Editor's Note: Masters Tour

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Editor's Note: Masters Tour

By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ - 05/12/2017

Retailing is a lot like golf — it requires concentration, precision and a focus not just on the task at hand, but also on what comes next.

That’s how we came to select the theme that frames our annual Super 50 ranking of food retailers this year.

Much like golfers, there are retailers that are right on par, delivering exactly what’s expected time after time; ones that are adjusting their swing, looking for a better competitive edge; ones that are in the rough, struggling with competitive forces; and ones that are in the hunt for strategic growth opportunities.

And, of course, there’s the leaderboard, those carrying the torch for themselves and the industry, setting standards for performance and innovation that others hope to emulate.

Among traditional grocers, Kroger tops the leaderboard; we discuss its success in our main report.

But the leader in sheer volume and sales continues to be Walmart. Firmly in our No. 1 spot, the mega-retailer has been busy beefing up its presence in the digital space as Amazon broadens its sights to include the grocery category.

“We are a company of the future,” Walmart President/CEO Doug McMillon recently wrote. “We’ll continue to strengthen our stores around the world, we’ll continue to build our ecommerce and digital capabilities, and we’ll put them together in a way that saves customers time and money.”

With its supply chain network and ongoing investments in ecommerce, Walmart may be best equipped to withstand disruptors like etailer Amazon and German hard-discounter Lidl.

At No. 6, H-E-B benefits from its commitment to the communities it serves, as well as its team of associates. Operating more than 370 stores in Texas and Mexico, H-E-B recently passed the 100,000-employee milestone, making it the largest privately held employer in the Lone Star State.

Last summer, H-E-B acquired six Sun Fresh Market stores in Dallas, strengthening its position in northern Texas, where it operates the upscale Central Market banner. Further, H-E-B expanded its partnership with ecommerce service Shipt to deliver groceries in its key markets. And it’s beefing up technology to enhance critical communications with employees, who enjoy a company stock ownership plan, perhaps one of the factors that made H-E-B one of Glassdoor.com’s Best Places to Work in 2017.

Also so honored was PG’s 15th-ranked retailer, Wegmans (up two slots from last year), which continues to impress industry observers and its fiercely loyal shoppers with its quality, quantity, consistency, price points and customer experience. Wegmans took second place on The Harris Poll’s latest consumer reputation ranking, scoring high for social responsibility, emotional appeal, workplace environment, products and services, financial performance, and vision and leadership.

As a parent company, retailer cooperative Wakefern holds a strong No. 8 position on our ranking. Add in the sales of separately listed ShopRite operators like Village Super Market (No. 40), Foodarama (No. 42) and Inserra ( No. 43), and the brand looks even more formidable.

Wakefern has become a leader in online grocery shopping — both click-and-collect and home delivery — which continues to grow as a percentage of its overall sales. Add to that Wakefern’s collaboration on the new “smart fridge” technology, and it’s easy to see why this innovator maintains a strong position among its peers.

The co-op reported record sales of $16 billion for its most recent fiscal year, which ended last Oct. 1, a period during which it opened 14 new stores under the ShopRite, Fresh Grocer and Price Rite banners, along with a store boasting a new format, Dearborn Market.

“From our retail dietitian program to our expanding private label lines and digital presence,” President/COO Joe Sheridan said last fall, “Wakefern and our supermarket banners are meeting the future head-on to provide great customer experiences in store and online.”

Enjoy your stroll through the Super 50.

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