Thursday, August 31, 2006

Next in line at Meijer

It's hard to know if Meijer released a story about its new president because their online news releases are not available as I post this.

Nevertheless, the story in the Grand Rapids Press about Mark Murray visiting Meijer stores in his first month on the job is interesting for several reasons.

For one, it's good to see the instinct of a corporate leader to spend some serious time getting to know business fundamentals. But I'm also glad to see the article mention that Murray is meeting employees. (Self disclosure: as a faculty member at Grand Valley State University, I know Murray, former GVSU president). I'd have to say he was remarkably adept at getting to know large numbers of people in such a large organization.

The article didn't say, but I would hope he also talked to Meijer's primary public: customers. I talk to one a lot--my wife. She points out the following complaints: the newest store locations (Sherman Street in Muskegon) are featureless boxes with no trees in the parking lots like some of the previous Meijers (Grand Haven); changes in store layouts (which the article says they plan every three years) are annoying and make hunting items a nuisance; she has to keep two lists now, one for what she's buying at Meijer and another she creates in the Meijer store for items or brands that have been discontinued that she now has to purchase at other stores.

Others have echoed these complaints. It'll be interesting to watch if Meijer changes course to be a step ahead of Walmart, Spartan and other stores. Otherwise, the "price drop zones" and other recent Meijer innovations make them look like they're copying Walmart gimmicks. That's a strategy to ensure that Meijer will be, as their slogan used to say, "next in line" in supermarkets as opposed to a category leader in the Midwest region.

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