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Market Basket stands out from the crowd in east Texas and Louisiana by providing the selection and customer service that its shoppers are looking for.

By Eric Slack

Since opening its first location in 1961, Market Basket has focused on providing an extraordinary food shopping experience to its customers. Today, Market Basket remains a privately owned grocer serving the east Texas and Louisiana region with 34 full-service supermarkets.

“Service is what we hang our hat on, and that helps us compete against bigger chains by offering a community oriented and family atmosphere,” President Skylar Thompson says.

Currently, Market Basket employs more than 2,000 supermarket associates. Market Basket supermarkets aim to provide exceptional value on grocery foods while providing innovative supermarket solutions and a full assortment of grocery products. Its offerings include fresh produce, quality meats, bakery goods and floral arrangements, as well as pharmacy services in select grocery store locations.

“We are a conventional supermarket that prides itself on being the friendliest in town, providing fast service and making sure people don’t have to wait long in lines,” Thompson says.

To make sure it is providing the products and experience that consumers in the east Texas and Louisiana markets desire, Market Basket regularly reviews sales data and makes sure its layout can offer something unique in the market. For example, Thompson says shoppers in Louisiana tend to be more interested in local products than the east Texas shoppers. 

“We are always looking at what is selling and gaining traction, and we are always evaluation based on movement and customer requests,” Thompson says. “Community involvement is also important, as we are always researching our markets and engaging our managers to gauge what is important to the community and get consumer feedback on how we should be involved. We have an annual budget for charitable giving and sponsorships so we can continue to support worthy causes, and we try to be involved with local events and get people to taste our products and have a presence in front of them.”

For example, this summer Market Basket announced that its new 2016-2017 Fundraiser Coupon Books were available at no cost to schools, churches and other charitable and non-profit clubs and organizations to assist in their fundraising efforts. The coupon books were available on a first come, first served basis while supplies lasted. The coupon books contained a Market Basket $5.00 off coupon with an additional purchase plus 30 manufacturer coupons with a value of 50 cents to $1.00, and all coupons are valid at any Market Basket food store in Texas and Louisiana. The coupon books sell for only $5.00 and the value of each book is in excess of $20. The coupon dates are from August 1, 2016 through July 31, 2017.

“This is Market Basket’s way of being able to help virtually any non-profit organization in the communities we serve,” Thompson says. “In addition to being a great opportunity for fundraising, the coupon books offer a tremendous value to the customers.”

Tailored to Fit

Of the company’s 34 stores, 32 are branded as Market Basket. It also operates a Cash Saver branded location and a Mercado de Familia branded location. The company’s stores average around 30,000 square feet, ranging in size from 12,000 to 54,000 square feet. 

“We have wide variety of sizes to our location because of our acquisitions over the years,” Thompson says. “We’ve been investing capital into remodels and expansions as well as ground-up replacements stores. Our investments have included upgrading equipment, maintaining variety in the center of the store while making sure refrigerated categories can expand. Additionally, we’ve been converting to more efficient lighting and LEDs, as well as a new décor package and investing into newer more environmentally friendly refrigerated systems.”

The company converted stores to the Cash Saver and Mercado de Familia formats to better serve the local consumers around the stores. For the Cash Saver format, the company was looking to better serve price-focused customers. The company may convert other locations to that banner as it moves forward.

The Mercado de Familia conversion was done to cater to the Hispanic population. The store had already moved in that direction in terms of its product selection, and the banner change helped to set the store apart in a region where the Hispanic population is expanding. “Our area isn’t seeing the Hispanic population grow as much as other areas of Texas, but it is a format we could bring to other locations in the next few years,” Thompson says.

Thinking Ahead

Always striving to stay on top of industry developments, Market Basket is aware of the consumer move toward healthier eating. Thompson says his region of the country is a little behind that curve compared to other metro areas, but it is now seeing more requests for organic and natural products.  

“As a result, we have put in a nutritional tag program that has more information for customers, and we have a dietitian writing monthly article for our website and ads with healthy eating tips,” Thompson says.

Additionally, the company is exploring online ordering and e-commerce to help accommodate consumers’ busy lives. It has phased in its Market Basket Smokehouse online platform for ordering boudin and sausage.

Market Basket Smokehouse offers award-winning smoked sausage and boudin, as the company has nearly 30 years of experience in serving southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana the best homemade sausage and boudin. Its unique processes and recipes have made Market Basket a favorite of sausage and boudin lovers from all over. The company has several locations in select Market Basket food stores throughout southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, and customers can now order an array of Market Basket Smokehouse boudin and sausage products online for home delivery. Eventually, the company plans take that online system further into other items.

“People want more convenience and options that make the shopping experience quicker,” Thompson says. “We are also doing more bundled purchases and quick and easy meals, as we are seeing a lot of popularity with our breakfast and lunch meals that people can pick up at our locations.”

Ultimately, Market Basket strives to stand out by providing an exceptional food shopping experience to valued customers with the highest standards of freshness, cleanliness, convenience, quality, variety and service. It seeks to foster a teamwork environment for company associates and vendor partners that builds honesty, integrity, productivity and creativity. It wants to help associates to maximizing their potential and individual contributions to the company’s success while improving and enhancing the quality of life in the communities it serves. And it will always pursue growth, expansion and positive change that will produce more jobs and promotions while constantly pushing the boundaries of excellence and working with passion to be the best of the best.

Going forward, Market Basket is emphasizing slow and steady growth. In the past, the company having gone through periods of acquiring stores in more distant or unfamiliar markets, so right now it is focusing more on careful single store acquisitions and investments in remodels. Through controlled growth and prudent selection of locations, it can manage risk.

“We know we have challenges like deflation in pricing, competitive pressure and continuing to pursue online ordering and curbside pickup with third-party partners,” Thompson says. “But we will continue to emphasize perishables and focus on doing a great job of taking care of and creating loyal customers.”

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