PORTLAND, Ore. -- Now that Fred Meyer Inc. has fine-tuned its food merchandising and charted an expansion path, the chain will have to get its message out to consumers.
The task is most difficult in Utah, the only one of Fred Meyer's marketing areas where the chain doesn't have a food reputation.
"They know us in Salt Lake City, but to them we're a nonfoods general merchandise store," said Robert E. Boley, assistant vice president of public relations. "They don't realize our roots are in food and we're terrific at it. For that reason, Utah will probably be our biggest challenge,"
The chain will open two food-nonfood superstores and add food to five existing general merchandise units. The work will be complete by the fourth quarter of 1995. "In Utah there are two well-run grocery chains, Smith's and Albertson's, and a lot of independents," Boley said. "But it's a good food market with big families, the kind of area that would like Fred Meyer. So an education process has to take place in new areas."
Part of that process involves advertising. The chain has been producing in-house television spots for its markets that advertise not only the chain's everyday-low-price philosophy and its brands, but private labels as well. "We're even making our own TV spots for the President's Choice line," said Curt Lerew 3rd, senior vice president and director of the food division. "Many supermarkets don't advertise private label like that, but we believe in it."
The chain also hopes to win points in new locations with highly targeted presentations based on local demographics. "We can focus merchandise to specific stores with-
in neighborhoods," Boley said. "Whereas one store might be a Jarlsberg store, we might have a Brie store just six miles away. "In an ethnic area, we're able to present twice the Hispanic produce as another one of our stores 10 miles away. The competition tends to be more sterile with this type of merchandising."
Bolstering this effort is a brand-new computerized inventory control system that provides readings on dollar and unit sales for best-moving items by department. The new in-house program, designed with the help of IBM, gives the store an unprecedented reading on what's selling best in which parts of its chain.
In its effort to spread the Fred Meyer message, the company hasn't forgotten about the value of its employees. It has made efforts to turn these associates into effective Fred Meyer proponents, a clear word-of-mouth advantage.
The chain has put a lot of effort into employee training and motivation, including an intensive, computer-based training program and massive pep rallies at store openings. "As we expand, our biggest challenge will be the development of people to run our food business in-store," Lerew stressed.