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Bill Shaner To Be Part Of New Discount Retail Venture 

I recently talked to my buddy Bill Shaner, former Save-A-Lot CEO, who informed me that he and several partners have begun a new entrepreneurial start-up venture called STL Global Sales, which will have wholesale, retail and e-commerce components and be based in St. Louis, where Shaner lives and where Save-A-Lot is based, and features many S-A-L alumni.

The ownership team also includes: Tom Holley, former president and CEO of Grandpa’s Stores and founder/president of Deals: Nothing Over a Dollar (once part of the Save-A-Lot/Supervalu network and now owned by Dollar Tree); Larry Tyler, executive VP- merchandising, Grandpa’s, Deals, Save-A-Lot; Rick Meyer, executive VP-real estate development  Grandpa’s, Deals, and Save-A-Lot and principal of TAT Capital & Consulting; and Jeff Schneider, buyer/category expert, Grandpa’s, Deals, Save-A-Lot and founder of his own closeout and distribution business.

Beginning this year, the team plans to launch the retail and e-commerce divisions, opening the first six “Here Today” stores in the St. Louis market. The stores will offer a unique assortment of deeply discounted merchandise across numerous categories (grocery and frozen food, housewares, electronics and small appliances, storage solutions, health and beauty, home décor, seasonal, gifts, candy, etc.), all presented in a contemporary, interactive shopping environment.  Unlimited by a certain price point or a certain category, the merchandise mix can and will be ever-changing, targeting household incomes of $50,000 and higher.  As the team likes to say and the name implies, deals so “ridiculous” they are likely to be “here today and gone tomorrow.”

“We believe that we can deliver exceptional values at a time when consumers place tremendous importance on saving both time and money,” explained Holley. “We’re taking the best parts of some of the other value-centric retail formats out there, blending in on-trend merchandise, pricing it to knock people’s socks off, and bundling it all in a store that is truly engaging.”

The store format will likely be in the range of 15-20,000 square feet, located in accessible, high-traffic neighborhood strip centers convenient for families. Up to 50 percent of the stores’ square footage will be devoted to food and consumables, with sales expected to exceed 60 percent of each store’s volume.

The team has hired Gensler, a global architecture and design firm, to develop the store prototype and build the first locations.  Store merchandising will be cutting edge, and team members will be empowered to create and execute displays that speak to today’s creative and deal-minded shoppers.  The stores will attempt drive market value in every square foot.  Creative fixturization in all departments, including frozen and cooler, will help drive the message, “there’s something different here.”  Plans call for expanding the concept from its Midwestern base, with several hundred “Here Today” stores projected nationwide within five years.  The e-commerce website will be live by mid-2013.  In year one, the company plans to hire approximately 150 team members locally.

STL Global Sales will source and sell deeply discounted grocery consumables and general merchandise across multiple categories to a network of wholesale contacts ranging from major national chains to small, independent wholesalers and retailers.  The veteran procurement team’s network of contacts, cultivated over decades, will allow them to identify and make opportunistic buys at discounted prices. Those savings will be passed on to their customers, both on the wholesale and retail side.

At various points in their careers, all of the executives worked with each other, with Holley, Meyer, Tyler and Schneider going back decades to their days with the Holley family-owned Grandpa’s chain (originally called Grandpa Pidgeon’s), started in 1954 by Tom’s grandparents Tom and Mildred Pidgeon.  The challenge of building something totally new from the ground up was enticement enough to reunite the group.  “We’re really excited about ‘getting the band back together’ so to speak,” said Tyler.

The company noted that the “daily deal” mentality created by companies like Groupon has created a culture where people expect exceptional values.  Pair that value-seeking mentality with the viral nature of social media and the technology advancements that have made bargain hunting a finger-tip exercise – the result is a cultural shift in the way consumers shop.  “Here Today” hopes to capitalize on that shift, using technology-driven tools to communicate and engage with customers.

We wish Shaner and his associates the best of success with their new enterprise.