CSD: Fresh from the Farm
By Erin Rigik
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.
makes Swiss Farms truly unique is it has been a drive-through grocer since
inception. Now, Swiss Farms Stores is sporting a new look and bursting onto
the franchise scene, expanding its business from 13 stores in the Pennsylvania
market to an anticipated 100 franchise locations over the next five years,
while simultaneously growing its fleet of corporate-owned stores.
have always offered a double drive-through concept, allowing customers to shop
without leaving their cars. Swiss Farms fills an important niche, skewing toward
take-home packages, such as gallons of milk, cases of water and two liter bottles
of soda — the kind of items customers would buy in the express lane
of their local supermarket.
"Customers drive up to our sliding glass doors,
and we’re like the
local milk concierge," said Paul Friel, Swiss Farms’ chief executive. "Our
employees come out and take the order, fill it, put it in a bag, take it to
the customer’s car, and put it in their back seat or trunk if they like —
it’s a very convenient service."
About two years ago, Swiss Farms began to set
the wheels in motion for expansion through franchising, starting with a new
store design. "We always recognized
these stores were built in the late 60s and early 70s, and are small dairy
stores that really defined themselves with just milk and basic dairy items.
As our consumers and our business evolved, that smaller format was somewhat
limiting, so we set out to solve that by designing a new store prototype," Mr.
The finished prototype store was constructed in Milmont Park, Pa.
and opened in November 2009. At 1,800 square-feet its footprint is larger than
the legacy stores by 700 square-feet. The new design includes 270 degrees of
glass so customers can better view the offering inside the store, plus four
service doors and two bypass lanes for faster service. Eight 42-inch LCD monitors
were also added to alert customers to deals inside the store, as well as a
new LED sign on the front of the store that senses the temperature and posts
ads for hot or cold products depending on the weather outside.
The chain also
adopted a new tagline for both new and legacy stores: "America’s
In addition to the usual fare, the prototype offers
a foodservice menu featuring rotisserie chicken, fresh produce, meals to go
and fresh baked goods for the morning.
In deciding what new items would most
benefit Swiss Farms’ customer base,
Swiss Farms took its cue from local grocery stores. "We studied how our
customers shop our stores, and they use us as a fill-in grocer. Think of the
10 item or less aisle in the grocery store, only you drive your car though
the aisle and get out quickly — that’s what we aspire to be," Mr.
After examining IRI sales data, polling its customers and observing
customer intercept at local grocery stores, Swiss Farms realized it had an
85 percent overlap with the grocery express lane. Where it fell short was the
fresh food segment. "Rotisserie chicken, produce, meal solutions — those
were things we didn’t have in our legacy stores that met that shopping
need, and that’s why we incorporated those into our new concept," Mr.
The chain is also starting to get a lot of momentum as it signs
up more franchisees.
"As we go from 2011 to 2012 you’ll see a significant increase in
the number of units we can get open," Mr. Friel said. "I’m certain
in 2012 and beyond you’ll see more rapid expansion."
Discussion Questions: What do you think of Swiss Farms’ drive-thru grocer
concept? What do you think of its merchandise focus on items
in the grocery store express lane?