Crucial times for Shoppers

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BatteryMill
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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by BatteryMill »

storewanderer wrote: May 11th, 2019, 11:22 pm I got to go into a single Shoppers this week.

It was exactly how I remembered Shoppers.

The store was clean and orderly. Well maintained, bright, the physical plant was in great shape. The decor was probably modern in 2005 but still looks fine. There was a good amount of traffic in the store. Perimeter areas were organized and staffed. Pricing was pretty marginal overall; some fair prices mixed along a lot of not very good prices (maybe not quite as bad as Safeway or Food Lion who seem to be the two high price leaders at this time, even higher than Harris Teeter on a lot of center store which is a shock). Produce was especially terrible in price, but looked fine.

Was surprised to see they have even updated to EMV Contactless for payment processing. All of the grocers out west on that NCR register system are still using the older MSD Contactless (the thing that is being phased out and caused JCP to stop accepting any Contactless).

Nearby this store was a Food Lion and a Weis. This Shoppers was by far the busiest of the three. The Food Lion was the nicest Food Lion I've ever seen as far as the physical plant goes (exposed ceilings, ( ) shaped aisles and checkout area) with the usual Food Lion perimeter - very limited. I was really surprised how high Food Lion's prices were. But that is for another thread.
Shoppers does manage to clean their stores up nicely, however other stores just don't look as good and well-maintained.

About the decor - Shoppers did remodel those stores recently, albeit it's a really bland SuperValu-inspired package with no character whatsoever. It slightly bases itself on the classic warehouse look though it'd be hard to discern. As for what it means for the chain - I hope this may be a good sign for them at least.

Oddly for those Food Lion stores, constructed in the mid-2000s they remodeled most of these one/two years after opening regardless of banner. Quite odd, eh?

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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by BatteryMill »

Another semi-new update: Shoppers, alongside Cub are to remain open until about mid-2022, under UNFI/SuperValu's control. These articles state that Shoppers will close some stores in the meantime, however no final sale/shutdown for either banner is to occur.


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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by storewanderer »

I suspect UNFI sees what happens to most of what it sells- like Farm Fresh. They do not retain the wholesale business despite their intentions to do so. Even if they sell the stores off to independents, the stores do not stay in business long. There is a reason why Supervalu had these odd scattered regional chains over the years- they provided consistent volume for the wholesale operation as other wholesale customers came and went. Supervalu has always had a lot of customers come and go; they had WinCo before then WinCo self distributed. They had a big chunk of Target business before Target went full scale into grocery and started to handle distribution on its own. They had some Kmart business before Kmart went 100% with Fleming. They picked up a ton of business when Fleming went under but over time lost most of it as those customers moved to other suppliers or started to self distribute.

In the case of Hornbacher's or whatever it is called there in ND they sold it to a customer and are retaining that business.

UNFI continues to lose independent customers out west. C&S is expanding into OR/WA and UNFI will undoubtedly lose at least some independents in those states. Mar Val in NorCal is a growing operation and left UNFI last year for C&S. All of the growing regional chains in NorCal and Central California use C&S; none use UNFI.

The problem at this point is they sold too many retail stores off. They should have kept the core Supervalu Retail (Cub, Shoppers, Farm Fresh, Hornbachers - maybe Shop N Save needed to go). It doesn't even make sense at this point to keep so few retail stores.

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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by buckguy »

To get back to Shoppers, UNFI is pretty unlikely to retain wholesale customers in the DC-Baltimore area. The growth among independents has been related to Shop-Rite or small niche players like ethnic markets or Yes! and MOM's which do natural foods and emphasize local sourcing. Shoppers diluted its identity long ago---it's original niche was smallish stores (often castoffs) that targeted young families with children. Upgrading to be more of a direct competitor like Safeway or Giant was a failure and was unable to capitalize on those chains' stumbles. They seem to want maximum compensation for the remaining locations and recognize the uncertainty of that happening during the current times. The remaining locations are a mix of saturated middle income areas and less well off areas with limited growth potential. They would need to find a buyer interested in Prince George's County or a ring around Baltimore to sell blocs of stores---the most likely outcome is that they quietly sell or close what ever individual stores they can over the next couple years.

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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by BatteryMill »

storewanderer wrote: September 22nd, 2020, 8:16 pm I suspect UNFI sees what happens to most of what it sells- like Farm Fresh. They do not retain the wholesale business despite their intentions to do so. Even if they sell the stores off to independents, the stores do not stay in business long. There is a reason why Supervalu had these odd scattered regional chains over the years- they provided consistent volume for the wholesale operation as other wholesale customers came and went. Supervalu has always had a lot of customers come and go; they had WinCo before then WinCo self distributed. They had a big chunk of Target business before Target went full scale into grocery and started to handle distribution on its own. They had some Kmart business before Kmart went 100% with Fleming. They picked up a ton of business when Fleming went under but over time lost most of it as those customers moved to other suppliers or started to self distribute.

In the case of Hornbacher's or whatever it is called there in ND they sold it to a customer and are retaining that business.

UNFI continues to lose independent customers out west. C&S is expanding into OR/WA and UNFI will undoubtedly lose at least some independents in those states. Mar Val in NorCal is a growing operation and left UNFI last year for C&S. All of the growing regional chains in NorCal and Central California use C&S; none use UNFI.

The problem at this point is they sold too many retail stores off. They should have kept the core Supervalu Retail (Cub, Shoppers, Farm Fresh, Hornbachers - maybe Shop N Save needed to go). It doesn't even make sense at this point to keep so few retail stores.
Farm Fresh has been independent (broken into two) for two years - there's one store I know of that closed, how are the rest doing?

And yes, keeping the chain together wouldn't have been too bad. What do you think it might have done?
buckguy wrote: September 23rd, 2020, 6:48 am To get back to Shoppers, UNFI is pretty unlikely to retain wholesale customers in the DC-Baltimore area. The growth among independents has been related to Shop-Rite or small niche players like ethnic markets or Yes! and MOM's which do natural foods and emphasize local sourcing. Shoppers diluted its identity long ago---it's original niche was smallish stores (often castoffs) that targeted young families with children. Upgrading to be more of a direct competitor like Safeway or Giant was a failure and was unable to capitalize on those chains' stumbles. They seem to want maximum compensation for the remaining locations and recognize the uncertainty of that happening during the current times. The remaining locations are a mix of saturated middle income areas and less well off areas with limited growth potential. They would need to find a buyer interested in Prince George's County or a ring around Baltimore to sell blocs of stores---the most likely outcome is that they quietly sell or close what ever individual stores they can over the next couple years.
I can understand - maybe Shoppers will pass through, maybe it will not with new distribution.

Shoppers started experimenting with larger stores when the Shoppers Club concept was introduced in the mid-1990s. Those stores, from my POV, were a nice way to incorporate a growing list of features without sacrificing their price-cutting trends. I will say it wasn't until SuperValu bought them out, when they ditched much of their classic "warehouse" traits and began presenting their stores in a way comparable to Giant and Safeway. I will comment though, those markets were significantly bought into by Lidl and Compare Foods last December - tough one.

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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by pseudo3d »

buckguy wrote: September 23rd, 2020, 6:48 am To get back to Shoppers, UNFI is pretty unlikely to retain wholesale customers in the DC-Baltimore area. The growth among independents has been related to Shop-Rite or small niche players like ethnic markets or Yes! and MOM's which do natural foods and emphasize local sourcing. Shoppers diluted its identity long ago---it's original niche was smallish stores (often castoffs) that targeted young families with children. Upgrading to be more of a direct competitor like Safeway or Giant was a failure and was unable to capitalize on those chains' stumbles. They seem to want maximum compensation for the remaining locations and recognize the uncertainty of that happening during the current times. The remaining locations are a mix of saturated middle income areas and less well off areas with limited growth potential. They would need to find a buyer interested in Prince George's County or a ring around Baltimore to sell blocs of stores---the most likely outcome is that they quietly sell or close what ever individual stores they can over the next couple years.
Killing the in-store pharmacies, which although isn't a money-maker like the old days, hurts their prospects, and UNFI's seeming insistence at wanting to keep the wholesale business (which is part of the reason, I assume, they've been dragging their feet on the Cub Foods sale).

Even under SuperValu, while making some token efforts to update and remodel Cub Foods, doesn't look like it wants to save Shoppers at all, and now UNFI has the opportunity to try to make a last-ditch effort to make a new prototype for investors and restore the name to its former glory.

At this point, UNFI should sell the Shoppers stores at whatever Safeway/Giant/the independents will pay for them (maybe even selling a few as going concerns with the Shoppers name!) instead of letting them all become dogs and poisoning the brand for years to come.

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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by buckguy »

Took a look at their website and Googled to see if there is any news. It looks as though they quietly closed a number of stores earlier this year. I wonder if it's a matter of leases coming due, because there's no real unifying theme.

UNFI indicated that they wanted to exit retail but anticipated that it would take 12-24 months to accomplish this---they said this in June. COVID has lingered longer than people expected, so they might stick around longer---no one seems to be opening new stores which may make it more difficult to sell what's left. They claimed to be doing deals in June, but the store count hasn't changed since then which makes me think whatever they were considering had fallen through.

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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by storewanderer »

buckguy wrote: November 11th, 2020, 6:02 am Took a look at their website and Googled to see if there is any news. It looks as though they quietly closed a number of stores earlier this year. I wonder if it's a matter of leases coming due, because there's no real unifying theme.

UNFI indicated that they wanted to exit retail but anticipated that it would take 12-24 months to accomplish this---they said this in June. COVID has lingered longer than people expected, so they might stick around longer---no one seems to be opening new stores which may make it more difficult to sell what's left. They claimed to be doing deals in June, but the store count hasn't changed since then which makes me think whatever they were considering had fallen through.
UNFI did pick up some wholesale business (Key Foods) recently from C&S back east so it may be a matter of timing the divest of these stores with when that new volume will come into their facilities to make up for the loss of volume from the closure or sale of these stores.

It seems like UNFI has claimed to do multiple deals multiple times and things do not always go through for one reason or another. They do still seem to be spending some money at Cub, but with Cub I'm never clear if what I am seeing is UNFI spending money or Jerry's Foods (franchisee) spending money. I am assuming they are not spending a dime at Shoppers.

UNFI is probably holding on longer since stores are doing better now due to COVID. And Shoppers Stores are generally designed to do pretty good volume (maybe not the Baltimore ones that seem smaller but I'm not clear exactly what type of stores are left) so they can realistically push a good amount of product through those stores and it may be worth their while to keep operating them as long as COVID demand is there. Plus the longer they can show better sales momentum the more they can potentially get when they sell them.

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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by BatteryMill »

pseudo3d wrote: November 11th, 2020, 3:03 am Killing the in-store pharmacies, which although isn't a money-maker like the old days, hurts their prospects, and UNFI's seeming insistence at wanting to keep the wholesale business (which is part of the reason, I assume, they've been dragging their feet on the Cub Foods sale).

Even under SuperValu, while making some token efforts to update and remodel Cub Foods, doesn't look like it wants to save Shoppers at all, and now UNFI has the opportunity to try to make a last-ditch effort to make a new prototype for investors and restore the name to its former glory.

At this point, UNFI should sell the Shoppers stores at whatever Safeway/Giant/the independents will pay for them (maybe even selling a few as going concerns with the Shoppers name!) instead of letting them all become dogs and poisoning the brand for years to come.
Once they put in pharmacies, it was certainly hard for them to go back to being without it seems. It's worked for whoever bought into the chain so far, but it does stifle opportunities otherwise.

As for the remodels, SVU did invest quite a bit into the Shoppers storebase, having remodeled plenty of stores over the past decade. They've also done an upscale Shoppers Market concept, albeit both closed with the recent round surprisingly. It clearly doesn't match Cub's efforts with urban-format stores, but it's done the chain a bit better to not be stuck with dingy stores.

I'm hopeful to see what's next, perhaps Publix may even buy into one or two. I have heard Safeway does not want to participate in the buyouts however. Speaking of the "going concerns", McKay's, one of the suitors who bought into the chain last year, reopened the Waldorf, MD store as - Shoppers. I don't know if they have applied it to the other store they bought out, but perhaps may this be the future of the Shoppers brand?
buckguy wrote: November 11th, 2020, 6:02 am Took a look at their website and Googled to see if there is any news. It looks as though they quietly closed a number of stores earlier this year. I wonder if it's a matter of leases coming due, because there's no real unifying theme.

UNFI indicated that they wanted to exit retail but anticipated that it would take 12-24 months to accomplish this---they said this in June. COVID has lingered longer than people expected, so they might stick around longer---no one seems to be opening new stores which may make it more difficult to sell what's left. They claimed to be doing deals in June, but the store count hasn't changed since then which makes me think whatever they were considering had fallen through.
This was the round announced last December, these certainly made headlines but the closing sales were rather indeterminate in length (some closing within less than 2 weeks after the news broke). This reduced their store count to around 24 stores, and I haven't heard any other news since. Wishing the best for them anyhow.

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Re: Crucial times for Shoppers

Post by storewanderer »

BatteryMill wrote: November 15th, 2020, 10:51 am
I'm hopeful to see what's next, perhaps Publix may even buy into one or two. I have heard Safeway does not want to participate in the buyouts however. Speaking of the "going concerns", McKay's, one of the suitors who bought into the chain last year, reopened the Waldorf, MD store as - Shoppers. I don't know if they have applied it to the other store they bought out, but perhaps may this be the future of the Shoppers brand?

That is how they handled Farm Fresh too. Some of those are still open under independents. The results were not good. I think some already shut down and reviews online were awful and photos of store conditions under the independents were a nosedive from previous photos when they were corporate stores.

McKay's is curious as they were not previously a UNFI supplied store. I wonder if they are using UNFI to supply these two Shoppers Stores? They do not reference these two Shoppers Stores on their website. There seems to be a Facebook page for the Waldorf Store which is still getting postings from the UNFI Shoppers... and referencing to that website, ads, etc. But the UNFI Shoppers website no longer lists the Waldorf Store as one of its locations.

It is not clear if McKay's reopened the California, MD (Lexington Park) store yet.

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