Constant Gardener

Fresh produce, WiFi latest in N.Y. retailer's efforts to stay relevant

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

[Editor's Note: This article is part of CSP's examination of ways retailers stay relevant with today's consumer. For more, watch out for the magazine's March 2009 cover story.] BROCKPORT, N.Y. -- At any one time, Doug Galli of Reid Stores Inc. may be conducting three, four or five field tests, trying everything from fresh produce to WiFi access as a way to continually connect with customers. With consumer habits changing as a result of tightening economic times, Galli, vice president and general manger of the 30-store chain which operates under the names Crosby's and K&[image-nocss] amp;K Food Mart, told CSP Daily News that now more than ever, retailers have to be in tune with what customers want.

For Galli, the secret is starts with asking questions. For instance, "we have to continue to find out [how valid] the movement toward healthy offerings is," he said. "Do we have to start offering wraps or more green salads?"

At one of their sites, Reid began offering a limited amount of fresh produce-lettuce, peppers, celery, apples, oranges and bananas-because the nearest grocery store is miles away. At other stores, they've started to offer WiFi.

Galli said WiFi is not offered in all stores, but several already had seating, which allowed customers to spend time in the store while having lunch, dinner or a cup of coffee. "We did it in order to compete with others in market that had food and also offered free WiFi," Galli said. "I think WiFi will eventually become a requirement as more and more retailers make it available. And while it may not be the [ultimate] technology, it comes at no cost to us since we already have [an Internet hookup] for our backoffice and it's nice to offer it to our customers in the meantime."

The chain's focus, however, is foodservice. The company does operate two Subway franchises and a Tim Horton's coffee site, but Reid Stores offer a quality, proprietary pizza and made-to-order sub program, as well as its own coffee program. Galli said he sees three main areas of expansion in their sites: Grab-and-go foodservice, green salads with a focus on health and fresh produce in applicable stores.

Galli believed numerous opportunities are opening up to capitalize on consumers' ever-evolving expectations. For instance, on the coffee side, fast-food giant McDonald's, Oak Brook, Ill., is paving the way for a large demographic to want accessible, quality coffee at affordable prices.

Thinking out loud, Galli said, "[McDonald's] is already doing the advertising to the 15-35 year-old demographic. So how do we [the c-store industry] capture them? And how do you reach them--it's got to be more than newspaper and radio. You have to go to the Internet with texting, Facebook and MySpace."

Reid has an 85-year history in petroleum but got back into running stores directly about seven years ago, he said. The company is also in growth mode, searching for stores in contiguous areas to its present territories. "We always have deals [going on] somewhere," he said.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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