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Redner’s transforms store into Wegmans-like experience

Redner’s transforms store into Wegmans-like experience

An article in the Reading Eagle last month described how Redner’s Markets, the Berks County-based grocery chain known for its no-frills, low-price, warehouse-style grocery stores, is changing its strategy in an attempt to gain customers.

According to reporter Jeff McGaw, the vibe in its Wyomissing, PA store “has become a little less ‘canned goods for the big camping trip’ and a little more ‘brie and fresh grapes for Oscar night.'”

McGaw cites the sushi for sale, the salad bar, and a bar with four craft beer taps and two kombucha tea taps. There are nutritious, chef-inspired grab-and-go foods, large displays of organic and grass-fed meats, and a carving station that serves custom paninis.

The company, which began in 1970, experimented with a warehouse concept – a high-volume, low-margin approach with cement floors and wood palettes stacked with product – at a store in the mid-1980’s.  Volume tripled, so the whole chain moved to that format.

Fast forward more than 30 years, and “times have changed,” according to Redner’s COO Gary M. Redner. “And if you’re going to go head-to-head with Walmart solely on price, you’re not going to win, so you have to have all these value-added items and make people want to come into the store.”

Change for Redner’s began last year, when the company hired Tim Twiford as its first executive chef. Redner’s execs feel that Twiford was key to making the grocery chain competitive in the prepared foods arena.

Now, McGaw describes the Wyomissing experience as entering onto stylish wooden floors and seeing a colorful display of produce while smelling fresh baked goods from the nearby bakery. And it doesn’t end there, as there are attractive displays throughout the store.

What about the rest of the chain’s stores, of which there are 43?

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said Ryan Redner.

According to consultant Bob Kelley, the goal is to find the new customer without alienating the old customer.

“You go out and work hard in a certain market, learn from that, then you tweak it and roll it out,” Kelley said. “Often times do baby steps and work things out that way.”