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Friday, 24 July 2015 08:14

Market 32: A Lesson in Listening

WILTON – The new Market 32 held a soft opening the weekend of July 12 with little fanfare, preferring to watch and listen as customers tried out the new shopping experience. Much like the brand itself, the Golub Corporation is choosing “show” over “tell” with its new banner.

There is a quiet, light and airy feel to the uncluttered store floor, with a variety of color and displays that are both pleasing to the eye and conveniently placed. The packed layout of the old Price Chopper has given way to a brand that clearly aims to turn grocery trips from a chore to a refreshing daily or weekly exercise.

Chief Executive Officer and former President Jerry Golub noted that customer expectations have changed over the years and the Price Chopper brand did not reflect the preferences of today’s consumers. “We must meet the needs of Baby Boomers, Gen-X-ers, and Millennials,” he said. “They know what they want in a store, and are the best resource. We’ve pulled in a greater amount of data and research, beginning with a shift to online feedback, compared to focus groups or phone surveys.”

“We listened,” said Chief Operating Officer and newly appointed President Scott Grimmett. “They asked for convenience and ease for a quicker shopping experience for both dinner tonight trips and longer shopping trips. Customers are demanding more convenience, experience, education, and healthier options such as gluten-free, organic, and locally-sourced. We tested ideas in the Market Bistro, combined it with customer feedback and research into the new Market 32 brand.”

The new brand is a culmination of customer requests and feedback, almost as if it were created by the customers themselves. The Market Bistro store opened in Latham in April of 2014.

“That was a learning laboratory for us,” said Golub. “Our giant leap into the future. We took the best of what’s come through the Market Bistro and incorporated it into the new Market 32 brand.”

For example, the Bistro’s popular smoked meats, lobster rolls, and make your own salad bar are among the findings at Market 32. There are signature products in each department, as well, offering conventional items reflecting a little bit of everything and products like salmon in the fish department, with knowledge and expertise in the offerings. “We can be an authority on our signature products,” said Golub, “better than anyone else.”

For example, there are now craft beers from all across the Capital Region, and local brewers come in to hold tastings. Market 32 also offers a growling station, where customers can purchase local brews hand-poured by knowledgeable staff using a counter pressure bottle filler. Market32 employee Marcus Harnichar, who has professional wine experience and has been brewing beer with his father since he was 8 years old, is happy to help customers choose among the many local varieties to their taste.

“We also configure the taps to fill bottles under pressure so the integrity of the product is maintained,” Harnichar said.

Additionally, customers will notice in the new brand a softer floor and lighter carts with better wheels to make for a quieter and easier shopping experience. The product placement is more intuitive as well, with greeting cards placed by the floral department, and ready-to-eat products and other items for the daily shopper positioned near entrances for quick shopping trips. Long aisles are gone, replaced with items grouped on both sides now.

More local produce and products are a big part of the brand, as well as recipe and product knowledge among the Market 32 teammates. Training has additional focus on helping staff understand how to relate, serve and problem-solve. They are developing more expertise in their areas, and iPads are being put into the hands of teammates so they can more readily answer questions.

In the next couple weeks, customers will have increased technological self-service, too. There are interactive kiosks placed throughout the store where customers can find out everything from electronic coupons and recipes to the location of a specific item in the store.

Health and wellness is such an important part of the new Market 32 that the store does not sell cigarettes. Hardware and oil and similar items have also been pulled from the floor to make room for increased options in healthy and locally-sourced foods. Customers asked for more privacy in the pharmacy area, so it has been pulled off from the sales floor and encased for quiet and privacy, and there is a drive-through access. The company took it a step further and will be providing nurse practitioners in a Quick Care Clinic for flu shots and various urgent care needs.

Asked about his promotion to president, Grimmett said, “Most of it came as a result of bringing to life the Market 32 brand, which was a big challenge,” said Grimmett. “I am the first nonfamily member to hold the title, and I couldn’t be more honored in the trust they’ve given me.”

Market 32 will continue to evolve in response to customer feedback on initial stores as it rolls out replacing all Price Chopper stores over the next eight to ten years, with the intention of each iteration being better than last, as if the customers designed the shopping experience themselves.

“When we first announced the change, everyone wanted to know what was different,” said Golub. “There’s no one big thing. It’s about a lot of little things being different, with many subtleties that make the overall customer experience so much better.”

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