PROFILE

Tony Orlando

Owner, Tony O's Supermarket and Catering

Born and raised in Ashtabula, Ohio, Tony Orlando has 50 years in the food business, having started at four years of age in 1961.

Tony purchased his store in May of 1999 from his father. Through the years, he has acquired extensive knowledge of meat and deli departments. He has consulted with other independents to help their businesses grow.

Tony has served on many Midwest beef councils and also was on the Young Executives Council for the NGA, of which he is a charter member.

Tony graduated from Ohio State University in 1978 with a Bachelors in Business Administration. He is married to wife Maria and has two sons, Michael (19) and Stephen (16). Tony is also the President of the Autistic Children’s Foundation. He loves golfing, casinos and talking shop at NGA.

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  • Posted on: 04/01/2019

    Are third parties the biggest reason delivery costs keep going up?

    It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the word FREE is a total myth. The e-commerce folks are not in a position to dictate shipping costs, and the exceptions are the same players in Brick & mortar, i.e. Walmart, Target, Amazon, and Costco. Who do you think is going to win this war? Not the single store grocer, or the shoe store. They will not be able to compete against the big boys on free shipping, which eventually will cause their demise as well. The exception to this will be the high-end consumer who wants specialty items for which free delivery is built into the cost without the consumer even knowing, as it is hard to compare a $200 pair of jeans to a box of Cheerios. I charge for catering delivery and my clients know this, so unless you are prepared to continue to lose money on goods shipped from your business, start being more open about your policies with your customers on shipping, and surprisingly you will find that your loyal clients will still buy from you, if your provide a great product and in-store experience.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2019

    Technology disruptors are causing independent supermarkets to innovate

    Hello Dr. Needel. I will tell you what I really think, rather bluntly. I have been a charter member of NGA, and before that many other state and midwest associations, so I have the grey hairs and experience in seeing what is really happening today vs. just 10 years ago. I did not attend NGA this year, and I will not renew my membership, as it has changed to mostly a high tech convention with numerous booths promising the ultimate app which will boost your profits, without your lifting a finger. This technology is fine, and I use social media (with e-mail blasts going back almost 20 years) but they are sweeping the bigger problems under the rug. There are some real issues that are crushing the local Independents across the country:
    1. Cost of goods for the center store are weighted heavily against us. Not one person for NGA can solve this and they know it. Vendors are fleecing us on national brand pop, chips, bread, CPG top 200 items, and it creates the perfect storm for consumers abandoning our stores for lower prices, especially in rural areas where we once thrived. No app on the planet can save us on this critical pricing problem. When you have Pepsi, Coke, and others sponsoring your convention, that is a problem, because they do not treat us with any respect anymore, and the CEO of Pepsi was booed about eight years ago at the keynote speech, from many of the retailers, for evading questions on cost of goods.
    2. Health care costs are out of control, and many smaller single store owners are going under due to the 50-75 percent increases just in the last five years, with no end in sight, and the plans have much higher deductibles for the employees, which puts more stress on the employees who have insurance.
    3. The invasion of the dollar stores has created as many problems as Walmart and Aldi if not more, as they put stores across the street from many local grocers, who simply can not match the prices. I know, as they share my building right next to me. They have taken close to $750,000 per year away from me, and it is not coming back, and they now have over 20 stores in our county, with more coming.
    4. Old habits from second or third generation owners simply need to be addressed, as some of these newer owners need to brush up their skills in perishables and customer service, or again they will perish. Profits are generated big time from a well run meat/deli/bakery/dairy/wines/produce departments, and less emphasis on center store would be wise, as they are ignoring major profits in these departments by running below cost giveaways on grocery items that fill the front pages on their ads every week, when they should be expanding the perishable equation more heavily. That would help the bottom line for sure. I wouldn't be here without changing how I do business and, even today, I am questioning my future as our area is beyond poor.
    These top four issues are enough to keep any independent awake at night, and if you can focus more on the perishables, and make sure your service is outstanding, than you will slowly pick off some customers who are desperately looking for a store that provides these services. I wish nothing but the best for my fellow local grocery stores, but unless you address these core issues, you are fooling yourself thinking everything is going to be OK. Don't worry about home delivery, because if you run a hard hitting ad with great meat deals and other perishables, you will win. Walmart hasn't beat us on one single meat or deli item since they have been in my town, and never will. And my stuff is all natural, and custom cut. Thanks for reading this, and I better get back to work.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2019

    Walmart says ‘goodbye’ to greeters and ‘hello’ to controversy

    Walmart, in my humble opinion, is going to do whatever it takes to enhance the bottom line, and the greeters will be another bump in the road, which in 6 months will be old news. I know how my vendors feel serving them, and it is not pretty, but hey, either follow their demands, or you are gone. If you like a greeter, go find any independent retailer, and for the most part you will be treated well. And the owner will certainly appreciate your business, as many of them are struggling. So do you want ultra cheap, or an engaging store owner who will take care of you, for perhaps slighter higher prices on the staple goods? Unfortunately I'm betting Walmart will win almost every time, especially in rural towns. They shut down 9 supermarkets in our county, after adding on a super-center, and I have no love for them whatsoever.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2019

    Tide to roll out laundry cleaning service nationwide

    This should do very well, especially in the colleges -- where most of the laundromats I used to visit looked like the basement of a frat house, with very strange people in them. The suburban shopping centers will do very well and, if they keep the places very clean and address security concerns, then they will have a home run. This is a category killer for sure, as P & G have tons of capital, vs. broken down machines at the locally-owned places littered across the landscape. Is Purina far behind in developing a pet store/grooming business, with free TV and a snack/coffee bar for pet owners to use while they wait? Who knows?
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Did Trader Joe’s make the right decision to end grocery deliveries?

    Just curious here. Has anyone besides me done a complete analysis of home delivery for supermarkets? I spent almost 2 years with a man in California going thru this, and came to the conclusion that the true cost of delivery is close to $12-$15. How can you justify a $5 fee, when it cost's 3x that figure? This was done in 2013-14, and labor has gone up since then, so Trader Joe's knows it can not continue to do this and turn a profit. And that my friends is the bottom line. Even BOPIS costs 7-8 dollars, which is mostly labor, and storage, and yet many large chains are moving forward on this, as they do not want to lose market share. Our industry has the lowest margins and to turn a profit, you must find a way to either build in higher pricing, and logistically have enough vehicles to deliver into certain neighborhoods to keep costs down, without running everywhere with one van that would keep costs high. There are exceptions, with catering delivery being a profit center because of 60-70% gross margins, which keeps the fees lower. I'm sure many will disagree with me, and that's OK, but making a nice profit on this is nearly impossible, and if I had a third party service that would deliver for me, that would be my only option.
  • Posted on: 01/28/2019

    What do shoppers really want? Do retailers have a clue?

    OK, it is time to give my perspective on this. There is no substitute for the human experience, and there never will be. The problem lies in the "perception of value," and for many small retailers, it is critical that the employees provide outstanding service, or they will perish, as they are not even considered by most consumers as the first place to go and get a great price on what they need. Yes price matters greatly, or you wouldn't have 2K Walmarts, 5K dollar stores, and 1K club stores, so if you want to keep your stores going, the service, and specialty items you carry must be presented to your customers properly, to the point where they will go nowhere else, as they love your service and the deal. Just this morning I saw a young couple in my closeout wine section, and engaged in a conversation about all of our different types of wine. By the end of the conversation, they are coming back for an appointment with me, to help them pick out 4 mixed cases of our wines for their wedding. Nothing fancy about this, but this is how you separate your store from the big box stores, and unless you do this all the time, again, you will not bring in the folks, who crave this type of service. Every catering take out order we do, always is followed up with a personal call to make sure they loved the food, and believe me, 90+ percent of them become frequent buyers of our prepared foods. Get out on the floor, my fellow store owners, and don't be afraid to talk with the customers, as they will not get this special touch from the larger stores. It works, and hopefully you can keep them as a regular client.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2019

    Amazon takes multi-pronged approach to owning the last mile

    Sounds like a great idea, but will they pick up the huge legacy costs for the retirees? That alone is enough to give anyone pause, as the pension plan keeps the USPS in the red, with no end in sight.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2019

    NRF: Will grocers be ready for 2030’s smart future?

    The push for technology is understandable, and if you ask 100 techies about what is the right mix for new your business, you will get 100 different answers, as they all have their own agenda to push, which is fine. I'm actually glad to be in the homestretch of my career, as an owner, because the costs to implement these new technologies, is out of reach for small store owners and delivery is only going to get more expensive, which only the large deep pocket chains can handle. Time marches on, and changes have been happening at warp speed. So if you want to stay in this industry, adding significant tech to your store will be necessary to compete, and the store today will look a bit different than it does now. New cases that have sensors, high-tech lighting, and talking shelf stickers will be commonplace, and I look forward to seeing all of this, as I'm a junkie for anything cool in grocery stores.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2019

    NRF: Is the time right for retailers and brands to take political stands?

    The majority of political stands companies make generally lean left, as the media goes out of their way to destroy conservative values that a company may express (hello Chick-fil-A). I know where I stand, but it is useless trying to push a platform that is conservative, unless you want scorn from the media, so I stay clear of promoting anything political in my advertising. We can agree or disagree about many thoughts about our planet, culture, or global vision, but nothing good comes out of it, just like discussing the "Wall," so I will continue to be myself and treat folks who come into my business with respect and old-fashioned values that my parents taught me. My father who passed away on Monday always told me to separate your personal beliefs from your political beliefs, and you'll be fine.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2019

    Is it now or never for J.C. Penney?

    I believe they will be done in the near future, and more shutdowns will follow. We have consumers who are beyond finicky, and they have a ton of options to shop for the best deal. Loading up the sales floor with extra help IMO is not going to help, and with online booming the need for extra help isn't necessary anymore. You can buy Levi's Jeans and all kinds of apparel in a host of stores and online. There will be more failures, as we simply have too many brick-and-mortar stores these days. My industry is getting very difficult in the rural areas, and you will see more small town independent grocery stores closing. The margins are the slimmest of any retail venue, and with the additions of dollar stores and drug stores selling food, more casualties are coming. The very strong mega stores are dominating, and that is simply how it is, so for J.C. Penney, I see them gone soon, as their debt is too much to overcome.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2018

    Are dollar stores bad for cities?

    What I think about Dollar General really doesn't matter, as it is up to the consumer to choose how and where they spend their money. We have probably 20 or more just in our county, and the largest one shares a common wall, as it sits right next to me. Center store in rural towns has hurt traditional grocers very hard, and this will continue to get worse, as staples are sold for cost or less, which makes the bottom line very difficult to stay in the black, and I have lost three quarters of a million dollars in sales to them in the last 6 years. Oh well, it is still up to me to find the niches, and I have a 53% mix in sales in Meat/Deli and Bakery, which at least pays the bills. Location, and economic conditions, are the main factor for their success, as they do very well in our area, but in Beachwood, or Dublin Ohio, not so much, and that is simply how it is is. Independents have to stay creative, and bring some heat to their perishable promotions, which are the best way to bring in the customers. I wish my fellow retailers success in 2019, and Happy New Year to everyone.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2018

    Is Amazon Prime not what it’s cracked up to be?

    Amazon has carved out a huge following, and in their wake are thousands of main street businesses that are all gone. They are beyond huge, and provide some damn good streaming services, but now that they control a large chunk of online; and the prices have crept up as my wife found out doing some comparing lately. Either way, they still dominate, but for those who use them, I'd suggest checking around your local stores. Many times you will see some great values that may match or beat Amazon. Your main street merchants will appreciate your support as well, believe me. Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2018

    Can Barnes & Noble’s in-store experts beat algorithms?

    Barnes & Noble’s always had nice employees, but like with my business, convenience and price matters to the majority of shoppers. What’s worse, even if they matched or dropped the prices below Amazon, they would still struggle, as the perception of value has been lost to Amazon. There is a small niche of consumers that appreciate a talented baker, butcher, or a scratch deli, with knowledgeable associates, and if they are in high income locations, they can do well. Retail has changed so much in the last five years, many good retailers are downsizing, restructuring from bankruptcy, or closing shop, as the consolidation of power has accelerated into mega multi-channel retailers that dominate, leaving a trail of shuttered businesses in their wake. There are always opportunities for fresh new startups everywhere, but it is uniqueness, with the ability to attract consumers, that want something trendy, with exceptional service. Happy Holidays to my friends in the retail business, and I hope we will be here next year discussing our adventures for 2019.
  • Posted on: 12/14/2018

    H-E-B puts mobile scan and go tech in customers’ hands

    Yep. My concern would be theft, and it will cost H-E-B a pretty penny if they allow this to go through in all the stores.
  • Posted on: 12/14/2018

    Does Starbucks have a big delivery opportunity?

    I totally agree. Are we that lazy that we can't pour a cup of coffee? Food I get, with some exceptions, but unless they are adding to fresh baked goods with the coffees, it won't attract a huge following. Starbucks for my wife is a treat to chill out in a mall, or on vacation. To have it delivered who knows, but I don't see this as a huge boost to the bottom line. The coffee is expensive enough, plus the up charge, so we'll see.

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