store concept under the same name. The retailer opened its first GreenWise store in 2007 and, while some thought it was the start of a plan to compete head-to-head with Whole Foods and other natural food grocers, Publix has opened only three stores under the banner in the meantime. With the announcement last week, Publix has said it will open a fourth store in Tallahassee near Florida State University.

The decision by Publix to expand its GreenWise concept is happening at the same time that Whole Foods has experienced six straight quarterly declines in sales. The chain has seen mainstream supermarkets such as Kroger, Publix and others grab share in organic foods as it has struggled to overcome its “Whole Paycheck” pricing image.

Employee-owned Publix has been aggressively pursuing expansion up the Eastern seaboard in recent years. The Florida-based chain operates 1,146 stores in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee as well as its home state. Publix will also be moving into Virginia after acquiring 10 Martin’s Food Markets from Ahold, which sold the properties to gain regulatory approval for its merger with Delhaize.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the time right for Publix to engage in a significant rollout of its GreenWise format? What effect will the addition of new GreenWise stores have on competitors such as Whole Foods and mainstream grocers selling organic foods?

Braintrust
"I am not sure that Publix needs a wholly separate brand to capture the market opportunity."
"My first thought is, 2007? That was ten years ago. How long does it take to prove a concept?"
"Why risk diluting the Publix brand? They do a great job integrating GreenWise into their overarching brand."

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8 Comments on "Is the time right for Publix to begin a major rollout of its GreenWise stores?"

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Susan O'Neal
BrainTrust
5 months 15 days ago

Publix has done a great job integrating premium and organic merchandise into their mainstream selection and eliminating the need for two trips. Additionally, the BOGO and coupon programs help mitigate price concerns. I am not sure that Publix needs a wholly separate brand to capture the market opportunity — sharing best practices across their store formats may be enough.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Publix has toyed with alternate formats, including GreenWise and Sabor. In Florida, Publix has the dominant market share with little in the way of competition beyond Walmart, Fresh Market and Whole Foods. With Whole Foods struggling, this preemptive strike in Florida makes sense. In addition, while the company continues its trek north, the GreenWise banner provides a point of difference relative to the new mainstream competition it encounters.

David Livingston
Guest
5 months 15 days ago

Yes it is the right time to expand the GreenWise format. Having a handful of stores, I would not call a significant rollout. First, forget about Whole Foods. While they have had their struggles they have still lapped the field when competing against Sprouts, Lucky’s, The Fresh Market, Natural Grocers, Earth Fare, Mrs. Greens and many others. There are really only two successful chains in this category which are Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. The rest are performing below market average in this segment. This means there will be a huge shakeout, store closings, buyouts and bankruptcies.

Publix wants to be ready to take over or replace some of these failed stores. Similar to the way they took advantage when Winn-Dixie, Albertsons, Bruno’s and Food Lion closed up stores by the bushel. On the eastern seaboard there will be more mass closings with Food Lion, Lowes, Piggly Wiggly and Bi-Lo. There will be a shakeout with the mediocre natural/organic stores too and Publix wants to be ready. The eastern seaboard is growing in population, high-tech businesses and good incomes while at the same time mediocre grocers will be failing. The perfect storm for Publix.

David Livingston
Guest
5 months 15 days ago

This is also a way for Publix to develop their small store format for college campuses. There are multiple opportunities for Publix at major universities up and down the eastern seaboard.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

My first thought is, 2007? That was ten years ago. How long does it take to prove a concept? Because of that, I really need more info on the brand before adding my 2 cents on whether it’s a good time to roll out, but here are some thoughts. Whole Foods’ recent decline in sales indicates a pricing issue to me as the Whole Foods’ offerings are really top notch. If GreenWise has great offerings at a better price, then now would be the perfect time. However, I too wonder why Publix needs another format. The Publix name is strong so why not incorporate this into their existing format?

But that just my 2 cents.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Why risk diluting the Publix brand? They do a great job integrating GreenWise into their overarching brand. Leverage the interest in organic foods by turning up the volume on what your shoppers are asking for — why open yet another location and risk diluting your brand community? Take advantage of the fact that you can attract shoppers of all interests and demands.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

The thought that Publix needs two store formats is one that I do not agree with. Publix has been successful over the years bringing new “GreenWise” products into their existing locations. One thing we have been attempting to do is eliminate the many stops needed to complete the weekly shopping list and save time and gas expenses. Opening a second “brand” might not be the right thing to do when one-stop shopping can be accomplished in the existing locations.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Publix has such a strong brand identity in the southeast region it operates in. I am not sure a new brand will really help them in their home region compared to just expanding the GreenWise presence in existing stores. However, as Publix seeks to expand northward, they may find that a new distinct brand image will have a greater impact and bring customers into the store rather than trying to extend their existing brand. Virginia would be a good test ground for Publix to try a GreenWise format and see how it performs among so many other grocery brands moving into the Mid-Atlantic region (remember Aldi, Lidl, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Target, Costco, Wegmans, Harris Teeter and so many others operate in this area or are about to open stores).

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I am not sure that Publix needs a wholly separate brand to capture the market opportunity."
"My first thought is, 2007? That was ten years ago. How long does it take to prove a concept?"
"Why risk diluting the Publix brand? They do a great job integrating GreenWise into their overarching brand."

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