Published on: May 15, 2015
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe. This is a Friday FaceTime with the Content Guy.
While I'm here in Oregon, I thought it made sense to visit one of the Haggen conversions. After all, we've had lots of coverage and emails about Haggen's sudden growth from 18 stores to more than 160, through its acquisition of stores being divested by Albertsons/Safeway after their merger.
So I drove to Lake Oswego, just south of Portland, to look at one of these new stores ... and I have to note here that I have no idea if this is representative of all the stores being converted in short order to the Haggen banner.
That said, I will tell you this. The store isn't awful. But there is precious little that is distinctive about it.
In produce and bakery, for example, it looks like there are new fixtures, flooring and lights ... but it still looks like a diminished version of what Haggen was known for offering in its Washington State stores.
The service meat and seafood department is, in fact, awful - crammed into a corner of the store, looking like an afterthought. Ironically, the guy behind the counter was the only person I met who greeted me. I can tell you two things about this fellow. One, he is a friendly guy. Two, he does not suffer from claustrophobia.
The grocery aisles may be worse. There are two reasons. One is strips of fluorescent lighting that looks like it belongs in a fifties-era A&P. The other is what appears to be a significant out-of-stock problem - there was not one aisle I walked down that did not have a gaping hole, and some of them were pretty big. (I could be wrong, but it did not feel like the place had been picked apart by customers.) I can't speak to price, but there were no deals that shouted out to me.
Here's the thing. As has been written numerous times here on MNB, you rarely get a second chance to make a first impression. I'm not rooting against the Haggen folks. Far from it. But I do think that for the moment they have bitten off more than they can chew, but that's not an auspicious way to launch a new enterprise.
Not only does the store not offer any apparent differential advantages, but it also has some tough competition. There's a wonderful Zupan's store across the street that is kicking its butt when it comes to fresh foods ... and there are a Walmart Neighborhood Market (one of the worst I've seen, by the way) and a nice Safeway just down the road that have to be challenging it on price.
Success can be found in identifying ways to be unique, not similar, to the competition ... and in getting the details right. But here's something I saw that illustrates how Haggen is getting it wrong...
The endcaps have all been changed so they feature what essentially are faux shipping crates with the Haggen name - it is cosmetic, but a nice touch. One of them I saw featured a sign proclaiming Haggen's dedication to all things local ... but on the endcap was a selection of wines ... from California's Napa Valley.
Doesn't sound local to me, not with all the wineries in the Pacific Northwest. It doesn't sound like they're paying attention to the details, but rather are creating mass programs that will lose them any local advantage they may have.
Is it a unique approach? Maybe. But not in any way that will help the Haggen brand.
The more I think about that Haggen store, the more I wonder if they'll have the time to get it right. And the more I wonder if the real estate it is built on may be worth more than the shopping experience it offers.
That's what is on my mind this Friday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: