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For a retailer whose primary market area straddles a region of the country that has been especially hard hit by this recession, Meijer Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich., stands tall.
Industry sources attribute that to Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hank Meijer’s long-term strategic planning. Meijer told SN that taking measures years ago to stand up against new competitors such as Wal-Mart Stores helped prepare the company for the current downturn.
“Also, Michigan has not been immune to regional recessions in the past,” he said.
Changing product mixes to include more food and building smaller-format stores to fit available locations have kept customers loyal and made expansion possible.
“Good property is hard to find, especially in more densely populated areas,” Meijer said, explaining, in part, a decision to roll out slightly smaller supercenters in the Chicago suburbs. “We do plan more of the smaller formats, and also predominantly more food.
“Perishable products are an important part of who we are. That’s why we added baking lines for bread and cookies at our central kitchen in Middlebury, Ind. We’ve been working hard to raise our game in bakery.”
The company is also looking for more ways to remind people of its roots as a low-margin, high-value retailer.
“Promotion is still part of the plan, but customers need to be able to count on us for everyday low prices. There, our own brands play an important role.”
“They’ve sharpened their focus and have become a leaner organization to respond to Wal-Mart while still pushing their fresh advantage against other supercenters,” said Neil Stern, senior partner, at McMillan Doolittle, Chicago.
— Roseanne Harper