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Reimagining a new future- bi rite grocery

May 10, 2009

In a world where incumbents seem to be getting usurped on a daily basis, there’s a temptation to throw in the towel and give up. The pressures of trying to survive in a changed marketplace become too much and over time the incumbent gets strangled. However, in many situations, the incumbent has had fair warning of the forthcoming change, but is unable to re-imagine a new future.

For incumbents stumbling out there, it would be wise to take a look at Bi-Rite, a San-Francisco-based grocery store that was recently named one of Monocle Magazine’s Top 20 retailers worldwide.(registation required)

has been in business since 1940 and is still a family business. It looks from outside appearances like a typical neighborhood grocery store, but if you look underneath the surface you can see how they have changed and adopted to survive in the world of grocery store giants.

Here’s are 5 things that make Bi-Rite different:

1. They celebrate food- They are not in the business of just selling food, they celebrate and nurture it. The focus is on organic, sustainable and local foods.

2. They stretch beyond basic grocery- They also operate a bakeshop and a hand made ice cream store that uses local organic dairy products

3. Quality matters- They hand pick every item in the store and place an emphasis in making sure the staff knows their stuff. They go beyond typical grocery retail and provide health insurance for every employee.

4. They are part of the community- Instead of just operating a store, Bi-Rite manages a non-for-profit gallery 18 Reasons to create a dialog between art and food. At 18 Reasons, they host 18th Hour, a weekly happy hour for neighbors that features food and drink from the store.

5. Vertical integration- Bi-Rite operates its own farm, Apple Ranch in Sonoma where it raises produce that’s sold exclusively in the store. Employees are encouraged to spend time working in the ranch, so they can gain an appreciation of where the food comes from and how its grown.

By focusing on the celebration of food, instead of just selling, Bi-Rite has built a platform that makes it interesting and relevant to people and one that allows to reach far beyond a typical grocery store.

Struggling incumbents could learn from this by spending time to understand what it is they are passionate about. Once they get this nugget, they then need to work out how to make this relevant to people.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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