Wegmans NC Is Different
Wegmans in North Carolina is different. Days of calling on Wegmans in Rochester, New York as a Procter and Gamble Sales Rep are long ago and far away. Time may make things feel better than yesterday's reality, but Wegmans in North Carolina is different than the innovative grocery store where P&G taught me to sell bar soap and in several ways.
Staff at the Wegmans, in my memory, were beyond helpful. It's like that old apocryphal Nordstrom story. A man requests a refund on tires a smiling Nordstrom associate gladly provides despite the store not selling tires. I've asked for help twice from the service center in the front of the store and the deli department.
My mother lives in Chapel Hill and receives great Wegmans coupons in her mail. I live in Efland, North Carolina, a twenty-minute drive west of Chapel Hill, and don't receive coupons despite signing up for the Wegmans buyers club. "We do have anything to do with that," a smiling staffer said. When asked, "Did you sign up for our apps," I thought but didn't say, "your apps aren't helpful."
Wegmans ability to cook and organize food is a clear strength. I asked a Wegmans deli staffer to create a platter with just pepperoni and cheese. "I can't do that," the staffer said. The staffer was in the middle of making up exactly what I wanted. My single exception was to eliminate hard salami in favor of pepperoni. Back in the day, Wegmans staff would go out back, butcher a pig, and create the platter needed.
The Chapel Hill butcher was a pleasant exception to these complaints. I spent way more on a couple of NY Strip steaks than usual because the Wegman's butcher was helpful and behind the counter. I've shopped the Chapel Hill Wegmans more than five times. Only found someone at the meat counter once, but he was friendly, helpful, and got me to spend more.
Smaller In A Bad Way
Wegmans Chapel Hill is tiny. I bet three Chapel Hill Stores fit inside the New York stores where I used to shop and work. Smaller is not necessarily bad. Wegman's Chapel Hill offers some frozen foods only previously found at Whole Foods, but sizes and brands feel Food Lion-like limited. Wegmans and Food Lion are natural brand enemies since one means upscale (Wegmans) while the other's brand promotes everyday low prices (Food Lion). It's strange to imagine these two grocery chains having anything in common.
Water is one example of Wegmans Chapel Hill limiting choices. The Chapel Hill Wegmans water section feels poorly organized, displayed, and merchandised. No Fiji water for Chapel Hill's higher incomes is goofy and damaging. Wegman's used to mean upscale, but their Chapel Hill store misses opportunities to reinforce such an important brand message in a market where "upscale" is an apt description.
Wegmans was the most innovative grocery store in America. Many Wegmans innovations such as ready-made meals, private labels, and do-it-for-you merchandising are ubiquitous across many grocery chains. Still, before Whole Foods, Wegmans felt special and cutting edge. Less than a mile from the Chapel Hill Wegmans is a Whole Foods store with better ready-made food. There's a Harris Teeter, a short drive on interstate 40 with better upscale merchandising. Driving to any Food Lion would save ten to fifteen percent, so where does Wegman's fit in North Carolina? Once the Wegmans novelty wears off, how do they win hearts and minds in North Carolina? Service would be how I answered the question more than twenty years ago. Today, not so much. The outstanding service I remember feels absent without leave.
No Digital Leadership
Stores are harder to innovate than websites. Maybe not. Wegmans.com is boring, trite, and hollow. The Wegmans About Us page proves the point.
Blah, blah, corporate blah, blah, and who cares? Someone at Wegmans.com gets it. Click on Company Overview and find a compelling about us story. Why hide such a great story behind blah, blah, and corporate blah blah AND a link is goofy. I heard Danny Wegman was a good, smart, creative guy When I lived in upstate NY. He now has good, smart, beautiful daughters. I understand an eleven billion-dollar company needs to act and be different, but not online. Online is a place where that great picture of Danny and his amazing daughters should be LARGE and IN CHARGE, not hiding behind a link. When every link costs half your traffic, things that matter should be on PAGE ONE.
Apps should be better than print. Apps are easier to technically update and make fun of because they live on our foods and pads. Wegmans apps not so much. With my mom's coupons, Wegmans does a better job than their many confusing, underwhelming, and boring apps. It takes WORK to make an app boring and unhelpful. Wegmans apps are boring and unhelpful on phones and pads.
Expensive is an interesting word. A few years out of college, money was tight, yet Wegmans was my grocery store. There were other less expensive options, but Wegmans felt like me. Perhaps it is more accurate to say Wegmans felt like I aspired to become. When a grocery store doesn't include favorite upscale brands, they hire mostly unhelpful staff and suggest boring, unhelpful, and confusing apps, then they feel less "like me," less aspirational. Expense is a fact, but expensive is a feeling. The Chapel Hill Wegmans feels expensive and, sadly, less like me I want to become, the aspirational me.
Live in North Carolina and love Wegmans? Share your Wegmans thoughts to martin (at) martinwescottsmith.com. I'll add different views to this page. Thanks. M.