Pasting stuff off a website, while the bedrock of any retail analyst’s career, is something I try and avoid doing in an overt fashion as it can be construed as being rather lazy. Like those conference presentations that are about 60% video. However, sometimes you read something that strikes you as being too good not to share, so I have pasted a link to the ‘anthem’ of the US supermarket chain Lucky’s Market below as I believe it to be one of the more effective ‘mission statements’ that I’ve encountered. Open, honest, zero BS, realistic, positive and inspiring. Hats off.
I’d been wanting to visit a Lucky’s (not to be confused with a Lucky’s in California – the fascia rising from the ashes after Save Mart took over a bunch of Albertsons stores) since Kroger made a ‘meaningful’ investment in the business last year. Kroger generally invests in rather awesome operations (like Harris Teeter) so its involvement in Lucky’s Market I took to be a ringing endorsement and I’d heard good things about the chain from someone I know who had been to a store or two in Florida.
I was able to finally get to a store when I visited Traverse City in Michigan. Traverse City is a rather lovely place, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you pay it a visit. Not only is it the cherry capital of the universe (boasting a cherry festival and a rather cool store selling nothing but cherry products and cherry paraphernalia), but its baseball team are called the Beach Bums and the city was the home of the bloke who composed the theme tune to the underrated sitcom Taxi. What more do you need?
Anyway. Going to the store featured one of those horrible moments of pre-emptive disappointment that long-time retail-watchers will be familiar with. That feeling that you get when you’ve heard nothing but amazing things about a store but when you are approaching it from the outside it looks like a bit of a let-down. The previous time I’d experienced the feeling was parking outside the Jumbo Foodmarkt in Breda, a store that is part of the Breda football stadium complex, replete with all of the sexy allure that you’d imagine. Inside, however, is one of the globe’s greatest supermarkets.
Likewise with Lucky’s Market: the exterior is deliberately a bit untidy with a garage door-style entrance and my travelling companion was decidedly ambivalent about going in to take a look. We were overjoyed that we did though. The first encounter was with some truly lovely members of staff who asked if we knew where everything was or if we needed any help. A nice, engaging and welcome bit of interaction. Next up was an excellent produce section, with a great smattering of local items and a good mix of organics and conventional.
The frozen section was visually stunning thanks to some striking wall graphics, while some of the highlights from the ambient grocery department included some corking end-caps and the altruistic private label range. It was in the gorgeous marketplace area where I was really captivated by the Lucky proposition. Features like service counters, cheese-sampling, a juice bar, prepared foods, an awesome coffee fixture and pick & mix confectionery all combined to great effect. The fact that bacon was smoked, and sausages were manufactured, in-house just added to the feel of authenticity and authority. This really is a jolly good proposition.
Things just got better as we rounded the corner and encountered the bar (!) offering a wine or beer to enjoy while we shopped – ‘sip & stroll’ as it was positioned – and also enjoyed other departments such as health and beauty.
Exiting the store under a banner reading ‘Good Food: It’s a Right, Not a Luxury’ and having experienced some more superlative customer service at the checkout, it was not difficult to see why Kroger had made its investment. This store had oodles of charm, character, humour and finesse. If Kroger can accelerate the growth of Lucky’s Market and bolster its proposition through enhanced buying power (both of which were already happening according to one colleague I spoke to), then more communities can enjoy this wonderful shopping experience.
This will be a good thing, as this is an all too rare example of a supermarket that walks the walk as well as talking the talk – making its mission statement and set of values so much more than a turgid document gathering dust in a boardroom drawer.
Bryan Roberts, Global Insight Director