AUSTIN, Texas -- Six months after it launched itself here, Randall's Food Markets, Houston, is relaunching itself with a new advertising campaign featuring a new tagline and a local celebrity as its spokeswoman.
The chain's moves are meant to solidify a positive perception with consumers following an early problem with product and service levels.
Using the ad line, "We get you home sooner," Randall's is stressing store service and "a quicker, smoother shopping experience," R. Randall Onstead, president and chief operating officer, told SN.
The chain has retained Ellie Rucker to serve as its media spokeswoman and the person to whom customers can address their letters, which are then passed on to Randall's management. Rucker wrote a longtime newspaper column here called "Miss Fix-It" and has continued to be prominent locally as a consumer advocate.
"Ellie is not on our payroll," Onstead said, "but she's someone people in Austin have worked with and trusted for years, and she's helping us understand the Austin market better."
Sales here since Randall's entered the market "have exceeded expectations," Onstead said. "The problem has never been an issue of sales, but of perceptions."
Since it launched the new campaign last month, "we've had great results," Onstead said, "including a lot of positive comments from people that shopped with us before, people who gave us time to get our act together and who have now come back into the stores and written us letters telling us they like what they see."
Randall's entered this market -- 140 miles northwest of Houston -- in mid-1992 when it acquired Cullum Cos., Dallas, which operated seven stores here. In January this year, it added 10 former AppleTree Markets for a total of 17 Austin stores, which it converted to introduce the Randall's name here. It has since built a new store, giving it a total of 18 local stores.
When it converted the banners, Randall's stopped supplying the stores here out of Cullum's Dallas distribution center and began supplying them from its Houston facility.
However, that was followed by some logistical problems. Rather than change the reorder code numbers already on the shelves, Randall's cross-referenced those numbers with its own code numbers in Houston, "which didn't work out," Onstead said.
"It created out-of-stocks and poor service levels for us and dissatisfaction for our customers -- all at the moment people were looking at Randall's to see what we were all about."
The problems have been corrected over the ensuing months, he said, but the chain was forced to pull back its original ad campaign, which labeled Randall's "your remarkable store" -- a claim, Onstead said, that wasn't being met initially.
"Now we're relaunching our advertising and ," he said. "That was part of our original campaign, but with the problems that developed, we felt it was better to address those issues first and educate our customers later."
Because Randall's had hired 85% of AppleTree's employees, the challenge was not only to educate Randall's customers but also to inform its own employees about the corporate culture, Onstead said.