Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Retail Memo: After All is Said and Done in Food Retailing it's the People Who Make the Difference

Novato Safeway nut counter clerk Imani Murphy adds flavoring to a batch of raw nuts (Photo credit: IJ photo/Jeff Vendsel)

Retail Memo Profile

There's an old saying in the retail grocery business that goes something like this: "If it doesn't happen at retail, it doesn't happen at all." We might add that saying has the added benefit of being true.

San Francisco Bay Area-based (Pleasanton, California to be exact) Safeway Stores, Inc. opened a new 50,000 square foot Lifestyle format supermarket in its Bay Area corporate backyard in August, in the Marin County city of Novato.

Marin County residents, among the most affluent of all Americans, take food and grocery shopping rather seriously. Sure they love a bargain as much as the next shopper. But price isn't the top item on their grocery store choice lists.

Rather, at the top of the average Marin County food shoppers are concepts like quality, variety, freshness, organic, gourmet, green and the like.

And Marin shoppers have lots of food store choices in the region to choose from, ranging from Safeway and Lucky supermarkets to upscale local grocery chains like Mollie Stone, United Markets and many others, including Whole Foods and a number of independent natural and specialty foods stores.

Safeway is well aware of this fact. That's why it's new Novato store is among the most upscale of its Lifestyle format stores.

The 50,000 square foot Novato Safeway also is service-oriented. The grocery chain hired 200 hundred employees to work in the store, many of which work at the various in-store full service departments such as service deli and prepared foods, the service butcher shop, fresh bakery and...the in-store service nut bar. No nut and berry Marin County jokes please.

And working that Safeway Novato in-store full service nut bar, which offers over 40 varieties of nuts, including many warmed to a customers desired temperature, is 31-year old Imani Murphy, who the Marin Independent Journal newspaper says is a big hit with the store's customers. He takes "service with a smile" to new heights, including not only greeting every nut bar customer with a smile -- but also with a handshake.

The Marin County newspaper profiled Imani Murphy, who also works as a store checker in addition to his nut bar duties, in Saturday's edition.

It's a short and interesting profile...and will make you smile just like Mr. Murphy does when he greats each nut bar customer.

Click here to read the profile, "Marin Snapshot: Novato Safeway nut bar clerk loves dishing out smiles, snacks." There's also a nice slide show of Imani Murphy and the Novato Safeway nut bar at the link.

Many decades ago Safeway Stores had a saying it would tell its employees. That saying: "There's the 'right way,' the 'wrong way' and the 'Safeway' of doing things."

Imani Murphy obviously knows the "right way" of customer service, regardless if its the "Safeway" or not.

Safeway Stores, Inc. should be nuts about Imani Murphy. After all it appears the Novato store's customers are. He's what you call "value added." And that's both the "right way" and the "Safeway" of doing things in our opinion.


TheReluctantEater said...

I live in Boulder, and the staff at my local Wild Oats turned Whole Foods are amazing. Anyone in the store will drop whatever they are doing to help you out...I've even had people search the entire store looking for me with an update about a particular food!

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo said...

Thanks for your comment. Such customer service success stories are great to hear. Whole Foods people read the Blog, so hopefully they will read your comment as well.

By the way, which Boulder Whole Foods store is it?

Also, Whole Foods has planned on turning one of the Wild Oats' stores in Boulder into the first of its small-format Whole Foods Express stores. They were to have started converting the store earlier this year. But because they ran into a problem negotiating ta new lease with the store building's owner, as of last month they hadn't done anything yet.

Do you know anything about it by any chance?