By Joel M. Albrizio, President
C&S....At The Intersection Future Successes Or Implosion......Without A Brand Which Road Will C&S Travel?
C&S was founded in 1918 by Israel Cohen & Abraham Siegel in Worcester, Massachusetts and is quite a story to tell. On the doorstep of its 100th year anniversary C&S is a company always chatted about in the retail supermarket conversation.
From it's humble beginnings in Worcester, Massachusetts, C&S has blossomed into a national wholesale grocery powerhouse which at one point was rumored to tickle 30 Billion in annual wholesale grocery sales.
Specializing in wholesale food distribution while leveraging the buying power of supermarket chains and independents alike C&S has developed one of a kind wholesale food muscle........"Or Has It"
C&S has expanded through every imaginable means possible to become the largest grocery wholesaler of its kind in the United States.
In its ever expanding quest for growth C&S has purchased retailers like Grand Union, Great American & Bruno's, wholesalers to many to mention from coast to coast, and brands like Star, Best Yet & Piggly Wiggly etc.
Seemingly under the "pile it high and sell it cheap" mentality of retail food C&S Wholesale Grocers demands consideration by any retailer when reviewing any wholesale grocery option.
"So What Could Be Missing From The C&S Business Formula".......
Ideas, Creativity & Perhaps A Shortage Of Both?
C&S has an incredible management team. With some of the brightest executives in America, C&S has steamrolled the wholesale food industry nationally for many years with highly incentivized employees well compensated with additional bonuses all intended to drive the costs of goods lower.
"Is This The 2016 Path To Success"
The world has changed however. The wholesale grocery food industry is becoming smaller and smaller. Add to that expanded communication channels through every social media outlet available and C&S is faced with questions about it's direction like never before from its largest customers to its smallest vendors.
C&S having enjoyed monstrous growth through large chain customer acquisitions now faces the expiration of many of those original deals. The very deals that are the foundation of the C&S brand.
Customers like Ahold with the purchase of The Delhaize Group and Safeway are expanding well beyond what any business would consider a healthy percentage of sales for any single customer. Even a company as large as C&S is on a dangerous footing with a single customer like Ahold exceeding 33% of total sales and just a handful of customers comprising over 80% of total sales.
"Organic Sales & Customer Retention Programs Are In Fact An Important Step In Branding"
Just like today when many of the largest retailers are looking for newer more creative format solutions for continued success, C&S must find a new way to go to market.
Customers like Safeway and Ahold can not easily be replaced. It is only a matter of time before one or more is lost to either a wholesale food competitor or perhaps a customer like Safeway who is rumored to be considering options to bring the business back under its own roof.
"Lets Not Forget A&P Was A Large, Long Standing C&S Customer"
"Sustained Wholesale Grocery Growth Requires Retailer Programs & Well Positioned Corporate Branding"
Every wholesale grocery company today including C&S must enjoy organic growth to be successful. Retail food manufacturers and vendors alike pounded into submission for a lower costs of goods is only a temporary financial replacement for healthy growth.
To be successful going forward C&S could look to brand enhancement. So what is Brand Enhancement?
It goes like this.....If collectively, we discussed C&S as a company and its direction with its executives and their subordinates we would find an excited group of men and woman expecting C&S to grow.
Now lets have that same conversation with manufacturers, brokers and vendors and more importantly customers or potential customers.....What might we find?
"A Companies Brand Is The Emotion Derived When Thinking Of That Company"
Great customers and vendors are the two most necessary ingredients of any retail or wholesale grocer success story. A quick observation of the C&S customer and vendor community is likly to find a group worn down and exhausted by what C&S views as business as usual.
So now unintended, this emotion undeniably becomes by default the C&S brand.
Is the Deal The Deal.... Is This A Sales Call We Really Want To Make?
The manufacturers and or suppliers positive response to this question is vital for sustained wholesale grocery success.
There are less grocery wholesalers available and the supermarket chains are getting larger and fewer. Couple this with easy communication between C&S customers and vendors via traditional means, now including social media and C&S has picked up many nicknames for the initials C&S that are less than favorable.
It would seem C&S as a dominant grocery powerhouse is loosing momentum and could benefit from a mentality more conscious of how it is viewed externally, hence its branding.
A branding enhancement approach might allow a more collabrative relationship involving customers and vendors as real partners to bring a better ending to each deal.
"What Defines A Better Ending To A Deal"
While the specifics and resulting financial details to the deal may remain the same the supermarket customer or vendors lasting impression of that deal could be more positive and therefore increasing the brand value and sustainability of C&S.
C&S could reposition its brand much like that of Whole Foods, Publix and others who understand serving customers needs and relating to suppliers reasonably builds more prosperous relationships.
Relationships and true partnerships build a trusted brand both with customers and suppliers.
In a now smaller grocery industry when a lack of confidence exists, that lack of confidence in any brand is likely to leak into the boardrooms. These are the very boardrooms occupied by the large retailers C&S relies on for its future growth and soon perhaps its own survival.
We all need to look within from time to time and examine how each brand is viewed externally by others. C&S like many companies could try an introspective look.
Without a proper rebranding and therefor repositioning of the C&S brand understood as such by employees, customers and suppliers alike the speed bumps C&S faces today will become insurmountable walls.
In closing, many have asked why I choose to write about what I see in the supermarket industry today and my ideas. At Adlife we believe great ideas and its resulting branding will give new life and direction to any company. So for that reason we chose to open the discussion.