The Challenge

A successful Midwest grocery chain operator was looking to enter and grow in the Chicago market.  This was a very tough challenge for any grocery retailer as the Chicago market was heavily dominated by a single chain, Jewel Osco, with more than 160 locations in the metro area.  The closest rival to Jewel, Dominick’s, ended up shuttering their 83 locations because they could not compete with this behemoth.   

A smart plan and approach was needed if the new chain was going to find its footing in the market and be able to grow and compete against this market leader.  

The Solution

We began a series of work starting with understanding the unmet needs of food shoppers in the Chicago area, defining our proposition and the unique offerings we would provide to distinguish us from the status quo, and identifying geographies where we could have the greatest impact relative the competitive mix. 

We utilized a team of retail experts that collectively had more than two centuries worth of work in and knowledge of the grocery retail space, after all, S+R’s very first client in 1960 was a grocery chain.  

The work required not only reaching consumers broadly across the Chicago metro area, but also within specific trading areas where stores would eventually open and to continuously monitor these narrow trade areas to measure individual store’s impact and growth.  

This required an iterative learning agenda, running multiple qual and quant studies.   

  • Defining unmet needs – prioritize the need states (rational/emotional, stated/non-conscious) for Chicagoland grocery shoppers 
  • Concept reaction and refinement – gauged consumer interest and desires of potential new store format and product/service offerings 
  • Market evaluation – defined the market landscape and the desired IdealSpace for the new store concept 
  • Service deep dive – qualitative deep dive on service offerings to create a distinguished and differentiated shopping experience in the Chicago market 
  • S+R Trade Area Survey – proprietary S+R grocery tracking survey was implemented in store trade areas and across the market to measure performance (share and reputation) and guide actions to strengthen operations 

The Outcome

Chicagoans were thirsty for a uniquely “our” store, a grocer that went the extra mile to provide a Chicago experience that spoke to the different neighborhoods they serviced.  The market leader, while born and bred in Chicago, long ago became “just like any other food store.”  This led to key departments having unique product offerings and services, such as:  

  • Meat/seafood department included full-service butchers showcasing the finest meats and providing onsite grilling services 
  • Numerous onsite dining options that catered to the specific trade areas they served including fresh BBQ, oyster bars, sushi, etc. 
  • Extensive wine/beer departments that included wine bars to unwind while shopping 
  • Produce departments that highlighted locally grown produce and a wide array of organic items