Although the big-box stores can make an immediate impact on the marketplace through their economies of scale and deep discounts on certain items, Mourelatos Supermarkets counters that with something they can’t offer. Mourelatos says the company’s stores are and always have been geared toward creating a one-on-one relationship with its customers that’s nearly impossible for a huge chain like Target or Walmart to duplicate.
The differences between Mourelatos Supermarkets and its large-scale competitors include this personal touch, as well as a strong emphasis on products that meet the needs of the local community in a more specific way. Mourelatos says that with these attributes in place, Mourelatos Supermarkets is more than prepared to withstand the pressure.
Mourelatos Supermarkets has four locations in and around Montreal, giving the chain a strong local focus that other retailers can’t match. Mourelatos says the company also gives customers a selection of products that exceed the pre-packaged nature of many big-box outlets. “We specialize in fresh, that’s our priority,” he says.
The Mourelatos Supermarkets shopping experience is defined by its large produce and deli departments, which not only feature the freshest food possible, but also give customers a friendly face to associate with their service. “It’s all service over the counter, so there’s an ongoing relationship with clients and customers, and people like that,” Mourelatos says. “It’s not as robotic as shopping in a Walmart and just leaving.”
Unlike many big-box stores, Mourelatos Supermarkets devotes more than a third of its stores’ floor space to its produce departments, and Mourelatos says produce sales make up about the same percentage of its overall sales. He says the company’s concentration on fresh produce and deli products gives it an edge over the larger chains, which have the advantage when it comes to price on certain pre-packaged goods. “You cannot compete with Walmart or Target in regards to detergents or some other grocery items,” Mourelatos says.
A major part of the reason why Mourelatos Supermarkets has maintained such a close relationship with the community is that the company remains family owned and operated to this day. Mourelatos says the family bond to the community results in a much better understanding of its customers than many competing stores have. “It’s a family business, and most key positions are held by family members,” he says. “We try to address as best we can the needs of our customers.”
The company’s understanding of its customers and the Montreal community includes a greater representation of ethnic foods on its shelves than many of its competitors. Mourelatos says the company’s stores have always featured a wide range of Mediterranean foods to reflect the company’s Greek heritage and the strong Mediterranean presence in Montreal. In recent years, the company also has expanded its Middle Eastern offerings to better serve the city’s growing Arab population.
“We like to think of ourselves as mainstream, but we do have a flair for international,” Mourelatos explains.
In the last five years, Mourelatos Supermarkets has been working on developing its own private label featuring imports from Greece and other Mediterranean markets. Mourelatos says that by buying directly from the producer instead of going through an importer, the company will be able to increase profitability while ensuring a higher degree of freshness and quality. “It’s something that you would not consider a Walmart or a Target would do,” Mourelatos says.
Feeling at Home
Mourelatos Supermarkets’ success is due in large part to the company’s strong focus on the Montreal market, and Mourelatos says even though it wants to concentrate on that area there’s still room to grow within it. “I’d like to open up a couple of stores and increase our volume,” Mourelatos says. “It’ll give us better buying power.”
Even if the company adds more locations in the future, Mourelatos Supermarkets will continue to focus on creating the type of atmosphere where customers know they are appreciated. “The success of it all is family and the family touch where the customer feels at home,” Mourelatos says. “People like to be accepted, they like to belong.”