FDBuyer: How A&G Fresh Market Stays Fresh
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine.
I love it when a scrappy and agile independent goes toe to toe with the big chains and thrives. A&G Fresh Market, in a working class Polish neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, is one of them.
Signage is in English, Polish and Spanish since many of the people moving into the neighborhood are Hispanic. Muzak in the store focuses on Italian singers (Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and even some light opera) since the owners like to stay close to their own ethnic roots. But the grocer is highly competitive when it comes to selection, price and service.
Snippets from a tour of the store by FD Buyer with co-owner Frank Tenuta revealed a few keys to its success:
Independence: “We’re very hands-on. We thrive on cleanliness, customer service and aggressive pricing. This neighborhood was primarily Polish, but it’s going through transition as more Hispanics move in. We cater to everyone in the area, and we’re big enough to keep everyone happy.”
Price competitive: “When we get deals from our vendors, we pass them along to our shoppers instead of just taking more profit. Word of mouth goes a long way. We make sure there are lots of options for customers at different price points.”
Catering to all segments: “We make sure we hire the right help, with the knowledge of what the customers want. Right now, our market is about 40 percent Polish, 30 percent Hispanic and 30 percent everything else, including Asian. We have a large produce department, and monitor sales of certain items there that are used pretty much strictly by Hispanics.”
Variety: “We can’t do just the top two brands and a regional in this neighborhood. We’ve got to have lots of variety for different ethnic groups, and price options as well. This is a blue-collar area; factory jobs are being lost and construction is down. For Polish, Hispanic and Asian foods, we work with our DSD vendors to give us what we need.”
Family run: “We have family running the business, and no need to report to Wall Street or anybody. We also have people with experience running each department. Dominick’s was doing great until Safeway took them over and tried to run them from the West Coast. I’d rather compete with companies like that, instead of another independent. You have to work really hard to keep your edge against a strong independent.”
Discussion Questions: What attributes seen at A&G are most important for independents competing with chains? What other independent grocers are thriving and what has made them successful?