Ukrop’s Dresses Retail for Business

Dec 01, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Ukrop’s is mostly known for being one of the nation’s most innovative grocery store chains but a side venture it started several years back is also beginning to gain notice.

What began as a way to stock uniforms for its associates has turned into a growing business that counts Harris Teeter, Genuardi’s, D’Agostino, Weis, Shoppers Food Warehouse,
Philip Morris, LandAmerica and HCA as customers.

Ukrop’s Dress Express opened about 10 years ago with first year sales of approximately $200,000. This year’s sales are expected to climb as high as $6 million and Ukrop’s is
looking for the business to post a profit.

“It has grown beyond our expectations,” said James E. Ukrop, chairman, First Market Bank who was the chairman and chief executive officer of the family grocery chain when it
first launched Dress Express.

Mr. Ukrop told the Times-Dispatch that the company thought about selling Dress Express back in 1998 but he and others changed their minds and decided instead to “to rev
it up.”

Since that decision was made, Ukrop’s Dress Express has grown to have an account roster of nearly 1,000. Five years ago, Dress Express had fewer than 20 accounts.

Ukrop’s reputation in the retail business is golden. Still, the president of Dress Express, John Carrico, says, “The Ukrop’s name gets us in the door, but our service and quality
better hold us on our own because there are many suppliers out there.”

Moderator’s Comment: What most impresses you about the Ukrop organization’s approach to business?

This is one company that never stops looking for opportunities to improve its business and serve its customers. Once it finds an opportunity it knows how
to execute.
Anderson – Moderator

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