While more food shoppers turn toward e-commerce in the coronavirus age, Publix Super Markets is still betting that gleaming big grocery stores focused on stellar customer service will win the day.
That's why the company has opened a new store prototype in Tampa, Florida, featuring 48,000 square feet of fresh and dry grocery, a deli island on the sales floor and a Publix Aprons Cooking School kiosk in the center store.
The new Gandy Commons store at 4315 W Gandy Blvd. that opened Dec. 10 seems to borrow design elements from some of the company's other formats, especially its GreenWise banner, and roll them all into one new prototype. There's self checkouts, a big focus on grab-and-go fresh foods, and the produce and meat departments seem smaller. The deli is now a free-standing island on the sales floor featuring hot and cold prepared foods, but there's no self-service food bars.
“This design features the entire deli service area on the sales floor," said Brian West, community relations manager for Publix. "Every associate in the area is there to serve the customer while support efforts are handled off the sales floor."
The store also features a large spacious second-floor dining area above the entrance, a first for this type of format.
"This is an area where customers can relax, enjoy their favorite Publix sub, or use the WiFi to connect and get some work done," West said.
Publix has been experimenting with opening smaller formats of about 30,000 square feet, so this store feels massive. Throughout the store, there's an emphasis on convenience and local foods. As for e-commerce, the company has installed a permanent staging area for online orders near the customer service desk. And there are two grocery pickup spots in the parking lot, and the pharmacy offers drive-through service.
The store also features new signing for Publix, with a banner above the bakery proclaiming "rising to any occasion." Other new signing includes a banner over produce with the word "peace." The signing is similar to signing in the company's GreenWise stores. Publix reintroduced its GreenWise format after that concept had first debuted in 2007, seeking once more to capitalize on natural and organic trends.
“We’ve gone down this path before, and now we are back at it again,” said CEO Todd Jones in an exclusive interview with Progressive Grocer in November. Publix was also named 2020 Retailer of the Year. “We don’t want to miss the opportunity as it continues to grow because our data shows there is a customer there.”
As for the new crop of GreenWise stores, Jones noted: “The feedback has been great. People love the experience and the product mix, and overall, they have been satisfied at this point.”
While West characterized the store as a prototype, there is much about the merchandising and store layout that will feel familiar to Publix shoppers. For example, the retailer continues to use its iconic green throughout the store, the deli sells its famous fried chicken and the flooring is terrazzo. The new store is across the street from a Walmart and less than a mile from another Publix store.
Last month Publix logged another stellar financial quarter, reporting an 18.3% increase in sales and a nearly 60% jump in earnings for the three months ended Sept. 26.
Sales at the Lakeland. Florida-based grocer reached $11.1 billion for the third quarter, while comparable-store sales increased by an impressive 16.5%.
The company estimated that its sales for the three months increased approximately $1.25 billion, or 13.4%, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The grocer's net earnings were $917.6 million, compared with $574 million in 2019, an increase of 59.9%. Excluding the impact of net unrealized gains on equity securities in 2020 and net unrealized losses on equity securities in 2019, net earnings would have been $836.2 million, an increase of 44.1% over the same period last year.
Publix’s sales for the nine months ended Sept. 26 were $33.7 billion, an 18.7% increase from $28.4 billion in 2019. Comparable-store sales increased 16.9%. The company estimates that its sales for this period increased approximately $3.75 billion or 13.2% due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Net earnings for the nine months ended Sept. 26 were $3 billion, compared with $2.2 billion in 2019, an increase of 33.2%.
Effective Nov. 1, Publix’s stock price increased from $54.35 per share to $57.95 per share. Publix stock isn't publicly traded and is made available for sale only to current Publix associates and members of the company's board of directors.
Privately owned and operated by its more than 225,000 employees, Publix has 1,251 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The company is No. 12 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
See a gallery of images from the new Publix store below.