Geissler’s CEO Robert Rybick spoke with Winsight Grocery Business recently about e-commerce, labor, customers’ expectations, as well as Geissler’s upcoming 100th anniversary.
Geissler’s Supermarket, a seven-store retailer with locations in Connecticut and Massachusetts, has a big year ahead of them in 2023—a 100th birthday celebration. The Somers, Conn.-based grocery store founded by A.F. Geissler in 1923 was an early adopter of home delivery. Now almost a century later, President and CEO Robert Rybick, who represents the fourth generation, recently launched SNAP online payments with its e-commerce service powered by Rosie.
Diane Adam: As a leader in the independent grocery industry where you serve as both a board member and chairman of the National Retail Advisory Board of IGA, how important is e-commerce for independent grocery retailers going forward as they compete in the grocery space?
Robert Rybick:Independent grocers are the cornerstone of many communities. E-commerce is vital for those retailers who want to compete and serve their communities as consumer preference change. Physical stores will always play a part in retail. We have seen that the most successful independents transform their physical stores from utilitarian gathering points for goods towards inspirational experiences of food and culture. The local independent is where you can connect with your local farmer so closely it’s as if you are at the farm talking to the farmer directly. It is also where you can learn about new recipes, discover ingredients from different parts of the world and get the full sensory experience of smell, taste and the visual delight that food brings. When someone falls in love with what an independent brings to their community, they want to have access in multiple ways to fit their busy schedules. With more hybrid work and childcare challenges, there are a multitude of needs for consumers to access the products they love, so offering the same goods and as close to the in-store experience as possible is essential online. While big-box stores may offer an online gathering point for goods, independents, having won hearts and minds with taste and smell experiences in-store, can win by delivering similar experience though their e-commerce offerings.
Geissler’s launched SNAP online payments with its e-commerce service powered by Rosie. Geissler’s shoppers in Connecticut and Massachusetts will now be able to use their SNAP EBT benefits to make purchases online for curbside pickup and home delivery. What are the biggest gains for Geissler shoppers with this new payment type and partnership with Rosie?
The biggest gain for Geissler’s is that we can now truly say we are serving all the members of our community. The busy and ever-changing lifestyles of consumers encompass all our shoppers regardless of payment method. We want everyone to have access to the best local and fresh items Geissler’s delivers, and if someone prefers to shop online to fit their schedule, we can now feel comfortable that we are delivering that in every channel, physical and virtual, in every part of our communities.
With food inflation at a 40-year high and consumers feeling the pinch, what are some steps Geissler’s is taking to tackle these increased costs for shoppers?
We were excited to launch our LEF Rewards program a few months ago. LEF Rewards, which is an acronym for “Local Equals Fresh,” is designed to help customers save on a variety of items throughout the stores. Like the name suggests, we offer a variety of special offers on our signature store-made products, local produce, meat and grocery items as well as many key staple items. Becoming a member is easy, you can sign up at the register, online at Geisslers.com or use our kiosk in-store. It only takes a phone number or email. Once a member, you also have access to manufacturer and Geissler’s-specific digital coupons that you clip online or right at the register while you check out. The coupons are taken off automatically when you purchase, allowing customers to save instantly in most cases, or stored in your digital wallet for your next trip. By combining the power of special offers and digital coupons, customers have even more ways to save and help fight inflation. Our partners at AppCard power the platform, and it works seamlessly online with our e-commerce sign powered by Rosie.
Back in December 2019, no one could have predicted the challenges quickly coming our way, as an independent grocer who competes with chain grocery stores, how are you handling the changing customer expectations?
We like to remind folks that we have been delivering groceries for almost 100 years. When our company was started by my great-grandfather in 1923, he drove around town talking orders and making deliveries. That level of service is in our DNA, and why we have always been adapting to serve customers in the way they want to access our products. With that in mind, we listen to our customers and offer them choices, and work diligently to make both in-store and online experiences as similar as possible. We constantly evaluate what channels and methods we use to communicate with our customers, we listen to their feedback daily as well as with more comprehensive feedback studies that help us plan. The great thing about being independent is that we can shift gears quickly and jump on new trends, flavors, products and merchandising methods. If an idea isn’t working or has fallen out of favor, we are quick to adapt, not on a long-term planning calendar, but on a dime, shifting right away to continue to deliver the level of service that founded out company.
Heading into the summer months, seasonal help is down across many industries as labor shortages continue to cause disruptions. What are some steps that Geissler’s is taking to temper these labor woes?
We are lucky to have a core of longtime loyal employees, but we recognize that we need to constantly inject new opinions and perspectives to evolve and continue to serve our changing communities. We have worked closely to identify talent in young people and coach them towards careers in the grocery business. Often the best employees are right under your nose. We see a lot of high schoolers who come to Geissler’s as their first job. Many continue to work with us through college, and with coaching, learn the myriad of opportunities. From technology, customer facing rolls to trades like cutting meat and culinary creativity, our stores can offer a variety of choices and give young people the opportunity for a great career they may not have thought about when they came from their first job.
The first Geissler’s store opened in 1923, now as a fourth-generation owned grocer with seven family-owned grocery stores, will there be any celebrations planned for your 100th anniversary in 2023?
Yes, there will be a lot of celebration. It is such a big milestone. We have already begun some of the planning and are working with both our local partners and national manufacturers to plan unique experiences to our customers and employees.
The original article can be found at Winsight Grocery Business.