“Convenience stores are still location, location, location,” Hunt says. “We’ve got some good locations that people have been coming to for 30 years. “
Four years ago, Market Basket purchased six convenience stores from its second-generation family owners. Rebranding a well-known location in a small community takes time, so the company has made its mark with strategic, incremental steps.
First, it put down a faux wood floor in one of its recently opened locations that is made to stand the test of ice, snow, salt and anything customers’ shoes can throw at it. “We’re real proud of it since that store opened in April,” Hunt says.
In another one of its recently opened stores, Market Basket is testing a Got Ice vending ice machine unit to serve its customers fresh ice. Instead of having only a bagging unit in the back room, the company utilizes an ice merchandiser, where there are two SKUs of ice that employees can dump into the machine or bag and put in the merchandiser.
“That sets us apart for having readily available fresh ice,” Hunt says. “We can see landscapers pulling up every morning and filling their coolers up. They can still get their ice even if the store isn’t open.”
The company also installed what it calls a beer cave, lit up with LED lighting. Customers can purchase single-serve beer or purchase any of their favorite brands.
One of its well-known brands, Anheuser Busch, has wallpapered the room to “give it a nice feel,” Hunt says.
Market Basket gets behind brands such as Coke, Pepsi, Busch, Miller and Coors because it knows that people trust the products.
“We’ve piggy-backed our brand on those brands,” he says. “If people can get them at your location at a competitive price, they’re going to shop with you.”
Market Basket has partnered with Royal Cup as its coffee supplier for the last eight years.
“They wallpapered the backdrops in our stores to give you that destination/chain/branding feel for the coffee,” Hunt explains. “They’ve just been a good partner to work with and we’re branding their ‘World of Coffee’ concept program in every store by September.”
Market Basket is slowly but surely upgrading the technological side of its business. Currently, the company does not utilize any scanning technology due to the extra expenses associated with implementing and maintaining scanners in all stores, but eventually Hunt hopes to implement it.
However, Market Basket has implemented more debit/credit card payment capabilities in the stores, going from 80/20 cash to debit to 65/35 debit to cash. “We have seen a huge swing of success in that tenure of time,” Hunt says. “But obviously in that swing, there’s expense.”
Everyone has likely visited a convenience store at some point in his or her life, whether passing through on a road trip or as a recurring customer. Shoppers usually get in, get what they need or pay for their gas and get out.
Hunt wants to change the normal shopping pattern so when people come into a Market Basket convenience store, they’re willing to try something new. He has analyzed the way stores are set up and recognizes that most convenience stores organize merchandise by using straight aisles. But Market Basket is breaking apart the traditional store setup.
“It’s a traffic pattern that we feel the customer will go in and not go straight to one place and then go back,” Hunt explains. “We’re trying to make them go through the store in more of a zigzag. If people are going to the soft drink machine, we try to have salty and sweet stuff on the way back. We’ve taken the destination store idea and now have products for people to find instead of having it right in front of them.”
Hunt says this has proven to be a successful model for Market Basket, as opposed to the standard “straight shot” layout where customers can easily overlook the store’s new offerings.
In all its new initiatives, “we just use basic common-sense skills for retail to be successful,” Hunt explains. “Build your business with your values and beliefs and day-to-day execution and follow up. It’s five percent instruction and 95 percent follow up. It’s a day-in-day-out grind, doing the same thing repetitiously, but you’re doing it and you’re successful doing it.”