Winn-Dixie renews ‘fresh & local’ appeal

If sports columnists covered Winn-Dixie, their story line would read something like this: The Jacksonville, Fla.-based retailer has climbed back into the ring as a slimmed-down and much-improved fighter competing in a lighter weight class. 

The evidence is abundant that Winn-Dixie has regained its balance. In fiscal 2010 — a year hammered by recession and slack sales — the chain generated net earnings of $28.9 million, finished upgrading nearly half its store base, unveiled a dazzling new store prototype and poured $190 million into strategic improvements and the expansion of its “Fresh & Local” strategy. 

Capping a long retrenchment, Winn-Dixie last year shed another 30 stores saddled with high lease costs and other problems. To restore profitability, it focused on “adjusting our promotional practices,” in the words of chairman, president and CEO Peter Lynch, and on the rebranding and expansion of its private brands, which now comprise nearly 4,000 products and account for 23% of “all the brands we sell in dollar terms,” according to the company.

Most significant, Winn-Dixie has remodeled roughly half its 484 supermarkets. Capping that renovation effort was the unveiling last year of a dramatically improved store prototype in Margate, Fla., and Covington, La., that highlights the company’s Fresh & Local market strategy.

Led by VP pharmacy John Fegan, a veteran of Ahold USA, the pharmacy division has certified all but a few of its 800 pharmacists to provide immunizations and some 400 of them to offer medication therapy management. 

“With the availability of generics and the prices so low, it really comes down to the service ... and [the] comfort the [customer] gets from walking in and talking with the pharmacist,” Fegan said.

Among recent innovations are a centralized prescription record system, called WD RxConnect, and an optional, automatic script-refill program.

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