In addressing the vendors at the summit, Richard Gunn focused on several key priorities for Weis Markets going forward. Those areas, where both consumers and members of the trade will see improvements, included advertising/marketing, enhanced value image and store upgrades and refinements.
Gunn noted Weis has broadened its message delivery network to include print, mail, radio, TV and digital, all of which has created more impact with the company’s customers. From information improvements such as providing customers with a more detailed receipt to more visible ones such as promoting its lowest price guarantee program (on specific advertised items), “driving home our value image is also one of our key 2017 initiatives,” Gunn affirmed. The former Food City executive, who joined Weis two years ago, updated the audience on its “click & collect” program which now includes 36 stores with 13 more units to be added this year. Gunn said his company expected to add mobile ordering by summer, which he described as a huge opportunity.
The Virginia native briefed the vendors about its ongoing reset program which now includes one ISE (In-Store Execution) vendor for every two stores; two resets per week; reset work performed at night which will create a speed-to-shelf turnaround in less than a week.
Gunn amplified Schertle’s “on-trend” focus, revealing that by prioritizing areas such as gluten-free, sushi and K cups, both Weis and its participating vendors have really benefited. He praised the contributions from Weis’ fresh departments – meat, produce, deli and food services – where sales grew in all areas (including meat and produce where deflation was significant). Also gaining revenue was Weis’ bakery departments, aided by a new bulk sales program.
During the past few years, Weis has spent significant capital on improving and enlarging its distribution center in Milton, PA. In 2016, the company’s weekly deliveries increased 25 percent and it expanded its overall fresh capacity, too. This year another 105,000 square feet of refrigerated pace and 110,000 square feet of frozen capacity will be added giving the primarily self-distributed retailer 1.3 million square feet of warehouse space. It has also hired 160 new associates to meet Weis’ growth.
Late last year, Weis began utilizing the services of C&S Wholesale Grocers, the nation’s largest independent retail distributor. C&S which sold Weis two stores (Hanover, PA and East Berlin, PA) will now supply Weis with some HBC and general merchandise items, allowing Weis to utilize that space in its own warehouse to carry faster moving products.
Gunn also appealed to the vendors to become more actively involved with Weis’ “Fight Hunger” program, a cause “that is very important to me.” He said that this year’s expanded program will benefit food banks in seven states and that corporate donations will be given to complement monies that are raised.
Gunn had one more message to the vendors in the form of “the big ask”: “We want to set up a meeting
with your senior supply chain executives and our distribution team, including myself, our senior VP Wayne Bailey, Terry Wallace, our senior procurement manager, and Gary Kinneer, our director of managed transportation. Our goal is a comprehensive review of our buying model. Can we make improvements that will help us lower our costs? Are there additional backhaul opportunities? Mixing center opportunities?”
This was the biggest of all of Weis’ annual vendor summits which began modestly with a small gathering in Hagerstown, MD in 2009. It was also the best attended, reflecting Weis’ continuing growth. One thing, however, remained the same: the candor and accessibility of the company’s senior executives and the humility in which they presented themselves.