Wegmans in Parsippany, New Jersey
Thinking of Wegmans’ history, it truly was the first supermarket chain to emphasize experience. Today, its model is emulated by many operators. Wegmans currently has 98 stores across six Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. Its stores raise the bar on the shopping experience with the best quality, a spectacular abundance of choice, restaurant-quality prepared foods, beautiful stores and displays, and a nearly telepathic level of customer service. Wegmans has annually finished high on the list of desirable companies to work for – ranking No. 2 on Fortune’s 2018 list. The company has approximately 48,000 employees.
- One of the first things I noticed when entering Wegmans is the sense of theater on the perimeter. There are high ceilings, and the feeling of shopping in a town square persists. One of the most heralded stops is The Burger Bar, which has sandwich offerings under $10.
- Here is Wegmans’ wine “cellar,” including an attractive display of seasonal favorites to tempt me. I noticed the incredible array of craft beers. In addition, there were really cool showcases of craft vodkas and bourbons that I have never seen before. Were they private brand varietals that Wegmans is known for?
- Moving through the perimeter of the store, I was struck by the spectacular presentation in each of the departments – whether you are in the Seafood Market (complete with live lobsters), the Bakery (with spectacular images of creativity) or the Prepared Foods/Meal Kits department. The latter seemingly can provide terrific meals for a month without a repeat.
- Whether it’s for snacking or preparation of your favorite Italian dish, the Cheese Bar offers a spectacular array of tempting treats. I had to laugh when mulling the purchase of a 90-pound wheel of cheese to perhaps be a piece of “furniture” in my home. (At $18.99 a pound, I was discouraged when I realized it would cost me $1,700.) The department’s theme: “Wegmans: For the Love of Cheese.”
- In the 1980s, Wegmans ramped up its commitment to private brand products. As you walk the store, one can observe that the Wegmans line of products dominates the retail scene. Here is a cross-category view of “Italian Classics.” Other showcase assortments include “Food You Feel Good About” and “Wegmans Organics” – all of which have unique sections.
- No discussion about Wegmans would be complete without talking about the company’s roots. It was founded in 1916, named The Rochester Fruit and Vegetable Company, by the Wegman brothers. Therefore it’s not surprising that one of the showcase departments is the perishables presentation of fruits and vegetables. There is a commitment to natural, healthy and organic products throughout the store.
- Focusing on the store-within-a-store approach, I don’t know if I have ever seen a department in a supermarket that was so developed in terms of natural, good-for-you and organic items around vitamins, supplements and other selections under this category, including probiotics.
- This is not good news for traditional CPG brands: the only display I could find in the store that featured brands of major manufacturers was this candy gondola featuring Valentine’s Day products. To illustrate how profound the Wegmans commitment is to its own brand, there were 14 endcap displays in the center store, and all 14 were populated with Wegmans’ private brand products.
- As you move into the center of the store, the sense of the theater does not go away. I was struck by this eye-catching section of dinnerware, kitchen linens and wine glasses. The presentation was colorful and functional.
- If you look closely at these sparkling water items, you will see they fall under the “Food You Feel Good About” umbrella. Examining even further, you get a sense for the commitment to private brand that Wegmans has. In addition to basic flavors such as lime and watermelon, additional varieties include coconut lime, cherry pomegranate and blackberry tangerine.