Pat Burns got his start in the grocery business at the age of 14 as a bagger for a Philadelphia-area supermarket. Later, Burns opened restaurants and catering operations throughout Philadelphia before starting The Fresh Grocer in 1996. Burns says the close ties he and the rest of the chain’s management have kept with Philadelphia have given the company a strong advantage in a tough market.

“I think the Philadelphia region has some of the fiercest competition in the country,” Burns says. “You really have to be on top of your game.”

Businesses realize that the world is always changing, but in this global state of flux, one thing is certain: Those that don’t evolve will indubitably be left behind.

“We have to constantly change and develop and monitor what customers are looking for,” says John MacDougall, founder, president and CEO of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes. “The big thing for us is finding what customers want, developing those products and having those products when they need them. You have to keep it nice and easy.”

For a U.S. sailor stationed in a faraway post, there might be no more welcomed sight than a pair of Levi’s jeans or a tube of Crest toothpaste. The familiar brands and flavors of home bring these men and women a great deal of comfort when they are thousands of miles away from loved ones for months at a time. To make sure they can get these comforts, the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) was established in 1946.

Today, NEXCOM operates 300 stores around the world with 14,000 employees who provide the Navy’s men and women and their families a wide array of retail products and services. Of NEXCOM’s $3 billion in annual revenue, 70 percent of profits benefit the Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program, with the remaining 30 percent retained for capital reinvestment in NEXCOM facilities.

The Myers Group LLC President Tyler Myers understands how difficult it can be for a small, independent grocer. His father started with the purchase of a single grocery store on Whidbey Island in Washington in 1978, and over time the company has grown to include a half-dozen grocery stores along with hardware stores, gas stations and other assorted retail businesses.

That’s why The Myers Group launched its management services division several years ago, Myers explains – to help independent store owners avoid becoming overwhelmed by the day-to-day operations of their stores and instead focus on interacting with the customers. “If you’re a single-store owner in the grocery world, it’s really difficult these days,” Myers says. “What’s happened is there’s a lot more back-office work.”

Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd. boasts an unparalleled amount of experience at the executive and management level. The company was established in 2004 when Director Irving Kipnes’s Liquor Depot and Board Chairman Henry Berezinicki’s Liquor World merged after the two men had operated their own alcohol businesses for a combined 22 years.

However, COO Scott Morrow understands that employees who work in his company’s retail locations and distribution centers are the reason for Liquor Stores N.A.’s success.

Ken’s SuperFair Foods and Food Fair stores are known as the “friendliest stores in town” for a reason. “We’re very highly service-oriented, and are very considerate, courteous and polite,” CEO Ken Fiedler says. “Either my son or I are on the floor all the time and maintain a lot of personal contact with customers. We try to know all our customers by name, and always greet and thank our customers and tell them we appreciate their business.”

Fiedler founded SuperFair Foods in 1972 in Aberdeen, S.D., with two partners. Since the mid-1990s, the six-location grocery store company has been owned by Fiedler’s family, which includes his son Kevin, the stores’ president and general manager.

Founded in 1959, Hickman’s IGA is a Missouri chain of family owned, independent grocery stores that is carrying on the traditions of small-town grocers in the face of an ever-more-competitive marketplace. Headquartered in Mexico, Mo., the six-store company is just as proud of its focus on community as it was when it began operations 53 years ago.

Hickman’s IGA is part of the Independent Grocers Alliance, an organization founded in 1926 that helps independent grocers in the United States to remain strong despite growing competition. Hickman’s IGA is part of an IGA network of 5,000 independent grocers worldwide, as there are IGA stores in 46 states and more than 30 countries.

When Pat Gilligan graduated from college, he started out in BP’s management trainee program. He spent five years in the company’s retail training program, working in many different functions, and in “total happenstance,” he says, he had the opportunity to take over a couple of stores from BP in Ohio, where he was from. Wanting to stay in the business and not move around, he jumped at this opportunity. Two years later, Gilligan bought a third store, and has continued to grow his business.

“Retail was where I was trained and I knew I had the ability to grow and manage a business,” he says. “The fuel business is such high volume because it is needed by every consumer, and the fuel provided an opportunity to grow the retail side of the business. At this time, however, we are beginning the transition of the fuel business into more of a focus on retail.”

rmcover janfeb2016

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