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The Tampa Bay Business Journal has a story suggesting that Publix Super Markets probably is not "immune from the problems that have tripped up Whole Foods," which just last week announced its fourth straight quarter of same-store sales declines as it wrestles with tougher competition on the organic side and a "Whole Paycheck" image.

In some ways, the story suggests, Publix faces some of the same headwinds as Whole Foods. The competition only is going to get tougher as it expands into new markets like Virginia, where it is going to go head-to-head with formidable retailers such as Wegmans. At the same time, the story says, Publix - a company not known for low prices - is going to faced with value-driven retailers such as Sprouts and Aldi that could erode its market share or at least impact its expansion efforts.

And, the story quotes Jim Hertel, senior vice president at Willard Bishop and Inmar Analytics Co., as suggesting that maybe Publix is not as far along on the innovation curve as some retailers , and that it needs to do more in order to remain relevant.

""People are going to have to go smarter and harder just to keep pace," Hertel tells the Business Journal. "I guarantee you Wegmans is wondering what’s next, too. So there’s always somebody who’s going to go maybe a step ahead and figure out."
KC's View:
I do think that this article makes a good point, though it is hard to argue that Publix is looking at what the great Bob Murphy used to call "nine miles of bad road." Publix, after all, has been a dominant force in the markets it has served for a long time. But, it has never faced off against Wegmans before. And I have to believe that Harris Teeter, an innovative retailer that now has the resources of Kroger behind it, is only going to get tougher.

The article doesn't get into it, but to me, Publix's ongoing flirtation with - but unwillingness or inability to commit to - e-commerce could be a reflection of where it sits on the innovation curve. Because the thing is, you can't sit on the innovation curve at all ... you have to be constantly moving, constantly testing new ideas, constantly looking for ways to disrupt your business from the inside.

To be clear, I don't think Publix is incapable of this. I think it is even possible that they've got dozens of innovations at various stages of development, and they're just not quite ready yet. But if they're not ... well, that could be a problem.