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Retailers

1-on-1 With Lunds & Byerlys CEO Tres Lund

WGB’s Endcap guest on how competition extends beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar
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Illustration by Olivier Balez

Tres Lund is CEO of Lunds & Byerlys, which operates 27 stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

Welcome, Tres! Let’s begin by discussing how the space devoted to selling food in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area has surged 30% in the past decade. Beyond the amplified competition, what do you believe is significant to note about the Minnesota grocery scene these days?

While brick-and-mortar has certainly expanded in our market, what’s grown even more is the number of digital screens in our consumers’ hands. As consumers become more and more digitally connected, it is changing the way many of them shop. You don’t have to look any further than the rise in online meal kit subscription services, wine clubs and online grocery shopping providers to see how competition extends beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar environment. Success in today’s evolving landscape requires a commitment to creating a consistent brand experience that meets your customers’ needs in whatever way they choose to shop with you. To that end, we continue to make a significant enhancement to our product offerings and online shopping experience.

Lunds & Byerlys is renowned for its pioneering role with culinary options, which now span meals for all dayparts. Can you share an “appetizer-size” portion of what you believe is either most often misunderstood or, conversely, most frequently assumed or overstated when it comes to the increasing clout of retail foodservice programs?

There is no denying consumer demand for quick and easy meal solutions is on the rise. As grocery retailers, we are all fortunate to have the opportunity to meet our customers’ needs multiple times each day through breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner offerings. And make no mistake about it: There’s a strong play for every retailer with regard to prepared foods. What’s critically important, however, is to have a clear understanding of where your brand fits in the retail spectrum to ensure you’re delivering a level of quality and variety that aligns with your customers’ expectations. Our culinary experts have done a masterful job of creating a nice mix of high-quality, trend-forward offerings.

The 21-year marriage of Lunds and Byerlys is widely viewed as one of the industry’s most productive and seamless integrations of two retail brands. What nuggets of wisdom would you offer to other regional retailers that might be considering doing the same?

The marriage of our two brands began with a tremendous level of respect for Byerly’s and a strong belief that we would be stronger together. After we purchased Byerly’s in 1997, we invested a lot of time in meeting with staff to gain a deep understanding of Byerly’s processes and culture because we knew there would be strengths from both brands that we would want to leverage moving forward. One example of our commitment to growing together relates to how we handled seniority for all union staff. Because we valued the contributions of every employee, we integrated seniority across both brands. It demonstrated immediate respect, which in turn immediately strengthened our culture.

Your company’s 28th store is in the works for Apple Valley, Minn., which is considered “a magnet for high-quality commercial development.” What excites you most about the planned highlights of this forthcoming store?

We’re deeply committed to expanding our presence here in the Twin Cities and have recently secured three new locations, in Apple Valley, Minneapolis and St. Paul. The seven-acre site we purchased in Apple Valley—one of the fastest-growing areas of the Twin Cities—secures our future in this community and will give us the ability to build a Lunds & Byerlys and leasable space for additional retail tenants.

Lunds & Byerlys was an early adopter of harnessing the power of local vendor partners to enhance its offerings and quality proposition. What motivated the company’s approach to embracing partnerships long before others got the memo?

We love doing business with local, privately held companies that complement our offerings and share our passion for providing the highest levels of quality and service. It’s a commitment that began long before I was here and one we’ve been proud to build upon during the past 80 years. We’re also grateful for the opportunity to help local makers bring their products to market. Over the years we’ve had the pleasure of being the first retailer to carry many local products, including Angie’s Kettle Corn, which grew into a remarkable national brand as Angie’s Boomchickapop.

 

Lightning Round 

 

What leadership trait do you most admire of a past mentor?

Having an appreciation of the higher calling of your daily work.

What was your dream job as a kid and why?

A merchant just like my grandfather Russell T. Lund Sr., who founded our company in 1939.

Do you have a favorite Prince song?

I’m a country boy, but “Purple Rain” is a good one.

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