Chloe Riley is the Executive Editor of Supermarket News, which delivers the ultimate in competitive business intelligence, news and information for executives in the food retail and grocery industry. A graduate of the School of Journalism at Columbia College Chicago, Chloe previously served as a Digital Strategist at SEO firm Profound Strategy, Associate Editor at B2B hospitality mag HOTELS Magazine, as well as CEO of her own digital strategy company, Chlowe. She lives in Woodstock, Ill.
We all know the big stories in grocery right now. The Kroger and Albertsons merger, for one. (A big one.) Amazon Fresh slowing its growth. Walmart investing in automation. Layoffs at Whole Foods.
What are those stories missing? They’re missing the smaller, independent grocers living this industry every day. Our new, annual “SN Independent Superstars” feature in this issue highlights those individuals doing just that — navigating the wild, wonderful world of grocery without the corporate support of the big guys.
There’s “The grocery power couple” who only just jumped into the grocery business several years ago, but who saw a 25% year-over-year sales increase in their very first year in business. There’s “The produce whisperer,” who’s strategy leans into tonnage: buy large amounts of produce and sell cheap. There’s “The store with 15,000 owners,” a co-op model in Wisconsin where the consumer / owners get cash back each year based on their spending.
A theme that came up over and over in these profiles? A dedication to community. And not in that PR, kind of superficial “check the community box” way. But something else. A real true devotion to the places where they operate, as well as the people who live there. Making sure everyone has enough to eat. The police. The teachers. Those who can’t afford food.
Another theme that emerged? Respect and care for their workers. Many of the independent owners we spoke with have workers who have been with them decades. They throw them worker appreciation parties on the regular. If someone needs to leave early for a family event, they leave early. One “Independent Superstar” we spoke with said she doesn’t have self checkout lines, because she knows how dynamite her workers are. And that part of why shoppers return is to have those conversations with their cashiers at the checkout line. She knows her store. She knows her workers. She knows her shoppers.
Our “Independent Superstars” come from all over the country. The San Francisco Bay area. Florida. Arizona. North Dakota. Minnesota. Michigan. Oregon. They’re the people feeding this country. And they’re doing it with dignity and style.