Key Development: More new stores than anyone but Wal-Mart.
What's Next: Green, Hispanic concept stores.
Publix Super Markets, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, remains the admired and innovative chain George Jenkins founded in 1930 -- only larger.
Since assuming the chief executive officer slot at Publix in 2001, Charles Jenkins Jr., nephew of the founder, has led the Lakeland, Fla.-based retailer into new geographies (around 25% of its 850 stores today are located outside its home state of Florida) and new store concepts. It debuted the Hispanic-focused Publix Sabor this year, and next year it will launch two stores based on Publix's natural/organic Greenwise concept. It has increased to a majority stake its ownership of a fast-casual restaurant chain called Crispers and is experimenting with branded convenience stores and liquor stores.
"Our motto is to be the premier food retailer in the world," Charles Jenkins said in an interview with SN last year. "So that's what we want to be."
The 60 new grocery stores Publix opened in 2004 were, by Jenkins' estimation, more than any single U.S. food retailer except Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark. Publix expects to open around the same number of new locations during 2005.
Observers say Publix's newly focused concept stores respond to the threats of retailers like Wal-Mart and Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, and ought to succeed in a manner similar to concepts by other regional private companies like H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, and Bashas', Chandler, Ariz.
"Charles Jenkins and his team, to their credit, are taking what H-E-B and Bashas' have done and doing it one step better," Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, New York, told SN.
John Crossman, a real-estate specialist for Trammel Crow based in Orlando, Fla., told SN the Public Sabor location in Kissimmee was "blowing the doors off" there.
Jenkins, who grew up the son of a Publix store manager in Lake Wales, Fla., spent most of his 39-year career in Publix's real-estate department, learning the business under Joe Blanton, one of George Jenkins' trusted lieutenants. In that role, he learned how to build the kinds of stores that made Publix famous (wide aisles, wide parking spaces and clean inside); and the importance of finding the sites where those stores would succeed (asked to reveal that secret, he quotes an old adage: "Location, location, location.").
He exudes a familiarity with the intricacies of the company that few chief executives do.
"Among Charlie's many qualities are his experience with our company and our industry, his in-depth knowledge of our market areas and his sincere desire to see those around him succeed," Ed Crenshaw, president of Publix, told SN. "These qualities have led to a great deal of trust and confidence among Publix associates. They are continually motivated by his leadership to better serve their customers and communities."