Progressive Grocer Honors 25 Outstanding Independents
It’s often the way of things that the big guys in the industry hog much of the media attention — think of those two grocery behemoths whose impending merger set off a veritable feeding frenzy among members of the press — but independents also deserve their time in the spotlight. While they may not be able to compete with larger chains in terms of scale, many have perfected the fine art of making themselves beloved and indispensable members of their respective communities, and this approach often helps to boost their bottom lines.
As an example of this, look no further than Byron’s and Cambridge Village Markets, in upstate New York, which, when faced with supply chain woes that bedeviled even the big-box stores, found unconventional sources to keep their shelves stocked, such as restaurant suppliers that would have otherwise been unable to move product during the height of the pandemic. The stores, operated by Byron Peregrim, also kept customers in the loop daily via social media on stock availability. According to Peregrim, this in itself lifted sales more than 35% over the prior year, and two years on, they’re still up 20%-25% over previous years. He proudly adds that throughout it all, the stores never raised their margins, instead growing profits via “hard work and added sales.” These added profits subsequently enabled the stores to give back even more to their local communities, completing the circle of trust between the stores and their shoppers.
In another case, when a Wegmans Food Market opened a few miles away from Harvest Market, in Hockessin, Del., in spite of predictions from a consultant of plunging sales, the single-store grocer closed out the year up 11%. The indie attributes this win to “a staff focused on taking care of customers from the moment they walk through the door.”
Independents’ gains aren’t just monetary, however. Gwen Christon’s store, Isom IGA, in Isom, Ky., may have been destroyed by a devastating flood, but in the aftermath, she and her business were inundated with donations and offers of help to rebuild the supermarket, which had long been a welcoming community hub and will be again.
That’s the true differentiating factor of independent grocers — their ability to bring people together through food in unique ways that reflect their local areas. Despite their many differences, that quality is one shared by each of Progressive Grocer’s 25 2023 Outstanding Independents. Read on to find out more.