Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Real Hy-Vee Story

I read with interest the latest news coming out of Hy-Vee’s headquarter offices. A national report issued Friday, March 21 said that the Des Moines, Iowa-based supermarket chain, which has 223 stores in seven Midwestern states, is planning to test a small format in Lincoln, Neb., explaining that “there is a value in developing a smaller store model with a limited assortment of merchandise.”

What they’re not saying is why the smaller format was created. Huge, and well-organized, opposition to the closure of key stores in both my hometown of Lincoln and the chain’s home market of Des Moines has prompted the grocer to find alternatives to leaving neighborhoods grocery-less.

In Des Moines, Hy-Vee is closing an older store on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and replacing it with a larger store several miles away. In Lincoln, Hy-Vee is closing a longtime store at 48th and Leighton Streets and, like Des Moines, supplanting it with a modern, 80,000-sq.-ft. supermarket about 40 blocks away.

Both neighborhoods in Des Moines and Lincoln erupted. And not just because largely pedestrian neighborhoods—with a significant disabled and elderly population—were going to be without a nearby grocery store, but because a lease provision prevents another grocer from filling the gap for at least five years.

Hy-Vee’s argument was that it needed to “protect its investment” in the new stores by eliminating potential competition for an extended time period. But the residents’ argument packed more punch. In Lincoln, a group called “Release the Lease,” formed to protest Hy-Vee’s lease restrictions, organized a rally and a press conference. The members generated a flurry of coverage in the local newspaper and on area television and radio stations. They met with Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. And, finally, after a period of non-response, Hy-Vee officials answered—with plans for a smaller store, designed to “allow it to serve areas with unique needs.”

—Katherine Field

No comments:

Post a Comment