CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- As the new president and chief executive officer of Red Food Stores here, Marshall Collins is studying that chain's business and is developing strategies.
But Collins isn't giving up his day job. He's still president and CEO of Mauldin, S.C.-based Bi-Lo, the biggest chain in parent company Ahold's family of U.S. businesses. That family expanded last month with the Red Food acquisition.
Collins, who has been at Bi-Lo's helm for the past seven years, said the 195-unit chain remains on a solid growth path.
"Bi-Lo has had some good growth years recently, both from a sales and profit perspective, and we expect that to continue," Collins said.
The store group, which operates in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, will continue to open about 15 to 17 new and replacement stores a year, Collins said. "This year we'll be entering the Winston-Salem-High Point market and Greensboro in 1995. And we'll continue to find opportunities for new and replacement stores in our existing areas. We still have more development to do in the Charlotte area, where we have good results but need more locations."
While Ahold doesn't release performance figures by division, Collins said Bi-Lo has posted improved sales and operating profits for the past four years, and the outlook is similar for this year.
Much of the growth has been driven by the chain's longtime pricing philosophy, which has been a good match with the needs of the local markets, Collins said.
"We have been committed to low prices since the company was founded in the early 1960s," he explained. "That remains the cornerstone of our business. We've worked hard in the last eight to 10 years to complement that with excellent perishables departments. We've been very successful in produce and meat. We've been somewhat successful in deli-bakery, but want to ratchet up our capabilities there in the next year or two." Bi-Lo is laying the groundwork for future growth by installing updated technology and efficiency capabilities into its facilities. A case in point is the chain's program for cross-docking.
"We're doing some of our cross-docking at our existing depot," he said. "We completely refigured our Mauldin distribution center to increase its capacity to cross-dock for categories such as general merchandise and specialty foods."