BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Haggen Inc. here is focusing on building its brand going forward now that it’s eliminated its underperforming locations, Clement Stevens, co-president, told SN last week.
Since last December the company has closed five stores, with three more scheduled to close in the next three months.
“But we’re definitely looking forward to more positive things next year after spending most of this year getting out of those underperforming stores,” Stevens said, “and we’ve put ourselves in a much better position to do that.”
The goal is to convert all stores to the Haggen Northwest Fresh banner. Sixteen of the 20 stores that will remain in operation have already been converted, with the four remaining Top Food & Drug units scheduled for rebranding next year, Stevens said.
As it attempts to focus on locally produced and more sustainable products, Haggen has introduced two new product lines in the last couple of weeks:
• Shepherd’s Grains, a line of locally grown flour from a wheat-growers’ cooperative that it will use for all store-baked goods.
“Shepherd’s Grain is in complete alignment with our core values of local and sustainable,” Stevens explained. “By partnering with them, not only are we offering our customers baked goods made with premium flour, but we are also supporting local Washington wheat farmers and their sustainable farming practices. It’s a winning combination for everyone.”
The Shepherd’s Grain cooperative consists of 43 regional farms committed to no-till farming, a practice designed to improve soil quality while reducing erosion and fuel consumption, the company said.
Stevens said farmers from the co-op were scheduled to appear at Haggen stores to sample products and answer consumer questions.
• Di Lusso Deli Meats, a division of Hormel, Austin, Minn., a product line that uses no fillers or artificial flavors.
While Haggen prefers to use local suppliers, “our goals is to go after quality, and we couldn’t find a local company with the breadth of product we need,” Stevens told SN.
Besides educating its foodservice people about the Di Lusso line, “our foodservice manager talked to everyone in the stores about the quality aspects of the product, so when customers ask anyone in the store about it, they will get an answer,” he said.
Haggen has also revived a dormant program it used to promote — “School Bucks” — that allows customers who buy qualifying products to designate a local school to which Haggen will make donations, Stevens said.
The chain also developed its own continuity that ran in August and September, “The Great Northwest Giveaway,” that offered a variety of prizes, including meals at local restaurants, tickets to local amusement parks and stay-overs at local hotels and resorts — a program that attracted more than 30,000 participants, Stevens pointed out.
Asked what impact all these programs have had on sales and customer counts, Stevens said, “We believe we’ve seen increases, and we’ll continue to push these efforts as hard as possible, but you never know exactly what drives increased business.”
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