An announcement this week from The Fresh Market about changes to the retailer’s image and offering is designed to get customers to come to stores more often while maintaining its positioning as a gourmet shopping destination, a company official told SN Friday.
The retailer said in a press release it would lower prices on hundreds of items and add 1,300 everyday grocery essentials from national brands, starting at three stores in the Triad region of North Carolina Oct. 26.
However, Chris Miller, VP of strategy and marketing, stressed the refresh was about adding the items customers were looking for rather than a complete overhaul of the brand.
“We have spent really the past several years building up a foundation of better understanding what our customer love about The Fresh Market and what they’d like to see changed. And consistently throughout that process the word that has come up again and again is ‘special,’” said Miller.
“We want to make that extraordinary experience happen every day, happen more frequently for them,” he added.
Customers visit The Fresh Market an average of once a month, although there are many who shop weekly as well as those that only come to the retailer for a special occasion or holiday meal, Miller said.
The retailer’s research found customers tend to come to The Fresh Market for particular items but go elsewhere for the weekly stock-up trip.
“And frankly, their words not ours, they feel like they would sometimes sacrifice what they really loved eating in order for them to get everything on their list at one place, if that makes sense,” said Miller.
Aside from grocery essentials, another focus of the refresh is increased emphasis on health and healthy products. The remodeled stores have added a section for vitamins, supplements and minerals, as well as new signs on products associated with health and wellness.
“So for instance, every organic item in the store has a brand new, very clear labeling scheme, every gluten-free item, every local item. So we’re mixing both inspiring and very clear functional communication in the stores,” said Miller.
Another change is that about three months ago, The Fresh Market began distributing a weekly ad insert in a little over a third of its stores “for the first time, at least in recent history,” Miller said. The retailer uses the insert for promotions as well as to explain what makes the store and its products different.
While for years The Fresh Market was able to rely on word-of-mouth advertising, Miller noted the increasingly competitive landscape meant it was time for a more organized effort.
“We recognize that we can be the most special shopping experience in the world but unless we’re telling our customers about that and also telling our customers about the value that they can find at The Fresh Market, that we’re going to be a diamond in the rough. And we really need to get that word out to our customers,” said Miller.
After next week’s reopening of the initial store resets — happening at two stores in Greensboro and one in Winston-Salem — The Fresh Market plans to make updates to 13 more stores in the Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, N.C. markets on Nov. 30.
The remaining stores will be refreshed in waves through 2018, with the opportunity for the retailer to learn along the way and make tweaks to offerings as needed.
“Our perspective at this point is that we’re making the changes that we think make the most sense for our customers and for our business. But we’re also taking a learning mindset along the way to gather insights of what works and what could be improved and apply those to the future waves of stores that will be remodeled in the coming months,” said Miller.
Miller said new stores would also get the updated offerings, but declined to comment on where The Fresh Market might open stores next.
“We’re still evaluating opportunities for 2017, with all the focus right now being on these remodels,” he said.
The Fresh Market operates 177 stores in 24 states.