“You cannot solve for what you cannot see.” shared John Stanze, the Director of Operations at Cosentino’s Food Stores in summarizing a challenge faced by most Independent grocers. To protect profits and prevent losses, you need “one place for visibility, insights and action.”
He hit the nail on the head. That’s why the 30+ stores under his purview are successful. Sophisticated operators need partners who solve for existing pain points, evolve to meet changing needs with speed and agility, and provide straightforward, accurate data at a glance.
Cosentino’s independent grocery stores have been in business since 1948.
“I’ve been with them for 20 years, and I can tell you that the Cosentino family built this business around one word - People. Employees, customers and vendors. In recent years, technology has been a driving force in enabling us to make better business decisions and ultimately take better care of our people.” shared Stanze.
“I have had the chance to work closely with the Cosentino family members in the business and each of them has been a mentor to me over the years. I use the guiding principles they have taught me everyday.”
Below, John Stanze reflects on the need for simple and digestible analysis of the complicated “goings-on” behind every grocery operator, and his experience with the Storewise Platform:
Q: What are the most pressing issues facing grocers right now?
JS: Help, Inflation and the Supply Chain. These are urgent needs every grocer is facing now, from the largest to the smallest of us.
Q: How does that manifest in the stores?
JS: In regards to Supply chain - Our challenges are to find the right product mix to serve our customers. This is a very competitive issue, particularly at the moment. If someone can secure a product faster or at a better rate, a store is at risk of losing customers.
In regards to Labor- It’s a struggle across the country. It wasn’t great pre-covid with 4% unemployment, even in 2017-19. When you’re struggling with the labor force it’s hard to fulfill the business model, especially if it’s high service as ours is.
Speaking to inflation - We’re independent operators. We’re a high / low operator. Right now as a high / low operator compared to someone like Walmart, it’s a tough time to have a supply chain issue. We’re more than willing to sell products at low cost to support customers, but when you can only get so much product it’s hard to do that.
Inflation also makes it more difficult for consumers to recognize good value. It’s much easier for customers to recognize and compare value when costs are stable.
Q: What kinds of solutions have you implemented in the past?
JS: All three of these top issues are new. We’ve done much on the supply chain to expand the number of vendors we work with. We’ve forged new relationships with third party suppliers and manufacturers we haven’t worked with in the past.
We’ve done a litany of things on the labor front in hiring and even more from a retention standpoint. Every employee we can keep with us is critical. Our people are important to us - both the customers and our staff.
Like the industry at large, we have seen a huge increase in private labels - up 20-30%. We’re constantly evaluating assortment and pricing.
Q: How do you address product issues?
JS: We’re doubling down on trying to secure product. Tripling down on trying to get the lowest costs for our customers. If we can alleviate our cost and pass it on to the consumer, that’s our top focus. Our customers want and need value. We’re doing everything we can to provide that.
Q: What solutions are you using now, and what results are they yielding?
JS: Storewise has helped us with automating temporary price reductions (TPRs). If we’re able to get a better deal on a product, we’re able to pass that on. Instead of data entry, we’re able to spend our time analyzing the results and ensuring that we’re passing that value on to the customers. How many do we have active? Is it enough? How is each performing? All of that information is critical in fighting inflation for customers.
Q: Paint us a before and after picture of your experience with the Storewise Platform.
JS: Before Storewise, we were literally getting thousands of pieces of paper per month, turned in from vendors for special promotions that we could pass to consumers.
We were shuffling thousands of pieces of paper from pricing to billing, and each one was manually handled. Each TPR needed to be set manually, with no global visibility. Now our vendors fill a standardized form which is injected into our system and I can review all of our items together.
One at a time it was hard to make decisions. Now I can see thousands together at once.
Q: What guidance would you offer other grocers?
JS: In the grocery industry, we run our business successfully by feel and gut 80-85% of the time. What technology brings is that other 15% allowing you to enhance your business with data. Finding business solutions based on data allows us to pick up incremental profit and efficiencies that we may have missed over the years.
Grocers consume a tremendous amount of data. Our industry lags behind the tech curve a little bit because it’s a very complex operation dealing with 20 or 40k different items, shelf lives, nutritional facts and countless other factors.
One of the key things Storewise offers is a solution that can chew through this enormous amount of data. The Storewise platform can take 50 pages of data and give me one page of actionable items. That’s key to any business, but particularly one like ours where you can easily be paralyzed by the sheer volume of data.
In the rush to stay ahead, some grocers are adopting a variety of uncomplimentary or incompatible new technologies with the side effect of creating a MORE time-intensive and fractured process.
“Today, in the retail industry - and grocery in particular - the tides are always changing and everyone is rowing upstream. Storewise gives you a motor,” says Mark Simpson, Storewise CSO, who works closely with Stanze to implement Cosentino's streamlined software solutions. “Storewise cuts through time intensive manual tasks as a direct extension of an operator’s existing technology.”
“Not only are we able to provide Cosentino’s with the solutions they need, but we also build partnerships shared Simpson. “It makes both of our operations stronger. We’re winning together.”
John Stanze is a Director, Operations at Cosentino's Food Stores based in Overland Park, Kansas. Learn more about them at https://www.cosentinos.com