A burgeoning e-commerce business at Albertsons Cos. hasn’t blurred the supermarket giant’s focus on brick-and-mortar stores as the bedrock of the customer relationship.
“We try very hard to touch at least 10% of our store base each year with remodels to keep them current,” said Susan Morris, executive vice president and chief operations officer, told Supermarket News in an SN Off the Shelf podcast interview. “As far as 2020, we’ll still get to remodel at least 10% of our store base this year and probably open somewhere between 10 and 15 new stores.”
In fiscal 2019, Albertsons opened 14 new stores and remodeled 243 locations, and through the fiscal 2020 first quarter, the Boise, Idaho-based company has upgraded 46 stores.
“It’s really important for us to invest in our store base, making it look great for our customers, keeping up with our current offerings — expanding on fresh, which is important to us — and modifying to accommodate our growing e-commerce business,” said Morris, who has held her current post since January 2018 and has been with Albertsons for the past 10-plus years.
Overall, the retailer operates 2,252 food and drugstores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under such banners as Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Haggen.
“We have this go-to-market strategy of being the best local grocer who’s easy, exciting, friendly and safe,” Morris explained. “So no matter what name is on the front of the building or on the delivery vehicle, our goal is to build those deep and lasting relationships with our customers on the things that matter most to them.”
The fresh business is a point of pride at Albertsons and gives the company a competitive edge, Morris noted. Fresh offerings account for about 35% of sales, a 300-basis-point advantage to traditional grocers and about 1,100 basis points more than the multi-outlet retail channel (MULO).
“We’ve established some great history there. We pride ourselves on the fact that we still have butchers in our stores, which, by the way, has been really helpful during the COVID crisis,” she said. “When meat was in short supply, we were able to buy larger primals from a restaurant supply company and process them in-store, which was a nice win for our customers and communities.”
Meal solutions are another key focus. “We’ve got a number of different initiatives out there around meals in particular, what we’re calling our ready-to-eat, ready-to-heat and ready-to-cook meal solutions,” Morris said. “We’re working on destinations within the store to make it really easy for the customer.”