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Joe V's Smart Shop
The grand opening of H-E-B's Joe V's Smart Shop in December drew long lines of the store's most loyal customers.

From the Editor: When grocers inspire superfan mentality

Innovative brands have turned grocery shopping into a unique experience for customers, who in turn become evangelists for those brands

mike headLet me just say right off the bat, I’m no brand superfan. I’m a big fan of supermarkets in general, but I haven’t made the leap to tie myself to any individual store brand — at least not yet. (My fan commitment issues may stem from the pain my allegiance to the New York Mets has caused over the years. But that’s a story for another day.)

So while I have yet to pledge my allegiance to any particular one of the surprisingly large number of store brands that inspire fierce loyalty and dedication in their customers, I’m a huge fan of all things grocery and retail. I guess you can say I just haven’t settled on a team yet.

But I know there’s plenty of great ones out there, retailers who have earned the fan clubs, Facebook groups, video channels and other avenues of devotion they inspire. Innovative brands like H-E-B, Whole Foods, Wegmans and many others have turned the chore of grocery shopping into a unique and totally pleasant experience for customers, who in turn become evangelists for those brands. And if you have any doubt, check out the large, enthusiastic crowds that show up at the grand openings for these stores — especially when they come to a new market.

As for me, maybe living in New York City has made me less brand-loyal, since (A) most of the “superfan brands” aren’t located here, and (B) the city has hardened me to be more convenience- and price-focused. I tend to shop the closest or the cheapest, although I’m painfully aware that I’m missing out on shopping experiences that are probably far more enjoyable.

But that’s just me. In fact, New Yorkers are as prone to falling under the spell of a great supermarket as shoppers anywhere else. I’ve seen the lines at Trader Joe’s snaking out the door, and not just on milk-and-bread snow emergency days (when those same lines snake around the block). For years, local suburbanites have extolled to me the animatronic pleasures of Stew Leonard’s. And I’ve heard plenty of excited chatter about the upcoming opening of Wegmans in Brooklyn — and that excitement is coming from all over the New York metro area. There are superfans everywhere, and those stores and others have earned their business and loyalty.

And who knows, maybe one day this fan will find his team.

Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].

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