Food Lion Works Toward Reinvention

My local newspaper the Charlotte Observer has a great interview with Cathy Green the new president of Food Lion I has the opportunity to work with Cathy on several occasions while I was at the Food Lion headquarters in Salisbury and she truly “gets” retail, customers and her associates. The following is an excerpt from the article that includes her comments on Private Brands.

At Food Lion, a move toward reinvention

If you’ve seen Cathy Green lately, that’s by design: The new president of Food Lion is starring in the retailer’s latest television ads.

She’s responsible for 72,000 employees and nearly 1,300 stores across the Southeast, including the 1,149 Food Lions and the Bloom, Harveys and Reids banners, all of which aim for different customer segments.

She spoke with the Observer last week at a Food Lion in Mooresville – the same store used in the commercials. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity:

Q. Where do you see Food Lion’s position in the marketplace?

We have a price position, (but) there’s three elements for us. To work to be the low-price leader. Convenience – we have a lot of stores (and) they’re just not as large as some of the big box stores, so you can get in and out more quickly. The other thing I would say is that…we want to be so ingrained in the community that people think about us first.

Q. How do you think Food Lion is perceived, and are you trying to change that?

We are clearly going back to our heritage. We have been around for over 50 years now, and the opportunity that we have is to leverage and stay true to those roots. And our roots are price.

Q. There have been reports that the economy is recovering. Are you seeing that?

I think it’s still difficult, which is why lowering prices is so critical for us right now. The shift in behaviors is continuing: The use of coupons, the use of shopping lists, all of us trying to really stretch meals to last, eating leftovers. I’d love to believe that we’re starting to see some type of comeback, but for me it’s too early to tell.

Q. Are there certain products or categories that are an economic bellwether?

Yes, private brand. That’s grown for us over the last year to 18 months…and it will continue to grow. We’re expanding the number of items we have in private brand, and that’s answering the need of the consumer.

Q. What are you hoping to achieve with the pilot program that films people as they move through the store?

The whole idea of that is to understand, for example, if you were to walk in front of the spice section, and you’re standing there for 30 seconds and you don’t purchase anything, why? Really trying to understand the patterns of, why do people skip a certain aisle altogether or don’t stop in front of a section altogether. Now, some of it may be, if you don’t have children, you probably won’t shop the baby aisle. But it’s an opportunity for us and manufacturers to understand, how do my products perform, and how can we make it more compelling, for them to maybe linger a little bit longer, to potentially inspire them to buy one of our products. ( The company says it has not received feedback from customers regarding the program – good or bad – and that it is not invasive, as the technology used does not identify any customer or any personal attributes of customers.)

Q. What will a grocery store look like 10 years from now?

Value and convenience will continue to be important, because of habits and rituals that are here to stay. There’s a whole new standard being set right now in terms of how people approach shopping in general, not just grocery shopping, that I think will be passed down generationally. Then I think there’s this whole element of deep personalization that’s going to be very important that we’re just starting to feel the impacts of.

Read the entire article.

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Christopher Durham

Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan).

Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s.
Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago.

Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.