Progressive Grocer Independent

FEB 2016

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February 2016 | Defining the Independent Market | 11 2016 I N D E P E N D E N T S OUTSTANDING MULTISTORE OPERATOR D ebuting a new banner often requires a leap of faith. But when the LeBlanc family — brothers Randy and Marcy and their children, Marcy Jr., Matthew, Lee, Brooke LeBlanc Knight and Brittney LeBlanc Boyle — built their frst store from the ground up in 2013, they didn't rely on faith alone in deciding to brand the new store Frais Marché, French for "fresh market." Instead, they turned to consumers in the form of focus groups. "We went in that direction because there were a lot of questions," says Randy LeBlanc. "A lot of questions we had, a lot of questions the customers had. And as an inde- pendent, the last thing you want to do is make a bad buy." What the LeBlancs discovered was that consumers shopped multiple stores, which was a surprising revelation, LeBlanc admits. "Tey were making grocery shopping sound awfully difcult," he adds. A frm believer in the 80/20 rule, LeBlanc knew that if he could get 80 percent of what his customers needed within the stores, he would have them. Perishables are the Answer What customers wanted was a "fast but still fresh meal that can either be prepared for them or that they can easily pre- pare for themselves at home," says Brooke LeBlanc Knight. Tey also were seeing that customers were eating less, but they were eating better. Te solution was Frais Marché, which emphasizes the perishables departments, especially the bakery, deli and meat departments. "Within the Frais Marché world, it was just tailor-made for that," LeBlanc says. "We just went after it with both barrels." Te stores' Louisiana locale greatly infuences the prod- uct, with an emphasis on Cajun cooking; the nine-store chain is based in Gonzales, La. Te meat department of- fers easy meal options, with already seasoned main dishes that customers just need to put in the oven or on the grill. A specialty Cajun meat department takes ordinary cuts like pork chops or chicken and stufs them with boudin (a pulverized combination of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers and seasonings), crayfsh or shrimp. In the bakery/deli, which was brought to the front of the store, the focus is on the hot-food bar, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Te deli also features salad and olive bars. "[Te bars are] a mix-and-match option, so customers can come and pick whatever they want to really ft their needs," Knight says. Customers can choose whole meals to box up for their families, or select a side dish to go with an entrée they have at home, or even purchase the main dish and prepare their own sides. "It really gives the customers the option to choose what they want," she adds. With the new focus on the fresh departments, which, along with wine and beer, were purposely positioned along the right side of the store to create theater, the stores had to adjust how they hired and trained staf. Te LeBlancs turned to the restaurant industry to fnd the managers and trainers they needed to operate the prepared food departments. Since the Frais Marché concept debuted, the LeBlancs have transitioned three additional stores to the new banner, as well as opening two new Frais Marché stores. In all, fve of the family's nine stores operate under the Frais Marché banner. Fresh has Benefits Te move has paid dividends. "We didn't realize how much sales leakage was occurring," LeBlanc says. "Right of the bat, customers were saying, 'Tank you for bringing this in; I don't have to go elsewhere anymore.'" Another beneft of the new concept is that it has increased the interaction between customers and staf. Employees are trained to walk customers to the product they are look- ing for and ask what they are using it for, or what else they need to go with it. Tat interaction includes the LeBlanc family. "We do one thing that is very hard to do as a multistore, but easy to do as a single store, and that is, we are in our stores," LeBlanc says. "As a one-store independent, where else are you going to be? But to have nine, we are literally in and out of those stores every day, and that is what sets us apart." LeBlanc's Frais Marché, Gonzales, La. From left: Darlene LeBlanc, Brooke LeBlanc Knight, Randy LeBlanc, Marcy LeBlanc Sr., Marcy LeBlanc Jr., and Matt LeBlanc.

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