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Golub Corporation-owned Price Chopper announced yesterday that it plans to convert the entire chain to a new banner concept dubbed Market 32, which incorporates learnings from the Market Bistro concept store opened earlier this year in Latham, New York.

The Market Bistro store was covered in MNB here. The Market 32 stores will have "expanded food service options, an enhanced product mix and a re-emphasis on customer service," according to the company.

“Market 32 represents the next leap forward for our company.  We have evolved from the Public Service Market to Central Market to Price Chopper by responding to customers’ changing needs over time and Market 32 is the next natural progression for us,” said Neil Golub, Price Chopper’s executive chairman of the board. 

Jerel Golub, Price Chopper’s president and CEO, added, "This is not merely about beautifying our Price Chopper stores.  It is a complete refocus of our company on the core values that our customers are looking for in a store.  We will be re-engineering nearly every facet of the store, beginning with the name but extending into our marketing, product selection, services offered and customer focus. Our investment in this transformation reflects not only the position of strength from which we take this calculated risk, but our determination to set a new and higher more customer-focused standard that will engage and inspire shoppers for decades to come.”

The company said that "Market 32 stores will begin rolling out across the chain’s six-state footprint this spring … Initially, three Price Chopper stores are being converted into Market 32 stores:  Shopper’s World in Clifton Park, N.Y.; Wilton, N.Y.; and Pittsfield, Mass.  The first 'ground up' Market 32 will be built in Sutton, Mass. beginning on November 12, 2014.  A second wave of conversions will begin over the next 18 months and encompass another 10 to 15 stores.  More than half of the 135-store chain will be converted within five years. In total, the investment in this phase of the evolution will be more than $300 million."
KC's View:
"Calculated risk" is right. It isn't like Price Chopper is changing everything overnight, but it is making the calculation that in the long run, it is worth making the shift from a time-tested banner to an entirely new one … that this shift will allow it to be more competitive, more relevant, and, in the end, more profitable. The logo being circulated by the company does include the phrase "by Price Chopper." But I suspect that over the long term, as people become more familiar with the Market 32 name, the Price Chopper reference will gradually be retired.

It should be noted here that even as the announcement of the new format was being made in upstate New York, there was some carping about the decisions being made by the company. I got an email from a former Price Chopper employee who asked not to be identified by name, that said, in part:

I don't recall seeing much written or reported by you about their layoffs this past summer.  Many of us in this group of 80 worked hard on the Market Bistro store and this new brand strategy. 

Hearing about a $300 million branding investment from a company that justified jettisoning over 140 employees in 2 years due to tough competition, the recession and the rising cost of doing business is painful.  Especially when told by the company that they can longer afford your salary, benefits and pension.

I realize the risk in poking at this wound, but needed to point out the human toll and hardship many are still enduring that could have been avoided.

I ask that you please do not use my name and nor do I expect or ask that you bring this up in your column.  I only point this out in the interest of balance and perspective.

Well, of course I'm going to bring this up … an email like this practically demands that I do so.

At the risk of appearing heartless, I do think that it is possible for a company to decide to invest $300 million to rebrand itself while at the same time deciding - regretfully - that labor costs needed to be cut. Sometimes, in order to invest in the company and, yes, even the employees, changes have to be made and hard decisions have to be implemented.

I know the Golubs a little bit, and I don't think they're heartless people, not by a long shot. And I'm also not surprised that those who were let go might feel some bitterness about the developing circumstances, that there might be some still-open wounds.

"Compete" is a verb. Calculated risks have to be taken. Efficiency and effectiveness have to be balanced.

I think this is an interesting, even daring, move by a company that was founded in 1932, and still is working to make sure it remains relevant and competitive.