Publix Super Markets Inc. is focusing on customer service.
Private label is playing a key role in perishables merchandising.
Healthy eating and animal welfare are being promoted.
Publix Super Markets Inc. is becoming one of the perishables sector’s most prominent merchandisers.
With 1,041 supermarkets in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix, the dominant retailer in the Southeast, also is forging a national reputation with its emphasis on quality, customer service and convenience.
“Publix operate some of the cleanest supermarkets I have ever been in and their employees are not afraid to speak with customers,” says W. Frank Dell III, president and chief executive officer of Dellmart & Co. Inc., a Stamford, Conn.-based retail consultancy. “They know their success is based on the customer being happy. Publix knows what the shopper wants and that drives their private label program.”
Indeed, Maria Brous, Publix director of media and community relations, says the company “strives to have our associates trained on all levels of product knowledge, merchandising and customer service. All three skills are needed to successfully complete the customer experience.”
The company recently instituted a computer-based training program and also leverages video training, on-the-job training, procedure guides and input from store managers and deli support staff.
Outside food experts also speak with associates about specific products, cross-merchandising options and ways to keep the shopping atmosphere vibrant.
Brous notes that consistency of training is key, and that the company constantly reevaluates its methods.
“Customers expect a certain level of service and product knowledge from our associates,” she states. “We want to know the most about our products in order to assist shoppers in selecting the best items for their needs.”
In addition to its Publix banner outlets, the company also operates three Florida GreenWise Market stores in Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Tampa.
GreenWise offers extensive arrays of “earth friendly” items, including many natural and organic products.
Publix also has four Hispanic-oriented Sabor locations in south Florida. Selections include large varieties of Caribbean, Central American and South American products.
Wide arrays of perishables are emphasized in all banners with an emphasis on nutrition, freshness and flavor.
PUBLIX AT A GLANCE
The frozen section of an Atlanta Publix location, for instance, has nutrition facts listed under the price tags of a myriad of selections.
Store-branded strawberries, for example, are spotlighted as being fat free; a good source of fiber; having 136 total calories per serving; being very low in sodium; and being cholesterol free.
Lean Cuisine Steak Tips Portebello, meanwhile, is listed as being a good source of fiber with 106 calories per serving.
Convenience also is accentuated in the various departments.
The seafood section of the frozen case in the Atlanta outlet, for instance, has a sticker on the glass featuring a plated dish and the message, “Catch a convenient dinner. It’s all trimmed and ready to go. Publix fresh frozen fish.”
The fresh meat case, meanwhile, features assortments of value-added proteins.
They include, for $6.99 a pound, four varieties of stuffed boneless chicken breast: Broccoli & Cheese, Italian Style, Cordon Bleu, and Florentine.
Also available are Beef or Chicken Kabobs; Stuffed Flank Steak (Provolone); Steakhouse Seasoned Beef Eye Round Steak; Southwest Seasoned Boneless Pork Chops; Mesquite Seasoned Boneless Pork Shoulder Ribs or Pork Back Ribs; Seasoned Beef Boneless Chuck Roast & Vegetables; and Meat Loaf (Oven Ready with Seasoned Ground Chuck).
The majority of beef is private label. Brands include Publix Premium Certified and Publix GreenWise Market.
The Publix GreenWise Market proteins, which are offered in both conventional Publix outlets and GreenWise Market locations, are positioned as health-oriented offerings.
The ground chuck, ground round and Choice beef selections, for instance, are listed as being natural with no artificial additives or preservatives; and developed from cattle raised humanely on a 100-percent vegetarian diet and which have never received antibiotics or hormones.
Publix also notes that the beef is source verified with close tracking of the cattle from birth, including the validation of all feeding, handling and living conditions.
The Atlanta location is promoting GreenWise Market beef at the case with information pamphlets that include cooking recommendations.
Fourteen varieties of Publix GreenWise Market-branded fresh chicken, meanwhile, are listed as being natural; free of antibiotics and added growth hormones; fed a vegetarian diet; and raised with care in clean flock houses with plenty of fresh air, space and light.
In addition, Publix notes that it uses a chilling technique that allows for optimal safety, taste and texture; greatly reduces the chances of contamination; and eliminates water absorption, resulting in chicken that's tender and juicy.
While private label proteins are prominent at the meat case, a supplier brand—Boar's Head—dominates the full-service deli counter.
Indeed, the vast majority of the approximately 65 bulk meats and 35 bulk cheeses at the Atlanta outlet are from Sarasota, Fla.-based Boar’s Head.
Publix also positions Boar’s Head meats as premium options for made-to-order deli sandwiches.
Sandwich stations offer half sandwiches, whole sandwiches and wraps for $5.09, $6.39 and $5.59, respectively. The items with Boar’s Head meats are priced at $5.59, $7.49 and $5.99.
“We position the deli as a differentiator from competitors, including fast-casual restaurants” Brous says. “It is done in part by offering freshly made bread; meal solutions for time-starved shoppers, including fried and rotisserie chicken; and a complete prepackaged kid’s meal in the grab-and-go section.”
Other deli elements include hot bars with an Asian-inspired menu, and carveries in some locations that offer unique sandwiches, such as flank steak.
Private label selections, however, serve as differentiators in an array of perishables departments.
Publix-branded refrigerated items include shredded cheese, cheese blocks, eggs and milk.
Among the frozen private-label offerings are vegetables, potatoes, French toast sticks, waffles, Texas toast, whipped toppings, sherbet and ice cream.
The Atlanta outlet even features decals on frozen case doors touting three limited edition selections of Publix ice cream.
The Apple Pie ice cream decal states, “Apple of Your Eye, and it’s no wonder: apple ice cream, apple chunks and sugar rolled pie crust in a cinnamon and brown-sugar sauce.”
Pumpkin ice cream has the message, “Sugar, spice…and everything nice: pumpkin ice cream, buttery pie crust pieces and swirls of whipped cream.”
And Mint Moose Tracks is promoted with “Mint Condition. The finest of everything. Our premium mint ice cream, mint cups, and Denali moose tracks fudge.”
Publix develops many of its own private label offerings, including ice cream, dips, yogurt and milk.
Store bakeries also bake bread daily and decorate cakes that are prepared at a central Publix bakery.
“Publix is not a bunch of country hicks when it comes to merchandising,” Dell says. “They’ve run some of the more creative private label promotions and are aggressive in introducing new store-branded products. They also are not afraid to test new concepts, such as with their GreenWise Market and Sabor formats. They do things right.”