The Future’s So Bright, Grocer Has to Wear Shades

Dec 02, 2003

By George Anderson

The biggest challenge, says Gene Fulton, president and owner of the nine-store Jensen’s Finest Foods business, is not dealing with Wal-Mart or some other competitor.

“The biggest challenge,” he says, “is finding good employees, and making sure the good ones want to stay with you”.

Keeping long-term employees is something Mr. Fulton knows something about. He started working in Jensen’s doing store cleanups when he was a kid back in 1957, according to a
Desert Sun report. It wasn’t until 1981 and several promotions later, that Mr. Fulton was able to purchase Jensen’s.

The grocer succeeds, says its owner and others, because it focuses on the needs of customers offering products not found in the competition. For example, Jensen’s sells a large
selection of English foods to visitors from the UK who holiday in the Palm Springs area.

Mr. Fulton says the chain has benefited this year from the labor lockout and strike of southern California stores operated by Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway.

While bullish on the prospects of his own business, Mr. Fulton sees tougher times ahead for some chain competitors. Price cutting pressure from Wal-Mart will ultimately result
in one of the chains — Albertsons, Ralphs, Vons and Stater Brothers — “either going out of business or being bought out by somebody,” he said.

Moderator’s Comment: Are independents such as Jensen’s Finer Foods in Palm Springs in a better position to compete against the likes of Wal-Mart than
one of the major grocery chains? Why is or isn’t this so?

Independents such as Jensen’s are built for speed and flexibility; two qualities often missing in the larger chains. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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