A Competitive Retail Landscape

Marsh Supermarket DisplayPhoto Courtesy of Marsh Supermarkets

Marsh supermarkets battles for a share of indy’s diverse consumer demographics.

Indiana residents spend $16 billion per year on food; for those living in Indianapolis, this comes from a mix of big chains, smaller independents and single location retailers.

Big players — Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Sam’s Club, Costco, Kroger and Wal-Mart — exist alongside smaller independents like Carniceria El Ranchito, which serves the Hispanic population; KB International, which caters to the African and Caribbean communities; and Saraga International Market, which sells food from every corner of the globe — from Asia and the Middle East to South America.

Indianapolis is an extremely competitive market for retail grocers, which compete for customers interested in new flavors, organics and locally sourced products. Area retailers must also consider the city’s diverse population and the opportunities it presents. After those of European descent, African and African-Americans make up the next largest demographic in the city, representing roughly 27 percent of the population. Hispanics represent 10 percent and Asians represent 2 percent.

According to the Chain Store Guide’s 2015 Market Share report, Marsh Supermarkets takes more than 12 percent of the Indianapolis market share and places third after Kroger and Wal-Mart, which is substantial when you consider Marsh’s total stores and customer demographics.

Marsh Supermarkets: A Strong Local Chain

Marsh Fresh Supermarket

Photo courtesy of Marsh Supermarkets

Marsh Supermarkets has a long history in Indianapolis that dates back to 1931. The company has always been an innovator of new technologies. Marsh was the first grocery store in the world to make use of an electronic scanner. In the 21st century, Marsh continues this tradition, being the first U.S. retailer to utilize beacon technology, which uses geolocation to send coupons directly to customers’ smartphones as they shop.

Marsh is also committed to locally sourced products. “Marsh has had an extremely strong local program,” says Dave Rhodes, vice president of produce and floral. “We have been purchasing from Indiana and Ohio growers for more than 30 years.”

Marsh Supermarkets operates more than 70 Marsh stores and O’Malia’s Food Markets in Indiana and Ohio, and delivers to all locations from a single warehouse distribution center. “All fresh produce purchased from local growers goes through our warehouse distribution center and goes through the same inspection process as any other grower. At Marsh we want to make sure our customers only purchase the best quality produce every day,” says Rhodes.

The average size of a Marsh’s produce department is around 2,000 square feet. As Rhodes points out, “Produce has a very strong presence in relation to the total store sales.” To keep all produce managers on the same page, the company has several procedures in place. “Our stores receive a merchandising bulletin each week detailing what goes on display where,” says Rhodes.

Signage is uniform across all locations as well. “We have sign kits that all stores use daily,” says Rhodes. “Our ad signs are made and shipped to our stores weekly. We use stanchion signs to call all categories, special programs and weekend specials; and we use window banners to promote special programs.” Nutritional information is included on the signs that appear in the stores on a daily basis, and recipe cards are also on display.

All retailers believe they offer the best quality produce and Marsh Supermarkets is no exception. The difference, however, is when Marsh offers its customers freshness, quality and variety, its promise is backed by green. “At Marsh we have a ‘Triple your Money’ back guarantee,” says Rhodes, “meaning, if our customers are not happy with their purchase, we will triple their money back. We mean business when we say ‘fresh.’”

People matter at Marsh and it’s the employees who contribute greatly to repeat business from loyal customers. “Our associates make the difference,” says Rhodes. “We have the best produce manager and teams in the area with continuous training programs offered by our human resource teams.”

With so many stores in the Indianapolis area, Marsh needs to maintain freshness across the board. That requires a replenishment plan that sees up to five and six deliveries to one location in a single day. “We want to make sure that they are fresh and in business daily,” adds Rhodes.

Doing business in such a great transportation hub is ideal for sourcing produce from around Indiana and beyond. “We also have the luxury of two really good wholesalers in Indianapolis. If for any reason we have stores that need product, we can have Caito Foods or Indianapolis Fruit make direct store deliveries,” says Rhodes.

Marsh is proud of its history of innovation. It was the first company in the United States to introduce the barcode at retail. “We continue to improvise to be more contextual in our in-store beacon messaging through the smartphone apps to improve customer experience,” says Rhodes.

Marsh is proud of its history of innovation. It was the first company in the United States to introduce the barcode at retail. “We continue to improvise to be more contextual in our in-store beacon messaging through the smartphone apps to improve customer experience,” says Rhodes.

Marsh Grand Peppers

Photo courtesy of Marsh Supermarkets

Marsh uses digital technology to alert customers to new coupons. Exclusive coupons are created for product and uploaded into the digital coupon gallery at Marsh.net. “Customers who have registered their Fresh Idea Card may click and load the coupon savings directly to their card and receive the discount during checkout,” says Rhodes. These digital coupons are also identified with products in the Marsh circular, which can be viewed digitally and in print.

Marsh uses print to reach consumers through Dish Magazine, which features a variety of attractive fresh fruit in season with full-color, full-page ads offering “custom, kitchen-tested” recipes featuring those products. Dish is available in-store and digitally on the company’s website. Each featured recipe is added to the Marsh recipe gallery. These recipes and imagery are also included in the store’s “Core Shopper” mailer each month.

A mix of both established and new platforms help Marsh Supermarkets reach shoppers. Social media is a part of the produce marketing plan, too. Facebook is used to post recipes and Twitter is used to alert customers to things like “First of the Season” product availability. All these elements, both human and technology-based, contribute to help the retail chain offer its customers the freshest produce available.