Competitors Confident Against Publix Sabor
By George Anderson
When it comes to operating supermarkets, few companies do it better than Publix. So, when the company opened its first two Publix Sabor units targeted to Hispanic consumers, other businesses in that space were clearly wary of what might happen.
Today, at least according to one independent Latino grocery store operator, the lesson learned is not only that others can survive, but that they can thrive with Publix Sabor in the market.
Stella Siracuza, the owner of Tomato Express in Orlando, Fla., is one of those. This time last year, Ms. Siracuza watched as a Publix Sabor opened a quarter of a mile from her business.
One year later, she has found that not only has the new competition not hurt her business but that she needs to expand. A second Tomato Express will open next month in Poinciana, Fla.
The new store will be the same size as the first unit (8,000 square-feet) with wide aisles and a clean appearance. “Our focus will be the deli and bakery,” Ms. Siracuza told the Orlando Business Journal. Tomato Express offers baked bread, pastries, prepared meats and side dishes, all made to Latino tastes.
Ms. Siracuza, whose first unit delivered $2.5 million in sales last year, expects to double that performance with the new store. “There is only one other Hispanic grocery store in the area, and it’s not that close to my store,” she said.
For its part, Publix is waiting to grow its Sabor business at its own pace. The company has announced it will add two more South Florida stores. As to its plans for Central Florida, Publix spokesperson Dwaine Stevens, said, “We’re still looking at the demographics… We don’t do anything without first doing a careful study.”
Publix Sabor stores run around 40,000 square-feet in size and offer a wide range of Hispanic groceries, fresh and prepared foods. Stores are staffed by bilingual associates and include sit-down cafes designed to make visiting the store a more social experience.
Ms. Siracuza said Publix is relatively late to the game in targeting Hispanic shoppers and that may hurt the performance of the Sabor stores. “Publix is an excellent supermarket, and I tell my employees I want to be the Publix of the Hispanic stores. But they didn’t give Hispanics the time of day until last year.” (The first Tomato Express opened in 2002.)
Publix said it is happy with the performance of its current Sabor units although it has declined to release sales numbers.
Moderator’s Comment: Are the Sabor units the Hispanic equivalent in terms of quality of product, service, etc. to Publix’ stores in general? Having so
often discussed what makes the company great, what do rival businesses need to do to compete with the chain in its core businesses as well as new ventures such as Publix Sabor?
– George Anderson – Moderator