business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Southeastern Grocers, parent company to Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo, Harvey’s and Fresco y Mas, has emerged from bankruptcy protection, 94 stores smaller and having “traded about $522 million of debt for equity and overall decreased debt by $600 million.”

CEO Anthony Hucker tells the Sentinel, “We’re going to remodel, renew or convert 100 stores this year, and we’ve already done about 30 … “with the store remodels we’ve done over the last few years, now we are looking at 235 stores to be remodeled or converted by the end of this year,” with the goal being, as the paper puts it, “to revitalize the brand that has struggled to keep up against Publix, Walmart, Aldi and a handful of other new niche grocers.”

One tactic - a new loyalty marketing program slated to be phased in this summer.

The paper points out that “experts have questioned if Southeastern Grocers has the financial support to make upgrades to its stores to keep up with dominant chains such as Publix and Walmart, expanding discounters such as Aldi and new competitors such as Lucky’s Market and Sprouts, both of which are expanding in the region.”
KC's View:
I’d never describe myself as an expert, which may be why - while I agree with the concerns about the company’s financial resources - I would be more interested to know how the company plans to reinvent its version of the grocery shopping experience. A new loyalty marketing program is a good idea … but I’d want to know precisely how it is going to show the retailer’s loyalty to shoppers beyond just providing electronic coupons. To what extent will actionable information be acted upon to create a more personalized, intimate experience?

Some new paint and some new cases is nice, but I suspect that fundamental changes in the experience have to be implemented if these banners are to differentiate themselves from the competition.