Raley’s, which owns and operates 121 stores in Northern California and Nevada under four banners—72 Raley’s, 20 Bel Air Markets, 20 Nob Hill Foods and nine Food Source stores—can attribute its success to what company officials call “The Raley’s Way.” Through “The Raley’s Way,” the company aims to “infuse life with health and happiness” by making shopping easier, better and more personal, while offering an increasing number of items that are healthier.
Keith Knopf, COO for the West Sacramento, Calif.-based chain, says Raley’s operates against five customer promises: fair and consistent pricing, best fresh products, an easy shopping experience, products customers want and more, and great people who care. “We rate ourselves against these five customer promises daily,” says Knopf. “When we deliver on these five promises, we earn loyal customers.”
Raley’s officials believe they have the winning formula to differentiate the brand in each of its markets—one that not only includes the five promises, but also an “extra” special customer loyalty program. Launched in 2012, Raley’s created the Something Extra program with its strategic marketing partner, dunnhumby. The program is based on data analysis, vendor partnerships, an intense communication strategy and consistent delivery of personalized offers for its shoppers.
With the Something Extra program in place, Raley’s is able to examine the data and evaluate products based on preference, which has led the company to re-examine its merchandising strategy.
“The Raley’s way is more than just a strategy. In fact, it is a mindset that holds us true to our vision and purpose,” says Knopf. “It shapes the way we serve the customer and each other. It guides how we lead and develop our team members, how we make merchandizing decisions, promote products and invest in our stores.”
Raley’s is proud of its family-owned legacy and strives to support other family- and locally-owned partners. “We are fortunate to operate in the farm-to-fork capitol of the country,” says Knopf, “and we are always looking to maintain a sense of family and local partnership with our vendors and suppliers.”
USDA Choice California-raised beef is provided to Raley’s stores through its partnership with Harris Ranch, a Fresno County-based beef producer that works with 70 family-owned ranches in the state. Foster Farms, based in California’s Central Valley, supplies chicken products.
Companies like San Francisco-based Columbus Craft Meats and Raley’s own private brand, Nob Hill, offer an array of deli meats. In addition to its emphasis on local at the deli counter, Raley’s has worked to evolve its product mix to meet changing consumer needs. “We have more than 30 varieties of salads available in the deli,” says Kevin Konkel, senior vice president of store operations. “We have made significant strides to ensure healthier ingredients and reduce additives in all forms.”
In addition to partnering with local suppliers, Raley’s has teamed up with local chefs to create its Chef’s Menu Entrées in the meat case. A network of professional chefs create the recipes and consumers can purchase all the ingredients for each 15-minute entrée, which are all displayed together. Chicken, beef, pork and seafood recipes are available online or shoppers can grab a pamphlet with the recipe instructions in stores. The recipes typically only need one pan to cook them in, making it even easier for the shopper.
Raley’s To Go Meals also offer a meal solution to shoppers strapped for time. Located in the refrigerated fresh deli section, the meals are quick and easy to prepare. They range from a single serving to a family size meal. “Stores typically order the Raley’s To Go Meals at 7 p.m., they are processed by our partners, and are usually in the stores by 7 a.m. the next day, so these meals are always fresh,” says Kevin Curry, senior vice president of sales and merchandising.
The company has also been making changes to its seafood department in an effort to make a difference in the community. In 2015, Raley’s began adding sustainable seafood offerings, and while the department is not yet 100 percent sustainable, the company aims to be by December 2017. By that time, the company will only source from fisheries or farm programs with one of the following certifications: Global Aquaculture Association, Marine Stewardship Council, Aquaculture Stewardship Council and Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management.
Raley’s uses its own production bakery to make a selection of cakes, cookies, brownies, breads and more for its in-store bakeries. Cakes come from the production facility and are shipped to the store where cake decorators are on hand to customize the orders. To meet changing household demographics, the bakery has added a variety of individual and mini-sized desserts ranging from half-size pies, mini cupcakes and dessert bars.
Foodservice is also taking on a bigger role in Raley’s stores as customers dining habits continue to evolve. Depending on the store size and setup, shoppers can find a variety of options, including sandwich shops that are separate from the deli; salad bars; fresh-made sushi; and a Sizzling Wok, which offers a variety of Asian cuisine.
For caffeine lovers, Raley’s partnership with Peet’s Coffee & Tea, another local partner, offers a full-service coffee and tea program. Some stores have a Peet’s kiosk, which features the Peet’s retail store design and café area with seating, as well as selection of Peet’s coffees; other stores have smaller areas featuring the Peet’s We Proudly Brew program, complete with freshly brewed coffee and tea beverages.
The company’s focus on local is most noticeable in its produce department. Signs call out the Raley’s Living Local program and feature information about the farms and families the company has partnered with. “Raley’s does a lot with local growers. We try to educate consumers about who we work with,” Konkel notes. “Raley’s offers a balance of organic and conventional offerings. It is important our customers have choices and we strive to make healthier options more convenient, and affordable.”
In keeping with its goal to “infuse life with health and happiness,” Raley’s recently began offering free produce for kids to eat in stores while their parents shop. Baskets of fruits are placed at the entrance of each store or at the front of the produce department as a nutritious snack option for kids. “We use the honor system, and parents can give the fruit to their kids at their discretion,” Konkel says.
Healthier options are a focal point of the company’s private label program. The three-tier program includes the Raley’s brand, Raley’s Organic brand and Raley’s Purely Made brand, which is free from 85 different ingredients.
A recent example of how the company has re-examined its private label products was its decision to eliminate certain private label brand soda flavors that contain high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors, including diet soda varieties. All Raley’s private label sodas with those ingredients were removed from stores in August 2016.
Wellness also has a starring role in the last impression shoppers receive as they check out their items. In November, the company implemented better-for-you check stands throughout the chain. The initiative included removing soft drinks from check stand cold cases and upgrading the selection of snacks and treats to feature healthier options like granola bars and nutrition bars. The company also added an improved quality of certain candy options, though some conventional options are still available on the lower shelves.
Raley’s wine, beer and spirits selection is second-to-none and one that customers are unlikely to miss as they walk through the stores. The wine selections include classic regions of the wine world, as well as diverse offerings from California, Oregon and Washington state at all price points. The business from the thriving, expansive department even earned Raley’s the honor of being named Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 2016 Wine Star Award Winner for Retailer of the Year in the U.S.
Raley’s is not only elevating its in-store shopping experience. The company has made strides to offer the ultimate digital customer experience as well. In April 2016, Raley’s created a significant web and mobile e-commerce platform, called E-Cart. The click-and-collect services allow shoppers to order groceries online and pick them up curbside at participating Raley’s, Bel Air Market or Nob Hill Foods stores.
A Personalized Health Journey
The goal to infuse life with health and happiness is not only reflected in the company’s merchandising strategy. Raley’s “Let’s Begin” marketing campaign, which was launched in August 2016, is a multi-dimensional effort that shares the company’s vision of health and wellness with its customers. The campaign invites customers to take small steps toward a healthier lifestyle through education, personal goal setting and sharing.
“Everyone is in their own state of a health and wellness journey,” says Deirdre Zimmermann, senior vice president, marketing. “We know we have all types of customers. Marathon runners may just need to include more vegetables in their diet, where a person with diabetes may have a severely restricted diet. Food plays an integral role in health, and we want to help customers make better decisions about the food they are feeding their family.
“Building awareness can be confusing to grocery store consumers,” Zimmermann adds. “What average consumer understands eggs when you go to look at the egg section? Are you going to buy organic, cage-free, free range, etc.? What does each term really mean? We want to help them build that knowledge that is useful each and every time they shop.”
The Let’s Begin campaign encompasses comprehensive marketing elements, including digital marketing, emails, radio ads and a TV commercial. The Let’s Begin section of Raleys.com also features content that is updated weekly and shares insight on how to buy products, how to eat real food and how to eat healthier on a budget. The content is also shared through the company’s seasonal magazine, which Something Extra loyalty members receive two copies per issue for free, or it is available for $2.99 at check stands.
Let’s Begin content is also shared on Raley’s various social media channels, which includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Each store has its own Facebook page. “We ask each store to post three times-plus a week, and it is a great variety of content, from items that are on sale to local activities that they support. We also encourage them to pick up the Let’s Begin content and share how they’re using it in the store,” Zimmermann says. “We’re amazed how our store teams have grabbed onto the campaign and made it their own. It has really helped to solidify our purpose and vision.”