WHEN THE GOOD FOOD STORE in Missoula, Mont., moved from its 7,150-square-foot home to a new location four times that size, store executives did not lose sight of the unit's unique go-to-market differentiator - bulk foods.
"We originally started as a bulk foods store," explained Pam Clevenger, grocery manager. "We had rice, wheat, oats and beans. Bulk always has been an integral part of the store. It's what our customers want."
The retailer, serving a college town that's home to the headquarters of several environmental concerns, first opened 35 years ago, and remains true to its roots through the remodel and expansion.
Good Food Store bulked up the random-weight department to 800 items, with a particular focus on locally grown options, in a space measuring 1,500 square feet. Made-in-Montana items range from oat bran and whole wheat flour to wheat berries and split peas. Coffee, tea and spices are also there, along with honey, soy sauce, oils and vinegars, plus laundry detergent, liquid soap and lotion. A color-coded system on each bin tells customers if the contents are 100% organic, locally grown, conventionally grown or WIC eligible.
"Montana shoppers are always trying to buy economically," Clevenger said. "They are looking for value and don't mind the extra time it takes to buy from the bulk department. Over the years, we have cultivated the culture to buy bulk. Alongside economics, in Missoula the shoppers are environmentally conscious. They tell us they don't want wasteful packaging and we have responded."
Some of the leading sellers include candy, snacks and granola. Items found to be slow movers are rotated out, and the retailer will bring in a packaged equivalent. Keeping up with trends is particularly important for the bulk buyer and full-time orderer, Clevenger said. For example, the popularity of hemp has spurred the Good Food Store to source seeds and snacks to meet customer demand.
In addition to freshness, cleanliness is paramount in the bulk department. Stockers are expressly trained to keep the bulk bins full - and sanitary.