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Talking About Meijer For All The Right Reasons

Publicists will tell you to worry when people stop talking about you. But in today’s highly scrutinized retailing arena, it seems the more people are talking about you, the more likely it’s for all the wrong reasons. 

Some vendors will complain to whomever will listen about overly demanding buyers and fragile customers. Financial reporters will sound the alarms on the slightest slipup by a retailer.

So it is a true accomplishment, indeed, when an influential retailer can avoid the scuttlebutt along the trade show floors and duck the tabloid headlines.

Retail Champion

That explains in part how Meijer grabbed the lead headline in the May 13 issue as the HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® 2013 Retail Champion.

Meijer, as a fiercely independent, family-held business, is not beholden to the expectations of public stockholders, securities analysts, financial bloggers or “Squawk Box” hosts to explain every move and deliver on brash performance promises. 

The only public scrutiny that matters to Meijer is that of the staunchly loyal shoppers who walk through the Grand Rapids, MI-based company’s nearly 200 stores in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky.

It’s hard to fly under the radar altogether when you’re generating more than $15 billion in annual revenue (placing it 15th in the most recent Forbes ranking of largest private U.S. companies). But Meijer’s management and family ownership prefer a more stealth approach.

Close Cooperation

Several housewares vendors seemed surprised to learn a regional player such as Meijer had earned HomeWorld’s top annual retailer honor. It’s not because they feel the honor isn’t deserved. But, absent of bombast and controversy, one can lose track sometimes of how important Meijer is to this industry.

Initiate the conversation about Meijer, however, and the talk quickly turns to how closely the retailer cooperates with its vendors to plan, develop and implement productive programs.

You realize how valuable branded home products are as a destination business for the chain— an integral link in its grocery and general merchandise combination (Meijer ranked 25th among HomeWorld’s Top 100 Housewares retailers, posting estimated housewares sales in 2011 of $745 million.).

Privately Held Freedom

You are reminded about Meijer’s innovative legacy, from pioneering the supercenter to myriad other merchandising and operating methods borrowed by many of its national rivals.

You appreciate the nimble, privately held freedom of Meijer to experiment with new formats— such as smaller urban stores— and to be patient enough to tweak and cultivate ideas into long-term staples.

You embrace Meijer’s total satisfaction with its identity and role as a Midwest regional retailer; and its deep understanding of and devotion to its communities that have kept powerful national operators at bay.

You see a retailer focused on serving a loyal customer base instead of one distracted by the possibilities of expanding the business beyond its territorial comfort zone.

Come to think of it, there actually is plenty about Meijer to talk about. But in today’s highly charged retail climate, if people aren’t talking, it’s probably for all the right reasons.