A COMPETITIVE APPROACH

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's strategic growth plans today, as in the past, are being drawn after close observation of the competitive field.The family-owned local chain has survived 57 years of operation here by repeatedly challenging outside supermarket invaders."We try to pick off the best of what others have and then do what we think we do better," said Robert Ukrop, president and chief operating officer.

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's strategic growth plans today, as in the past, are being drawn after close observation of the competitive field.

The family-owned local chain has survived 57 years of operation here by repeatedly challenging outside supermarket invaders.

"We try to pick off the best of what others have and then do what we think we do better," said Robert Ukrop, president and chief operating officer. Often that contributes to the challenger's withdrawal, the chain's executives said.

Ukrop's top executives easily recite the list of companies that turned into temporary challengers over the years. Those players included Giant Food, Grand Union, Fresh Fields and Kroger. One of the most recent invaders was Fresh Fields in the winter of 1992-1993.

"A lot of us went to see their stores in northern Virginia before they opened here," he said. "We looked and we prepared for them by focusing on our freshness even more than we had. We took the most important things we thought would make a difference to our customers. It turned out they were only open six to eight months."

Today Ukrop's faces a lineup of competitors that includes Food Lion, Winn-Dixie and Farm Fresh (The Grocery Store). Last month Hannaford Bros. said it will enter the market with a Wilson's Supermarket unit.

And executives aren't turning blinders to operators that could become the next invaders.

"Publix is moving north," noted James Ukrop, vice chairman and chief executive officer. "Kroger operates in Charlottesville and Giant is also there. We're looking over our shoulder at a lot of folks."