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The Houston Chronicle has an interview with H-E-B’s president, Scott McClelland, in which he talks about the development process that led to the opening of two Houston-area double-decker stores, with two more under construction - each of which represents something of a departure for the company.

Some excerpts:

• “We let the community give us input and vote on what design they liked best, similarly to when we did this store. We held five or six community meetings, showed what we were thinking and asked for input. One of the things I remember hearing was, ‘You don’t have enough bike racks, because this is going to be a commuter store.’ We got that.”

• “In some areas we go through and do individual home visits. If you’re going into an area where people look different demographically, meaning ethnically, culturally and financially, than the people who normally program our stores, we go in to study the customers. A piece of that is going into their homes, looking in their cupboards and refrigerators and asking them about what they had for dinner last night. If we program stores based on what we eat, we miss a lot. There are nuances.”

• “We have a customer research department that will find customers willing to have us come in and visit with them. We pay them a stipend to come in. It’s amazing at how honest people are and how willing they are to talk to you. It’s really some of the best days I spend. When I go into a home of someone who earns $30,000 or less, I typically leave with so much respect and so much empathy for what it’s like to be poor. You can tell how much money someone has by what kind of milk they have, if their orange juice is made from concentrate. You know where they bought their meat based on if it’s wrapped in brown paper. Then you begin to ask questions and you’re able to get into their attitudes. And it may or may not be fact, but their perceptions are reality.”
KC's View: