business news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting piece in the Tampa Bay Times about limited-assortment, no-frills Save-A-Lot, which has managed to carve out a successful niche there despite a plethora of competitors.

The story notes that "Save-A-Lot has operated supermarkets in Florida since the '80s, managing mostly to fly under the radar. But in recent years, the Missouri-based discount grocery chain known for its discount prices and private labels on staple items from milk to spaghetti, has moved into Florida in a big way. Save-A-Lot made a push to double its number of stores in the southeast in 2009, and within three years opened 100 stores, including dozens more in Florida and a second distribution center. Florida is now Save-A-Lot's largest market with more than 150 stores."

The story goes on: "The company's business strategy has stayed the same even with its rapid growth. Save-A-Lot has opened more urban stores, including several in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, but they still serve areas that are often considered 'food deserts,' or densely populated communities where it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food ... Many of the shoppers who buy from the Save-A-Lot store on Gulfport Boulevard in southern Pinellas County walk or ride bikes from their homes nearby. The store is located in a mostly empty shopping center with a Family Dollar store next door and a handful of other independent stores. However, the Save-A-Lot store stays busy nearly all hours of the day. In a marked contrast to the atmosphere of a typical suburban supermarkets, an armed security guard stands at the front of the store."

But the Times also notes that things could get tougher for Save-A-Lot, as Aldi expands in Florida and Lidl makes plans for its US invasion.
KC's View:
It was just three months ago that Supervalu sold Save-A-Lot to Canadian private equity group Onex Corp. for $1.365 billion ... and not long before that, Save-A-Lot got new leadership, starting with new CEO Eric Claus.

I'm absolutely sure that job one at Save-A-Lot these days is getting a lot more effective in achieving and communicating its core value message while simultaneously driving efficiencies wherever possible. That can be complicated because much of the chain is franchised, but leadership knows that the competition only is going to get tougher, and that the window for success only will get tighter.

I am very interested to see how this all plays out for Save-A-Lot.