Retailers

Honey Bee Experiment Paves Way for 1st Small-Format Macey’s

The year-old concept store provided 'priceless lessons' for Associated Food Stores to take and run with
Photograph courtesy of AFS

Associated Food Stores pulled the plug on its year-old experimental grocery format, Honey Bee Produce Co., in favor of restoring the buzz in Draper, Utah, with a new Macey’s.

The move to rebrand the 31,000-square-foot store follows what Associated Retail Operations (ARO) executives describe as a valuable, albeit short-lived, learning experience that was instrumental in providing the Salt Lake City retail co-op with a better understanding of small-format store needs vs. those of its larger conventional units.

honey bee produce co exterior
Photograph courtesy of AFS

And though the decision to disband Honey Bee Produce Co. just a year after its debut was bittersweet, Darin Peirce, director of retail operations for AFS, told WGB the “project provided a very valuable learning experience for our company in how we go to market with quality fresh food, high-end foodservice and a specialty food offering,” which he says was couched under an umbrella acronym, ONSHELF (organic, natural, specialty, healthy, ethnic and local foods). 

“The acronym summarizes what was so special about Honey Bee and helped our organization learn so much about what today’s consumers want—and some of what they don’t want or need,” said Peirce. “We have become better at offering ONSHELF products in all our stores based on our experiences with Honey Bee,” as well as how to better source the items, many of which were made available through partnerships with Utah companies and growers through a process ARO had built simultaneously with Honey Bee.

The impetus behind converting the specialty format store to a compact conventional Macey’s was multifold and “intended to bring more traffic to the store and our shopping center and increase the basket size,” said Peirce. “We’re doing this with an expanded offering of classic favorites that are generally on most every shoppers’ lists. We’ve added around 10,000 new items, mostly in the center store, grocery and health and beauty care, as well as dairy and frozen foods.”

Upshots of the rebranding effort also extend to fresh foods, says Peirce, with new and expanded offerings in all perimeter departments, including the bakery, which makes scratch doughnuts fried fresh in-store, and the deli, which houses an array of fresh sandwiches, salads, soups and hot foods. A refreshed meat department featuring Certified Angus Beef and “the highest-quality produce available,” round out the expanded offerings around the store, which Peirce says allows guests “to do a full shop for everything for their families’ needs and anticipate this will help grow sales.”

As the smallest Macey’s store AFS has operated in more than 30 years, the Honey Bee conversion aligns with the smaller store format trend that Peirce says is inherently easier to shop. Beyond its shopability, Macey’s latest location gives folks a reason to linger in an “intimate and cozy store with beautiful decor, outstanding fresh departments and a full offering of product to satisfy everyone,” explains Peirce, including the in-store restaurant, which will continue to provide a destination for fresh meals. “We felt it was important to take one of our strongest brands and develop a small format store that will fulfill the needs of today’s consumer in a comfortable, easy-to-shop store.”

Several new products have been added, including the banner’s signature Kong Kones and Macey’s Chips. Online shopping with curbside pickup is also available through Macey’s Anywhere app. Guests can also order groceries online and have them delivered through Macey’s partnership with Shipt.

“While we’re sad to close Honey Bee Produce Co., the lessons we learned are priceless and will help us create better stores in the future,” said District Manager Jan Whiteley.

All associates employed at the former Honey Bee will be retained as part of the transition.

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