Inside This Issue - Opinion
Nashville a hotbed for retailing
May 27th, 2013
by David Pinto, Editor
Early in May the editors of MMR hosted a reception in Nashville for the senior managers of Dollar General and some 50 of that retailer’s major suppliers.
The event was noteworthy as much for what it said about this city of 600,000, recognized as the country music capital of the world, as for what it indicated about the health and growing prosperity of a retailer that is quickly emerging as one of the more significant in the country.
First, about Dollar General. The reception was attended by many of the retailer’s senior managers, most notably Rick Dreiling, the company’s chief executive. As is expected of a retailer that is succeeding on a level not dreamed of as recently as five years ago — Dollar General’s sales in its most recent fiscal year topped $16 billion, while its net income approached $1 billion — Dreiling thanked the suppliers on hand for their role in the company’s success.
Indeed, such recognition was called for. With supplier support, the company has emerged in this decade as a mainstream retailer, after years of laboring on the fringes of the mass retailing community. But the real credit for Dollar General’s astonishing success goes to Dreiling, his managers and his employees. Together, they have transformed the retailer into a destination, rather than a detour. Moreover, the Dollar General merchandise mix both encourages and reflects this emergence, and its newest prototype, a 10,000-square-foot Dollar General Plus store, is every inch a competitive format.
Thus, the reception was in realty a celebration of how far a retailer can travel within a short time frame, if that retailer is led by a management team with a strategy, a vision and the bold confidence to put into practice sound retail principles developed over a lifetime in the retailing business.
However, this said, it should also be noted that Nashville has more than Dollar General to recommend it. Far more. For openers, Nashville, perhaps more than any other market in America, is Walmart Country. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer operates some 15 Supercenters in the greater Nashville market, along with three Neighborhood Markets, and they collectively account for some 65% of sales in the area. Most of the stores are either new or remodeled, all of them are immaculate, and each is led and staffed by some of the retailer’s most capable and experienced associates.
In the end, that’s the story of Walmart in Nashville. Indeed, if the retailer has lost some of its luster in many of the markets, that’s not the case in this Tennessee neighborhood. Here, the Walmart culture is alive and well, nurtured by a group of employees who grew up in the Sam Walton tradition and continue to adhere to the founder’s belief that the customer is No. 1.
So it is that the Walmart cheer — one that’s disappeared in many other communities either because the associates are too busy or the stores’ extended hours don’t provide time for the cheer or they’ve been talked out of doing the squiggly because the dash between the Wal and the Mart has been abandoned — is alive and well in Nashville. So is the spirit behind it — and the dedication to serving the customer that it represents.
The point here is that the Walmart culture, battered and abused as it has been in recent years, can survive — if it is nurtured by a group of associates who really care. Against that backdrop, Nashville is more than the Country Music Capital. It is Walmart Country.
There’s lots more going on in this vibrant music-oriented community. Kroger and Publix practice their craft here, as do Walgreens and CVS, Target and Kmart, along with a variety of other retailers, all attracted by the music-centric vitality and economic health Nashville has to offer.
In short, in the America of the early years of the 21st century, retailing can survive and prosper — if it exists with the passion and devotion to excellence that Dollar General, Walmart and others bring to a community willing and eager to respond in kind.
Welcome to Nashville.