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From Publix to Aldi: How consumer passion drives retailer growth

From Publix to Aldi: How consumer passion drives retailer growth

SN just unveiled a first-time list of 15 food retailers that are among the fastest growing in terms of new store development. So what’s so special about these retailers?

A lot of things. They are leaders in new units planned as a percentage of total store bases. They see growth opportunities, have the determination to expand, and have available cap-ex funds. However, more importantly in my opinion are their strong consumer followings that enable them to keep growing.

How can these followings be quantified? Almost all of the SN 15 also appeared relatively high on the latest Consumer Reports ranking of the best supermarkets, based on that magazine’s reader polling. It focused on factors including service, perishables, prices and cleanliness and included a supermarket buying guide. Retailers that made SN’s growth list and also scored well with Consumer Reports include Trader Joe’s, Publix, Costco, Sprouts Farmers Markets, H-E-B, WinCo, Aldi, Whole Foods Market and Meijer, among others.

Now, for full disclosure, I have to point out that Walmart made the SN list of fastest growers, even though Walmart Supercenters came in last on Consumer Reports’ list. However, Walmart is a unique case because its big proposition is related to price, and consumers scored it much lower on other attributes.

Looking at another rankings measure, many of SN’s fastest growers have also done well in mystery shops for price and service based on our ongoing SN partnership with Brand View and RetailData. Standout retailers have included Publix, H-E-B and Meijer.

Meanwhile, we know from our reporting that some of the fastest-growing retailers are so popular that consumers actually make efforts to woo them to their regions. When an SN article last year pointed out that Costco announced plans to open 150 new warehouses, a flood of requests started appearing on SN’s website. “I hope you are considering a store near The Villages, Florida,” wrote one consumer. “My husband and I would drop our membership to Sam’s.”


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Wrote another, “My third time begging you to open a Costco store in Maine.”

In another case, late last year a woman created a “Bring Aldi to Grove, Oklahoma” page on Facebook to try to draw the retailer to northeast Oklahoma, according to a local media story at that time. She told the media outlet that Aldi is more than just a price retailer, asserting that the quality of its items is superior.

One of my favorite recent examples of consumer demand for supermarkets was published last month in the Las Vegas Review Journal. Called 10 Stores We Desperately Need in Las Vegas, written by Stephanie Grimes. it showcased consumer picks on which stores they hope will enter the market. Many of these were non-grocery outlets, but some were supermarkets, including Meijer and Aldi, which are on the list of SN’s fastest growers. Here's how the article positioned Aldi to readers:

Aldi, a German discount supermarket chain made up of two groups (Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud), operates about 1,400 stores in the U.S. They don't currently have plans to expand to Las Vegas, but if you're desperate for a taste, head to Trader Joe's: The chain's parent company is Aldi Nord.

One last point: You don’t have to be a high-growth retailer to have a passionate consumer following. Look no further than Wegmans Food Markets. It topped Consumer Reports’ best supermarkets list, even if it isn’t on the cutting edge of unit expansion.

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