Industry observers are keeping an eye on several retailers: many are regional and rapidly expanding, while others are gaining momentum and have proven themselves exceptionally well positioned for growth.
In this Produce Blueprints series, we delve into eight grocery operators experts say are worth watching.
WEGMANS FOOD MARKETS, INC.
Rochester, NY-based Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. BB #:104173 has 109 stores in eight states in the Northeast and along the East Coast and continues to expand southward. In October 2022, Wegmans opened a new location outside Wilmington, DE, marking its first location there.
The Washington, DC metro area has also been a focus. The company’s plans for 2023 include an 85,000-square-foot location in Reston, VA, opening in February—its second location in Virginia, having opened in suburban Carlyle in May 2022. In July Wegmans debuted its first store in Washington, DC proper.
Another recent area of interest is New York City and its environs. Wegmans plans to open a two-level, 82,000-square-foot store in Manhattan in the second half of 2023. This would be the second store in the city, joining a Brooklyn location that debuted in 2019.
In the suburbs, Wegmans opened a store in West Harrison, NY, in 2020 and announced in March 2022 that it would build its first store in Connecticut, a two-level, 95,000-square-foot location in Norwalk. Wegmans’ expansion plans also include its first store on Long Island, a 100,000-square-foot location in Lake Grove.
Phil Lempert, founder of the Supermarket Guru in Santa Monica, CA, says one of the reasons for the success of Wegmans, which has been in business since 1916, is its authentic concern for customers and staff.
“The associates stay there for many years, which shows how much they care,” he says, noting that the chain’s training program also plays a role. “Other retailers say they can’t afford to train due to high turnover, but Wegmans says the training is why people stay.”
The company also offers an employee scholarship program that has provided tuition assistance to more than 42,500 employees.
Fortune ranked the company #3 on its “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2022, a list on which the company has appeared for 25 straight years. It also makes regular appearances on many other such lists.
“One of the commonalities between the fastest-growing chains is how they’re aligning a fantastic in-store experience with a compelling online experience,” comments Ashley Nickle, consultant and project manager at Ashley Nickle Growth Strategies, LLC in Kansas City, KS.
Nickle is also impressed with how Wegmans stores have a robust online presence, and their ability to capture in-store magic in the digital space. “They have high-end in-store experiences, and they offer the same vibe on their websites.”
While other retailers are boosting scan-and-go capabilities, Wegmans has moved in the opposite direction, ending a similar service in September 2022.
At the time, the company cited losses from the program, which launched in 2019, and said it would look at reimplementing the service in the future.
This is an excerpt from the cover story in the March/April 2023 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.