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In Minnesota, the Star Tribune has a story about how the biggest retailer in the Twin Cities, Cub Foods, “has half the market share it did 20 years ago, with competition coming from new big-box store chains, boxes arriving on front porches, and a parent company that makes most of its money as a wholesaler rather than a retailer.

Mark Gross, CEO of Supervalu, which owns Cub, says he believes the chain can recapture past glories. “We’re giving Cub the capital, the leadership, the talents, resources and innovation. I’m optimistic.”

While some have speculated that Supervalu is likely to sell Cub - Albertsons and Kroger are mentioned as possible purchasers - Gross says that it won’t happen, and that the sale of the company’s Save-A-Lot limited assortment stores actually “infused the company with capital to upgrade Cub stores and take on new competitors, notably Iowa-based Hy-Vee, which runs big stores like Cub and will have eight Twin Cities stores open by the end of the year and seven more in the works.”

The story points out that the person in charge of re-engineering the Cub offering is Anne Dament, who once was supposed to do the same thing for Target. She’s Supervalu’s senior vice president of retail, merchandising, marketing and private brands, and “she’s in the process of rolling out hundreds of new items in Cub’s new Quick & Easy line of meals that can be prepared at home or come fully prepared. In addition to this line, and an expanded deli department, “Cub is also shifting more labor to nights and weekends when more people shop, instituting more training to keep shelves stocked, enhancing more-profitable private labels such as Wild Harvest and Culinary Circle, and expanding the grocery selection with more ‘mainstream’ foods that were once considered specialty. The delis will soon be stocking tamales and burrito bowls, for example.”
KC's View:
I want to believe … but I must confess that I remain skeptical.

There’s a line for Dament in the story in which she says, ““Meal solutions in grocery are changing the game … Supervalu and Cub are going to be in the meal program in a meaningful way.”

To which I would suggest that it isn’t like meal solutions is a new concept. In fact, I’d argue that they’re a little late to the party.

And then there’s this passage:

“Shoppers could argue that competitors such as Whole Foods, Lunds & Byerlys, Kowalski’s and Hy-Vee have been offering extensive grab-and-go choices for a couple of years. Gross, who stressed that he’s only been in charge for 18 months, said being slow to innovate isn’t always bad. ‘Sometimes people can be a little ahead of their time,’ he said. ‘They’ll put in sushi and then say it doesn’t work. Actually, you were too soon, but it does work now’.”

Which strikes me as a first-class rationalization. I think being slow to innovate is a death knell for any company that actually thinks that way … because the best competitors know that they have to move quickly, even at the risk of failing, just to keep up in the current competitive environment. (Actually, I’d bet that Gross doesn’t think that slow to innovate is a good thing. I just think he’s rationalizing the fact that Supervalu has a lot of catching up to do.)

As for selling Cub … we’ll see. Maybe someone makes them an offer they can’t refuse.