business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB yesterday took note of a Wall Street Journal piece about the challenges facing Wegmans in the current competitive environment.

"'A huge part of our business has been treating our customers really as guests and entertaining them. We can’t do that anymore," chairman Danny Wegman told the Journal.  "We lost our mojo. We have to replace it'."

I commented:

It is interesting that Danny Wegman referred to have to "replace" the company's lost mojo, not "regain" it.

I am confident that the folks at Wegmans will figure this out, and that the stores will be better for it.  I'd even suggest that while the circumstances prompting these decisions and adjustments are far from what one would want, I think this will be a good thing for the company.

Internal disruption and renewal always is a good thing.  A little discomfort can be a positive experience.  That's where Wegmans' folks find themselves, and that's okay.  They'll embrace it.

MNB reader Holly Aglialoro wrote:

I’ve been a Cherry Hill Wegmans Merchandiser for 14 years, and the changes in the store brought on by COV-19 coronavirus have been surreal—and sad.

During the height of the pandemic, while the low production in Bakery led to my manager working as crowd manager outside, I was moved to Front End to be a floating grocery bagger.  Meanwhile, the Head Chef of all Wegmans stores came down to manage the removal of the many self-serve bars—and to stock frozen dinners! 

One thing that unites all veteran Wegmans employees and employers is that no matter how different or difficult the task, the focus is on making the customer experience as smooth and pleasant as possible.

I am back to the Bakery now, as is the Manager.  No more self-serve donuts or bagels, but fortunately, fresh breads and pastries remain relevant no matter what.

Thank you again for so many insightful, intelligent, and entertaining newsletters.

And MNB reader Jim Meister wrote:

As the retired CEO Of Kings  Super Markets I knew Bob and Danny  Wegman well.  In my mind they are still the leader  in US food  retailing. They will find their way through this. 

I agree.

And it will be interesting.  The shifts we see taking place in retailing do not play to Wegmans' traditional strengths - big stores, lots of experience and interaction, and a tactile approach to connecting customers to food.

I think it can be fairly argued that Wegmans has not approached e-commerce with the same commitment.  After all, rather than investing in its own proprietary approach, where it could control the customer experience from online ordering through delivery, it decided to farm it out to Instacart.  It was the easy way out … which is out of character for Wegmans.

I think that Wegmans may have to consider a different kind of future.  Smaller stores, perhaps, focusing on fresh food.  Owning the e-commerce experience to a greater degree, and using it to move non-differentiated CPG items (and its own estimable private label).  Using auto-replenishment to build loyalty to that side of the business.  

Will it require Wegmans to reinvent the wheel a bit?  Sure.  But that is sort of in Wegmans' DNA.

(Of course, I recognize that Wegmans doesn't need the likes of me charting its potential future…)