MILAN, Ill. -- Eagle Food Centers here has developed a new price-impact format, called Foodco, that it hopes will help boost its overall sales.
The first Foodco opened a month ago today in Jacksonville, Ill., with an unspecified number of stores expected to be converted to the new format sometime next year, Clark Jordan, vice president, operations, for the 64-store chain, told SN.
"We're evaluating all our existing stores to see which ones fit the physical and demographic needs of the Foodco format," he said.
Stores must be a minimum of 50,000 square feet, in rural farming areas where residents have low-to-medium incomes, for the concept to work, Jordan said. However, it's still too early in the process to indicate how many potential locations there might be, he said. "We should have a clearer idea sometime between the first and second quarters of next year," he noted.
Sales at the Jacksonville store are exceeding the company's expectations, Jordan said, though he declined to be more specific. "We've been very pleased with the results every week we've been open, and the customer reaction has been better than what we anticipated," he said.
Jordan said the company expects sales from the Jacksonville Foodco to help keep Eagle's sales moving in a positive direction throughout the fourth quarter ending Feb. 4. "Overall sales have been improving for several quarters, and the numbers should reflect a very positive push from the Foodco store," he said.
To make sure the Foodco store has a strong price image, Eagle lowered more than 12,000 prices prior to reopening under the new banner, Jordan said.
Eagle also redid the store's graphics and remodeled it to include an "aisle of values"; expanded produce and seafood sections; a new bulk foods section with 300 items; an expanded Hispanic foods section -- moving from 16 feet to 56 feet and adding approximately 400 stockkeeping units; an adjacent liquor store of 3,500 square feet called The Liquor Locker; and a gardening department called The Garden Shed that extends outside the store.
The Garden Shed department is Eagle's first, Jordan said, though similar sections will be added to other Eagle units as they are remodeled, he noted. Several stores already have bulk food sections, he added.
In designing the store, Eagle executives looked at price formats all over the country, Jordan said, "and we took attributes from each that would be demographically compatible with Jacksonville."
Jacksonville is a rural farm community, heavily blue collar, with a large Hispanic population, located 25 miles south of the state capital in Springfield.
According to Joe Healy, director of advertising, Eagle conducted "quite a bit of research" before converting the 55,000-square-foot store there to the Foodco concept, "and we found that price was a big issue."
Since the store reopened, it uses the tag line, "Eat Better, Spend Less," Healy pointed out.
The store displays its mission statement on a wall above where customers pick up their shopping carts: "We believe providing the freshest, high-quality products at the best price means honest value."