As the grocery industry evolves, so do the grocery stores. Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC) has reacted to the changes in the industry by creating different formats to meet customers’ differing needs. Besides its full-service Brookshire’s Food Stores, the company also has established its Super 1 Foods warehouse-style stores and is experimenting with its new FRESH by Brookshire’s concept store in its headquarters city of Tyler, Texas.
“The FRESH by Brookshire’s store was a big project for our company,” says Kevin Albritton, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “It was one of the biggest things we’ve worked on and has been one of our biggest successes.” The prototype R&D store – which opened in March 2011 – offers made-to-order meals and emphasizes prepared foods and a “grab and go” section.
“We have chefs on-site who continually stock our fresh-prepared case,” points out Mike Terry, executive vice president of retail operations. “We actually have a very limited prepared section in our Brookshire’s stores, but at FRESH, every recipe is unique and the selection is greatly expanded. In fact, it changes often.” The new FRESH by Brookshire’s store also has a variety of quick-meal solutions including a taco bar, a sandwich bar, a salad bar and an outdoor grill where live entertainment draws a crowd every weekend.
“It’s doing well – FRESH store sales are good,” Terry reports. The company also is learning a lot it can apply to its Brookshire’s stores, everything from products – such as specialty meats, cut fruits and fresh-squeezed juices – to technology, such as the types of scales to use. “It is BGC’s FRESH store, but hopefully somewhere down the line – once we get this one where we want it – we will be able to duplicate it somewhere,” Terry says. The store is also focused on sustainability and is LEED-certified.
Brookshire Grocery Co. operates 153 stores throughout Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana with another in Pottsboro, Texas, scheduled to open by the end of this year. The company has four formats: Brookshire’s Food Stores, Super 1 Foods Stores, Olé Foods and FRESH by Brookshire’s.
The company’s 31 Super 1 Foods locations are warehouse-style stores that usually include discount pharmacies and have lower operating costs that are passed on to customers. Olé Foods features a heavy emphasis on meeting the demands of Hispanic shoppers, and FRESH by Brookshire’s combines a full-service supermarket with specialty, organic and natural products, and an extensive chef-prepared foods selection. The company’s flagship, full-service supermarket format, however, is Brookshire’s Food Stores, which feature everything from specialty departments to carryout service.
Brookshire Grocery Co. is self-distributing and operates three distribution facilities – two based in Tyler and one in Monroe, La., that encompass more than 2 million total square feet. It’s an extensive operation, with some 9 million miles logged by BGC trucks every year.
Voice recognition systems are used to pick inventory. “Our warehouses are ahead of the curve when it comes to technology,” Terry says. “For years, we invested heavily in our distribution centers. Now, we’ve invested in our warehouses as well, and we’re very proud of them. Today, they’re very much a viable option. I don’t think you’d find any warehouse workers who’d want to go back to a tear sheet and stickers.”
The company maintains and operates a fleet of 72 tractors and more than 300 trailers. In Tyler, it also manufactures bakery items, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, fresh-cut produce, ice, water and drinks. The stores carry Topco brands, such as Full Circle and Paws pet products, Albritton explains.
“We are in the process of developing our own Brookshire’s store brands,” he says. “We’re replacing the Food Club brand with the Brookshire’s brand.”
Super 1 and Pharmacies
Of the company’s 153 locations, 114 have pharmacies. “We try to have pharmacies in all locations if possible,” Albritton says. Some stores are in locations that have non-compete arrangements with other companies’ nearby pharmacies.
The company’s newest Super 1 Foods Store is in Carencro, La., near Lafayette. “It’s what we consider our new prototype going forward,” Terry says. “It’s a completely different layout with a few efficiencies built into it. It still has the same concept of values and displaying mass merchandise to get a price image, but it also has the full complement of shopping, with produce, market, bakery, deli and floral departments, as well as a pharmacy.”
The front end of the approximately 55,000-square-foot Carencro store has been changed to draw customers in. The frozen food freezers are built on the sales floor and offer backfilling for easy stocking. “These are just a few of the efficiencies that we wanted to take advantage of,” Terry explains.
The size of Super 1 Foods Stores ranges from 30,000 to 60,000 square feet, with the average being approximately 45,000 square feet. “In the early years of our Super 1 Foods brand, a lot of our stores were acquired buildings that we made fit with that business model,” Terry explains. “Carencro is one of the first we built from the ground up in a number of years.” Ideas from previous Super 1 Foods locations are being incorporated in this latest prototype.
To Bag or Not to Bag?
Additionally, all Super 1 Foods stores are being remodeled for carousel bagging at checkout. “When we started Super 1 Foods, we were trying to take as much cost out of the business as we could to offer those low prices,” Albritton explains. “When Walmart came, all the rules changed. We’re trying to attract all the young families that we can. It was not convenient for young moms to sack groceries when shopping with children.”
Albritton emphasizes that the substantial cost of the baggers employed at its full-service Brookshire’s Food Stores is reflected in the difference between the two pricing structures. The company offers self-checkout at selected stores.
“We look at it store-by-store and have a scorecard to determine if it will be beneficial to that store or not,” Terry said. The score also determines whether a store should have self-checkout stations installed. Whether self-checkouts will become a staple of the grocery business is still uncertain, Terry maintains.
Brookshire Grocery Co. has several brand options when it locates in a new area. “I would say it depends on the demographics of the area,” Albritton explains. “There’s definitely a demographic that fits the Super 1 Foods model. We’ve identified that by studying our most successful stores. Brookshire’s offers a higher level of service, and in most cases, a substantially more extensive variety than at our Super 1 Foods stores.”
Of course, the best situation is not having to choose between the two formats. “A lot of times if the town is big enough, it’s advantageous to have both brands in the same town if there’s enough density,” Albritton concludes. Tyler and Shreveport are key examples where both brands operate successfully.
Brookshire Grocery Co. works hard to meet its environmental responsibilities. It has been installing energy-saving fluorescent lighting in its retail stores and distribution and corporate facilities along with occupancy sensors and daylighting in the newest store designs. Energy-efficient cooling technologies are being used in refrigerated cases, and carbon dioxide leakage is being reduced.
Thanks to the efforts of Brookshire’s facility services group, the company has invested more than $100 million in new energy technologies since 2000 and reduced its real energy usage by 16 percent during the same period.
Brookshire Grocery Co. recycled 1.24 million pounds of plastic, 194,684 pounds of paper and 38.9 million pounds of cardboard in fiscal 2011. Collection containers are located at storefronts to collect customers’ plastic bags and bottles. Cardboard is collected at retail and warehouse facilities, paper is collected at the corporate office and shrink wrap is collected at all stores and distribution centers. All motor oil, used tires, old batteries and scrap metal, including metal plates and engraving scraps, are recycled.
Albritton is optimistic about Brookshire’s business prospects. “We’re happy with what’s going on out there,” Albritton asserts. “Of course, we want to continue to grow. As far as what we’ve learned and as far as what sales are doing now, everything is positive. We make all our decisions for our Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods and FRESH stores by asking, What does today’s customer demand? What is the customer asking us for?”