WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The three-year conversion of Kash n' Karry to the Sweetbay Supermarket brand will be completed this September, according to Shelley Broader, president and chief executive officer of the Tampa, Fla.-based company.
“We are retiring the Kash n' Karry brand in September,” she told the Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association Executive Conference here. “At that time we will have 105 Sweetbay stores.”
Broader called the Sweetbay brand a “growth vehicle for Delhaize Group,” which is Sweetbay's parent company, based in Brussels.
Delhaize closed about 34 underperforming Kash n' Karry stores in 2004 and began converting the remaining stores to the Sweetbay format, which was based partly on Delhaize's Hannaford stores but tailored to the Florida market.
Broader said the retailer has gained a lot of expertise in converting a brand, and that the biggest surprise was that the process went as planned. “We first laid out this plan four years ago, before we even named the new company,” she said. “What's been amazing is how solid the original plan was. We're actually beating the last store date by almost a quarter. We are world-class at conversion now.”
She added that the local Florida competitive response to Sweetbay was mitigated by the fact that her operation is much smaller than major area operators, including Wal-Mart Stores and Publix Super Markets.
“We've seen competitive response, but we're tiny, just a flea,” she said. “We do not change our program based on competitive activity.”
Part of Sweetbay's success can be attributed to expertise it has developed in recruitment and retention, she said.
“We've done a lot of recruiting out of the restaurant business at the middle-management level,” she said. “I think that's the only business that's harder than ours. For some reason our business is a break for those people. A lot of people feel stuck in the restaurant business.”
Sweetbay also recruits heavily from Target Stores, which Broader said employs a lot of talent but promotes more slowly.
Broader said her operation has succeeded with managerial retention partly as a result of cross-training that makes use of transferable skills.
“We are willing to move people around,” she said. “They get a broad base of skills.”
The retailer also uses a novel job application that has the effect of screening out applicants that might not fit the retailer's “passion for food” culture.
The first question on the application is: “If you can have anything for dinner tonight, what would you have?”
“Many people self-select out of the process by saying to themselves, ‘These people are odd,’” Broader said.