LIMA, Ohio — Chief Super Markets has converted its three Rays stores in this market to the Chief banner — just one of many changes unfolding at the 11-unit independent operator.
“We are working through a number of initiatives at the company,” Stephanie Skylar, president and chief executive officer, Chief Super Markets, told SN.
Among the biggest initiatives is a revamp of the chain’s loyalty-card program. In conjunction with the name change, the Defiance, Ohio-based chain also has debuted the Chief Great Food Savings Card at the stores in the Lima market, replacing the old Rays Good Neighbor Rewards Card.
“We felt like we didn’t have enough value in the card program — the customers told us that,” Skylar explained. “So, we revamped the program.”
New to the loyalty card program — which is only available in the Lima market — is a partnership with Speedway fuel centers, allowing customers to earn gasoline discounts based on tallying certain volume totals in their grocery spending at Chief stores. Spending $50 earns a discount of 5 cents per gallon, and an opening-weekend promotion offered a 25-cent discount for spending $75.
“Nobody else in our market was focused on [fuel discounts],” Skylar explained. “We are going to test the card for a few months, to make sure we are giving people what they want. There is obviously some risk to it — the retailer is paying for the fuel — but the plan is to roll it out.”
Chief has been working with its technology partner, Accelitec, and with the help of its new supplier for grocery and frozen items, Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich., which has in the past two years rolled out a loyalty program of its own.
In addition to the new loyalty cards, Chief is also undertaking a major remodel at one of its Lima locations that will incorporate some new tests that it hopes to add throughout the chain.
“We are on track to get more trendy and relevant for the 2013 shopper,” Skylar explained. “We have been — and I would indict myself here — frozen in time, and it was time to modernize a bit.”
Among the new features the company is introducing are bulk foods, a larger variety of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, and a “mega-cheese department,” in which all of the store’s cheese offerings are grouped together. The remodeled store will also have a service seafood department and an enhanced gift and floral section.
Chief has also been working with its meat and deli supplier, Minneapolis-based Nash Finch Co., and to upgrade its deli offerings. It is currently testing those at another store.
“There will be more convenience items, and we will be going healthier and trendier in our sandwiches and salads in the deli,” Skylar explained.
In conjunction with the name change — which follows by just a few weeks the switch to Spartan as a grocery supplier and to Caito Foods as produce supplier — Chief has also relaunched its website at chiefmarkets.com. New website features include the ability to set up an account to manage a shopping list, browse recipes, and an events calendar, along with a mechanism to solicit customer feedback.
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The new website touts the name change with the slogan, “One Company. One Name. Same Great People to Serve You!,” along with an explanation of the new loyalty program, offering “New Ways to Save!”
Skylar said she believes that most Rays customers understand that there was a relationship between Chief and Rays, so the name change should not come as too much of shock. The Chief name appeared on many products in the stores, such as its specialty meats and cookies, she explained.
“I had been contemplating this for many years, but with the onset of the new wholesaler and wanting to revamp our loyalty card, we thought this would be a great time to unify,” she said. “And with the knowledge that we were going to do that remodel, we thought it would be great to do it under the Chief banner.”
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