H-E-B lauded for grocery excellence

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Supermarket chain named MMR Retailer of the Year

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — For the first time in its 35-year publishing life, the editors of MMR have chosen not one but two Retailers of the Year. One of the retailers chosen is — no surprise here — Target, one of America’s two premiere discount retailers. The other — equally unsurprising — is H-E-B, the Texas-based grocery retailer that is arguably the foremost food retailer in America.

H-E-BSelecting H-E-B for this recognition was not difficult. In 2020 America, H-E-B is what supermarket retailing has come to stand for. If not all things to all shoppers, it perhaps approaches that elusive definition more nearly than any grocery retailer in the United States has yet done.

Examples of H-E-B’s commitment to its customers abound. To state the most obvious first, the grocery retailer offers U.S. consumers five different formats, each created to answer different customer needs and wants.

The H-E-B store is the retailer’s original and primary format, with grocery, bakery, deli/food service, drug store, produce, floral, meat and seafood departments and store layouts and product assortments tailored to the needs of the customers in each local community.

H-E-B Plus builds on the traditional H-E-B concept by adding more general merchandise to the mix, including everything from smokers for barbecue brisket to electronics and party suppliers.

The Mi Tienda format offers an authentic Mexican grocery shopping experience, including an in-store tortillaria and bakery.

Joe V’s Smart Shop caters to budget-minded customers with low-cost, high-quality ingredients for family meals.

Finally, there is the Central Market format, which caters to foodies with a focus on fresh departments and a staff that includes experts from classically trained chefs to sommeliers.

(This array, by the way, is in addition to the two formats ­H-E-B fields in Mexico.)

For H-E-B, offering the right store format for every consumer is one important part of the picture, among several. As Martin Otto, the retailer’s chief operating officer, put it recently: “We work hard every day to deliver what our customers want and need. We have a great team of Partners (employees), an excellent group of suppliers who support us, and we seek to market and merchandise to each customer’s needs. It’s our goal to improve every day and every year to become better at what we do.”

H-E-B has the ability not only to pay close attention to what customers want, but to deliver the goods. Walk into any H-E-B supermarket and a visitor is immediately struck by the quality of the shopping experience.

Selection, quality, value, convenience — it is all there. So too are those often underappreciated but equally important ingredients in running a successful retail operation: maintenance and a strong in-stock position.

When industry observers speak of H-E-B, they tend to do so matter-of-factly, becoming so accustomed to expecting excellence from this Texas-based retailer over many years.

“Since my first days here, I’ve noticed that our success comes from every Partner on the H-E-B team,” Otto said. “Ideas come from all over the company, and the commitment to excellence is shared by all of us.”

Behind this ability to allow companywide participation is a company whose core operating principles are focus and discipline. Moreover, those two principles are rooted in a willingness to have conversations, to ask good questions, to welcome ideas. Collaboration between frontline Partners and senior managers gives rise to curiosity and creativity, often resulting in a new concept, a new marketing direction, or a new and more effective way of serving the customer. H-E-B has pioneered many new products and ideas, while customizing stores to their communities.

To reward the hard work, dedication and loyalty of H‑E‑B Partners, the company launched its Partner Stock Plan, an employee ownership plan that gives eligible Partners a portion of stock in the company. The plan launched in 2015, and it currently has nearly 70,000 enrolled Partners companywide. H-E-B believes its Partners are the most important key to its success, and the company is deeply committed to investing in its people, providing some of the best pay and benefits in the industry.

Otto, who is about to celebrate 30 years at H-E-B, said he “was impressed from the start with the company’s approach to the market, to the community and to the customer. Back then, and now, when we identify a gap in our offering, we move quickly to close that gap as fast as we can.”

The editors of MMR are pleased to select H-E-B as one of its two 2021 Retailers of the Year.


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