Grocery Insight had a chance to visit with Rick Rayford on his tenure as President & CEO of Brookshire Grocery. Here, Rayford discusses the past five years, his experience with Brookshire Grocery and how the company is evolving to meet customer needs.
Grocery Insight: How has Brookshire Grocery evolved since you were named President and CEO in 2007?
Rick Rayford: We’ve implemented great technology and increased efficiency. We implemented SAP IS Retail to manage our business. We were the first in the nation to implement it, and it was a massive undertaking. However SAP gave us the data we needed to make fact-based decisions. More recently, we implemented Fresh Item Management and Workforce Management—which control our production planning and our people needs respectively in our stores. Ultimately, through our technology we’ve been able to make our employees’ jobs easier and our business more efficient. It wasn’t just technology, however. We established a new business model by implementing category management. We put the decision-making power for product selection, product placement, price, and promotions in the hands of subject matter experts. We also implemented $4 generic scripts to be more competitive.
GI: How has the grocery industry overall changed since you joined Brookshire Grocery?
RR: Retailers now have the ability to reward individual customers and meet their needs through targeted direct marketing. Customers’ needs and demands are changing constantly, and we have to change to keep up with them. It’s a technology-driven business now. Technology allows us to focus on individual customer needs.
GI: What prompted you to work in the grocery industry?
RR: It’s an honor to be in a business that fills a need for families. We get to influence a lot of people’s lives. It’s a great industry filled with great people.
GI: Where do you see opportunities to grow in the U.S.?
RR: There are many great grocery companies that cover the US, and all of these companies will continue to look for ways to grow their business.
GI: Do you anticipate any out of state expansion in the near future?
RR: We are already in three states. I don’t anticipate any growth in other states at this time.
GI: How does Brookshire Grocery measure success?
RR: I measure success based on opportunities for our people. Overall, the company, of course, also measures success based on reaching our long-term goals related to sales, transactions, profits and expanded market area. I do believe we’ll reach our goals if we take care of our customers properly.
GI: What does Brookshire Grocery do better than its competitors?
RR: People. We have great loyalty from our employee/partners. We train them well, we provide great benefits, we’re focused on having fresh products and being the best we can be. We have a great group of dedicated partners who serve the needs of our customers.
GI: How does Brookshire Grocery compete against small stores?
RR: Our business plan allows us to compete with not only smaller retailers but large retailers as well. We’re very confident we can be successful with our plans.
GI: What tools do you use to maintain consumer loyalty with so many competitors in the marketplace?
RR: We study our customers and their shopping habits through our loyalty card and other programs to reward them and to anticipate their needs. We also provide outstanding service which we call “legendary customer service” to let our shoppers know they are appreciated and valued. We recently initiated a points program in which customers are rewarded with fuel or grocery discounts based on their purchases.
GI: How do year over year comps compare for 2013?
RR: As a private company, we don’t share financial information; however, we’re very pleased with our year-over-year comps.
GI: How does being a regional operator help you to respond to customer demands?
RR: We’re more of a neighborhood market. We’re able to respond quickly by being involved in the community and listening to the needs of our customers. We have a customer feedback program called “We’re Listening” with phone lines answered by real people rather than an automated system. We also obtain feedback via the website, social media, market research and through our employee/partners.
GI: What are some of the challenges specific to working in the grocery industry?
RR: Increasing competition from multiple channels is very challenging to traditional grocers. Numerous retail outlets are now in the “grocery business” so we work hard to maintain or grow market share. Government interference, excessive fees for credit cards and rising healthcare costs present challenges along with availability of qualified people to work in our stores and support areas.
GI: What do you enjoy about working within the grocery industry?
RR: Having the opportunity to please customers and provide for their needs. Also, having the opportunity to work with truly great people in our company and throughout our industry.
GI: What can we expect from Brookshire Grocery in the near future?
RR: In the future, we’ll concentrate on further developing our people through educational programs, health and wellness programs and innovative training. We will also continue to update our stores and systems using technology and other resources to improve our operations so we can fulfill our mission of providing a great food and shopping experience.