Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

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SamSpade
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Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by SamSpade »

So this week I am in the Lincoln, NE area and of course that means visiting local operators that do not exist in my home region.

I visited the nearby Hy-Vee and had a meal at their Market Grille. It was delicious. For this area, the price point seemed a little high but nothing outrageous. Most entrees were around $15. Desserts $6-8. Typical restaurant prices where I'm from. The portion probably could have been split between two diners especially if they had an appetizer as well.

The restaurant had a full bar and TVs everywhere. Well-rounded channels between sports, the Weather Channel, and the Food Network.

Anyway, the actual supermarket was laid out similar to a Haggen after the recent rebranding/remodel of the previous TOP Foods locations, similar to Olympia, Wash. location (not the "original" Haggen). Or, you could compare it to Utah's Harmon's stores. The store had lots of informational / special signs on chalkboards, similar to those at Trader Joe's.

There's a large Team Shop apparel area that knocks over what most Albertsons or Safeway stores are selling. There were also those trash cans with various NFL teams available.

The pharmacy had all the drug items in front of it, then next to that was a (mid-level) department store quality merchandised health and beauty department, including a large bath bomb display, and a separate natural/organic food section similar to what Fred Meyer stores have merchandised as "Natural Choices."

Liquor, beer, and wine were in their own area that is closed off after a certain time of night as the store is open 24-7. Pricing in there was very reasonable as well (liquor seems to be low cost in NE).

Bakery pricing was high but appeared very high quality. They had many signs emphasizing their from-scratch donuts. The case wasn't self-serve so you would need to buy them when the bakery was open. Meat and seafood looked great and are staffed until 10 pm nightly. There were grab and go meal kits in boxes in a refrigerator here near the meat department. There was also a "reminder"/introduction display of those near the store entrance.

The traditional grocer deli section was closed and cleaned up for the night so I haven't seen the salads on display but there is a broad selection. To the right of that is the entrance to the restaurant then finally many of the same foods served in the restaurant/bar are available as to go as hot food - Chinese, salad bar (with a lot of weird pricing options), fried chicken, pizza.

Today the company also made the local news as they were giving away seedlings for Arbor Day (as well as planting trees in Iowa). Link to another market's story about this
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Re: Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by pseudo3d »

I sort of got the impression that Hy-Vee was a fairly "normal" supermarket with only recent new-builds in the last 5-10 years have been these huge 80k-100k square foot palaces. Is this not correct...?
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Re: Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by storewanderer »

Hy Vee is a great operator and doesn't get as much credit as it deserves due to operating in regions that most do not pay much attention to. I think they are one of the best operators in the US. I like they much better than Publix, for example.

They have been building the large stores for at least the past 15-20 years.

The other interesting thing about Hy Vee is the store manager has significant control over the store operation and you will find as you go to different Hy Vees that pricing, promotions, merchandising, and policies will vary widely from store to store, even stores just a few miles apart.

I have generally found their prices to be on the high side, but if you go from Hy Vee to Hy Vee due to the different prices by location, you can do okay if you know your prices.
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Re: Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by TempoNick »

I'm in that part of the country at least once or twice a year. People seem to be very fond of Hy-Vee and from what I've seen, they're not bad.

I've been inside a very dated store in Davenport, IA, a small-town store in Sheldon, IA, a store near the Empire Mall in Sioux Falls, SD and a store in an upscale neighborhood in Sioux Falls, SD. The stores seem busy enough. I liked the in-store cafeteria in the Sheldon, IA store

My only complaint about them is that their store package is beyond boring. I thought their prices were higher than what I am used to, but then again I live in Kroger-land.
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Re: Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by storewanderer »

TempoNick wrote: July 18th, 2019, 9:25 pm I'm in that part of the country at least once or twice a year. People seem to be very fond of Hy-Vee and from what I've seen, they're not bad.

I've been inside a very dated store in Davenport, IA, a small-town store in Sheldon, IA, a store near the Empire Mall in Sioux Falls, SD and a store in an upscale neighborhood in Sioux Falls, SD. The stores seem busy enough. I liked the in-store cafeteria in the Sheldon, IA store

My only complaint about them is that their store package is beyond boring. I thought their prices were higher than what I am used to, but then again I live in Kroger-land.
Hy Vee is on Topco programs for private label and that boring theme seems to follow a lot of the Topco brands. On the flip side they do have a nice large private label mix. And they have their private label in all store categories (including drug) onlike many Topco operators that go with super boring Top Care in drug.

Pricing seems higher than Kroger to me throughout their store. Fresh quality is probably similar overall (much better bakery, a lot more hot foods but quality varies by store and area, what appears to be somewhat worse cold cut deli if compared to a Kroger with Boar's Head, toss up on produce, and can't comment on meat).
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Re: Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by Romr123 »

The thing that distinguishes Hy-Vee is that they successfully operate stores at both extremes--the 90k sqft suburban grocery palace and the 10k rural supermarket. I was shocked last year that a store in Lamoni, IA right off I-35 just over the IA/MO state line literally hadn't changed in 25 years...I'd stopped there in 1993 during the Iowa floods (rather traumatic experience).
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Re: Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by Bakeragr »

Hy-Vee still operates lots of rural stores in Iowa and Northern Missouri. They've also added some in other towns here recently, experimenting with a format called "Hy-Vee Dollar Fresh" that has gone into closed ShopKo/Pamida locations in the last year or so. I've not been to one, but I appreciate that they've not completely moved to the city and forgotten the rural areas that got them started. I do however wish that they'd expand in some of the larger small towns in Missouri (15-25,000)where the only remaining supermarket choices are Walmart, Aldi and some AWG member store.

I was in the Hy-Vee at Osage Beach (Lake of the Ozarks) last week and am continually pleased with their customer service. I don't know that there's any competitor that comes close. People seem to truly enjoy working there, and I think they treat their employees well. They don't promote it as much, but they used to really promote that they're Employee Owned.

Hy-Vee seems quite willing to experiment with their stores and see what works. They've added full-service restaurants, removed some of them, tried selling cosmetics, shoes and apparel in their open square footage much like a Kroger Marketplace, and they're currently trying an Amazon Prime-type membership subscription with certain benefits. As loyal as their customers are, I could see it working. Their one store in Jefferson City is easily the busiest supermarket in town, consistently. They don't have the best prices, but good enough prices. What people like about them is they are consistent in their quality and service.

Another nice thing about Hy-Vee is that their store managers have a lot of latitude to do community events and sponsorships and I believe they can choose to do store-only promotions that the whole chain isn't doing. I can tell you the name of their store manager because he's out in the community, and gets interviewed on TV and radio often. I couldn't tell you who the local managers of their competitors are.
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Re: Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by storewanderer »

I found Hy-Vee pricing and promotions to vary a lot by store location. Overall, it isn't great. I would say you get what you pay for, and nothing is too far out of line on price. It is more the lack of "great deals" loss leader type items that Albertsons and Kroger love to run, that I miss at Hy-Vee. Though I was surprised around Minneapolis, Hy-Vee had quite strong shelf pricing in center store, which I had never seen before out of them like that on a consistent basis across all stores I went into in a given market. Add to it, they are always clean, fresh departments are always full and fresh, staffing levels are always high, service is usually pretty good (not always), and generally speaking they just have a lot more to offer in their stores than any competitor.
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Re: Hy-Vee: The "Haggen" of the Midwest?

Post by Bakeragr »

Very interesting article about Hy-Vee.
https://progressivegrocer.com/how-hy-ve ... 2024034I5B

I continue to be impressed by their willingness to innovate. Their advertising lately has been very catchy, too. A few months ago they had a sharp ad with "Whatever It Takes" by Imagine Dragons that my kids loved, and currently they have that 80's song "Our House" with a different themed house in each ad, with the current one showing a family watching college basketball, celebrating St. Patrick's Day and getting ready for Easter. Very cool. When their commercials come on, my kids stop what they're doing and watch them.

I know they have a new-build traditional store under construction in Springfield, MO. I would really like to check out one of their Dollar Fresh stores, because I think there's a lot of potential with the right format in a lot of small towns within their footprint. I think it could be a great infill concept. They'll just have to get the right pricing.
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