“Being small when you deal with big data is actually an advantage,” explained Tom Heinen. “Big companies are like driving a cruise ship. We are in a speedboat and can change very quickly. What has really leveled the playing field for smaller companies is good data driven decisions.”
Leveraging data is especially important at the Heinen’s downtown Cleveland store because it is such a unique format. The store is small at 27,000-sq.-ft. compared to the typical 42,000-sq.-ft. Heinen’s suburban location and being in an urban area also means serving a higher concentration of Millennials as opposed to suburban families. One of the early insights based on purchase behavior was the need to add a hot bar to accommodate the demand for prepared meals and meal solutions that are much greater in the urban store. The company takes things a step further than the obvious use case to plan meals and incorporate ingredients based on trends and other behaviors revealed by consumption and urban lifestyle patterns.
“We are not really headed to creating Blue Apron style meal kits as much as we are looking to create meal solutions for customers where they have choices of entrees and side dishes to choose from and we are going to pair them more effectively than we do now,” Tom Heinen said.
While Heinen’s faces many of the same competitive challenges as other retailers and some unique one related to their downtown Cleveland store, persuading employees to work at the unconventional location wasn’t one of them. The store is staffed by 90 people and 55 of those positions were filled by employees who volunteered from other stores, according to the brothers.
“As a company we believe we invest way more time, energy and money into developing the knowledge and skills of our people than the average retailer and food retailers for sure,” Jeff Heinen said. “We see people as one of the ways we truly create a differentiated shopping experience so it is very important strategically that our people have the knowledge and skills to do that.”
Tom Heinen added, “We view people as an asset to be leveraged, not a cost to be minimized.” RL
Take a video tour of Heinen’s Cleveland store with Tom and Jeff here.