I always thought my first time in Orlando would be to go to Disney World. But when you become part of this retail sphere, your priorities quickly change. Instead, my first time in Orlando was to visit Publix. Eight Publix stores and two Pub Subs later, here are my reasons on what makes Publix best in class.

1. It builds shopper solutions instead of promoting single products.

Endcaps of Gatorade are fine, but do they excite me? No. Publix gets this, and is constantly blurring grocery aisles and departments to build shopper solutions (Figure 1). Why is this important? It eases the shopping trip and gets at that emotional aspect that is the key component to building shopper loyalty. I am a firm believer in retail therapy, but grocery retailers often miss the mark to capitalize on these opportunities. Publix, however, brings its stores out of the grocery monotony by creating a more stimulating retail experience.

Figure 1. Publix Shopper Solutions

Source: Kantar Retail store visits

2. It gives their employees some skin in the game.

Publix stores are always immaculate for a reason. Since Publix is an employee-owned company, keeping the shelves stocked and customers happy is in the store associates' best interest. This effort leads to more productive stores, higher sales, and an increase in the employees' share value. It's not rocket science, but not many retailers get this right. Publix has turned its employee-owned model into a virtuous circle that will allow it to continue to outpace its competitors.

3. It creates unique services for specific life stages.

The most iconic of these services is the Publix Baby Club that expectant parents can join and participate in until their kids turn 3 (Figure 2). What makes this program so brilliant is that it targets specific shoppers right before they reach their peak consumption years. It brings those shoppers into the Publix ecosystem at one of their most emotional times and lets Publix play the expert and value provider. Publix also offers the club in Spanish, which is another smart move given that approximately 20% of the U.S. population is Hispanic. My last point: The Baby Club lets Publix compete directly with Amazon's Amazon Family program that gives discounts on diaper subscriptions and other family-centric items.

Figure 2. In-Store Promotions for the Publix Baby Club

Source: Kantar Retail store visits

What does this mean for you?

For suppliers, I am empathetic to the fact that Publix can be a difficult customer. Still, when working with it, find ways to execute solution-based merchandising and marketing that tie to Publix's core food-oriented mission.

For retailers, Publix continues to push north, elevating the grocery game in new markets. If you are in one of these markets, make sure you have a game plan for how to compete against this highly differentiated player to limit core shopper loss.

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