By Joel M. Albrizio, President
C&S VS. Supervalu....More Questions Than Answers!
This article is all about branding. As you read the article further, I will leave to you the decision of branding genius or "Gross miscalculation" on the part of one or both of these wholesale grocery brands.
Branding determines success or failure in any business but with grocery wholesale.... C&S And Supervalu Are At Crunch Time With Both Brands.
C&S has always had the cache as the brightest guys in the room. Headed by the self proclaimed best & the brightest, C&S would be the first tell you just how well C&S was doing.
Be It Vendor Or Retailer C&S Is Always The Customer & Expected To Be Treated That Way.
Forbes, published articles over the last few years describing Rick Cohen's personal wealth and that of C&S as within the top 100 in United States if not the world.
To the contrary, Supervalu with all of it's financial problems has been forced into both brand and market repositioning over the last few years. Supervalu seemingly has even been forced to relinquish some of it's most successful sub brands, including Save-A-Lot.
So all of this said, it would seem these two grocery wholesale superpowers were heading in opposite directions. We could have all assumed C&S would only get bigger and more mighty with it's constant acquisitions and Supervalu would divest itself to raise cash into the back pages of the books written about the once successful.
C&S Could Always Count On The Deal Genius Of Mark Gross To Do The Big Deal.
Any deal, anywhere, it seemed C&S would always surface with certain success and close the deal. Usually with Mark Gross well under the radar screen at the center of it all.
As the wholesale and retail grocery industry changed we heard of C&S expansion into robotics and it's bringing aboard only the best & brightest.
With younger sharper executives with crazy high SAT scores, some at the highest recorded, C&S decided cutting ties with the "while somewhat quiet and effective existing team members" not only an acceptable path but the only way to go.
Now C&S, is on top with deal after deal. The new guys and gals are in place to take C&S to the next level. What could ever go wrong.
C&S Just Bought AWI/White Rose What An Incredible Opportunity... Right?
Not so quick, C&S has few retail service programs as did AWI & White Rose.
At C&S the brand is pile it high and sell it cheap....but for the independent, C&S is no longer that cheap and simply piling it high doesn't induce retail sales.
Although C&S bought the buildings of both AWI and White Rose, C&S did not buy the retailers. Further, C&S fell well short of either earning the trust or the business during the transition of both AWI & White Rose.
And so the retailers thought better of the acquisition and are moving as I compose each word in this article this evening.
No Big Deal, Mark Gross Will Save The Day For C&S.... Right?
Guess not, Mark Gross was recently named President of Supervalu. What? Yes, Mark Gross is now the president of Supervalu.
Mark Gross while at C&S not only wrote deals to acquire billions in wholesale growth but contributed handily to the before mentioned unconfirmed Forbes calculation of ownerships net worth.
In addition, Jim Weindenheimer along with additional executives almost daily are defecting to the once certain to fail grocery wholesaler, Supervalu.
Are These Guys Really That Good?
So the question becomes, are the executives at C&S the brightest guys in the room and is this just Mark Gross well positioned where Mark can best help C&S the most or is this a brand well past it's prime?
While no one is perfect, not even C&S, the losses of A&P at +-2 Billion and the rumored loss of Safeway at +-7 Billion, this brand is in need of a facelift.
C&S Needs To Put A New Face On The Company...A Face both customers and vendors alike will trust and want to work with.
It is curious that Mark Gross first position at Supervalu is as president. No short term trial period at executive v.p. or any other possible get acquainted position?
Perhaps this is a grand plan to build two brands together back to greatness?
Or perhaps this is a Supervalu brand somewhat on the mend with a new and experienced executive and a now diluted C&S brand past its prime feeling the effects of not evolving.
"C&S Avoids The Purchase Of A&P Locations"
One Obvious Sign Of A Brand Past It's Prime Was When C&S Like Others Had The Opportunity To Buy A&P Assets. C&S Stood Silent And made No Attempts Toward Retail Location Acquisitions. This Was Not The C&S We All Witnessed For So Long.
The retail food world and how business is conducted in 2016 is not the brand of fist pounding on the table. It is that of true partnerships with effective collaboration benefiting all parties.
"Branding Success Is About Remaining Fresh & Up To Date"
The final decision on the C&S brand and it's future success or failure may well come from Ahold. With the acquisition of Delhaize the newer, larger Ahold by comparison to the now smaller C&S will move Ahold well past the 50% point in C&S total grocery wholesale sales.
While C&S and Ahold are bound by contract together for some time, Ahold must have release provisions. Either in part or whole should Ahold become concerned about the all important supply chain and the dangers of so much dependance on C&S, Ahold must maintain it's supply chain options.
It Will Be Interesting To Write An Article In A Few Years From Now Looking Back At Today Asking.....Where Are They Now?
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.
This article was based on "opinion only" and is how I see the national Grocery Wholesale landscape. Any numbers were based on personal estimates only.
Joel M. Albrizio, President Adlife Marketing & Communications