“Customers told us that they wanted a little bit of fun and excitement when they shop,” said Anne Dament, Supervalu’s senior vice president of retail. “We want to provide them or their kids with some popcorn to enjoy while they’re shopping and just have a really good smell when they come in the store.”
The biggest grocery chain in the Twin Cities is in the midst of a massive makeover, driven both by the aging of its stores and fresh competition from Hy-Vee, the Iowa-based chain that arrived here two years ago.
To start, it’s no longer Cub Foods. The signs and ads now simply say “Cub,” and the remodeled stores reflect the broader assortment of goods that it needs to compete not just with Hy-Vee but Target, Walmart, Aldi and even Amazon.
Cub is the biggest chain in Supervalu’s retail portfolio. Its sale of the Save-A-Lot discount chain for $1.3 billion “fundamentally changed our leverage,” Chief Executive Mark Gross said this year. Some of that is going toward updating Cub, though Dament declined to say how much the company is spending.
New stores have opened in Blaine and Oakdale, while 16 Twin Cities locations have been remodeled. Remodels have begun in Maple Grove, Minnetonka, New Brighton and at an existing store in Blaine. Inver Grove Heights starts soon.
Nearly all of Cub’s remodels are in areas where Hy-Vee opened stores nearby. “Hy-Vee is at the top of my list as being a disrupter in the supermarket space,” said Phil Lempert, a grocery analyst and founder of Supermarketguru.com.
Cub brought elements to the remodeled stores that customers liked — more grab-and-go foods, a larger produce section and a drive-up pharmacy — but those were reactions to Hy-Vee.
Stillwater is an exception. The new 88,500-square-foot store includes ideas that Cub executives are trying out before adding to other stores.
“We put in things that are new for us here,” said Chad Ferguson, president of Cub Foods. “We’re learning what the customer likes, and then we’ll [decide] how we’re going to expand them. Things like the juicery.”
The Apple Valley store, which will launch its grand reopening Thursday, will be the second store to get a juicery. The Stillwater store also has a burrito bar and a boutique candy shop. Next month, Refresh creamery and coffee will open. It’s a dedicated area that will include freshly made cookies, cookie ice-cream sandwiches, ice cream, shakes, sundaes, espresso drinks and various brewed coffees.
“What I love is that we’re bringing together two local partners, Caribou Coffee and Kemps,” Ferguson said. “One signature item that we’re doing is a scoop of Kemps ice cream between two freshly made, warm chocolate chip cookies. People light up when I describe it.”
Tammy Hook of Stillwater and Teresa Bonneville of Aurora, Colo., friends who were shopping together at the Stillwater store Thursday, said they were impressed by the amenities. “The aisles are wide. There’s room to move here,” Bonneville said. “You don’t feel like you’re being herded in a certain direction.”
Hook said she’s not a Hy-Vee shopper because there’s not a store close to her. She occasionally shops Walmart but prefers Cub. “It’s my store of choice for convenience and price,” she said.
Cub, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, chose the Stillwater store as a flagship and a testing ground because it’s one of the original stores in the chain, said Dament, who joined Supervalu from Target Corp. this year.
“It’s one of our top stores and we’re proud of it,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we included the sights, sounds and the smells of what customers have been asking for. If it works here, it will work at most of the stores in the chain.”