ANAHEIM, Calif. — Attendees at the Multicultural Retail 360 Summit had the opportunity to sample Thai beer, moon cake, fresh tortillas and other ethnic specialties during the conference's annual Cultural Immersion Tour on Aug. 12. This year, the Cultural Immersion Tour's emphasis was on Hispanic and Asian retailers in the highly diverse Los Angeles/Anaheim market.
The goal was to provide guests with a firsthand experience of how these chains market to multicultural consumers. Unified Grocers, a major distributor to independent retail chains, helped organize the event. The tour was sponsored by Mcilhenny Co., maker of Tabasco Sauce.
The first visit was to Super King in Anaheim, a $2-million, six-store chain that is small in store count but heavy in foot traffic. The store was so busy on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. that customers were lined up outside, waiting to enter. Inside, shoppers often had to wait their turn to navigate the retailer's small footprint, crowded aisles. Many customers spoke little or no English. Super King is one of the highest volume supermarket chains in Southern California.
The retailer emphasizes its fresh departments, with many customers loading their shopping carts with several pounds of produce along with large packages of meat. Offal is particularly popular, including such ethnic-centric items as beef lips, tendons and feet — not to mention the usual tripe and pig tongues.
Shoppers' close ties to their home countries were also reflected in self-serve bulk product displays of nuts and other dry foods as well as spices sold by the bag.
Super King Markets entered the region in 2003 and stores range in size from 30,000 to 50,000 square feet.
The next stop, Superior Supermarkets, also in Anaheim, offers a more spacious, modern environment that emphasizes products for Hispanics of various acculturation levels. Pre-cut fruit, for example, appeals to second- and third-generation Latinos. The homemade tortillas that greet customers, however, are embraced by Hispanics of multiple acculturation levels. The same is true of Hatch chilis, a coveted produce item whose six-week season began last week.
Superior also offers wide assortments of cakes for quincerias, birthdays and the many other occasions that Hispanics like to celebrate.
Unlike most supermarkets, Superior does not update department locations and adjacencies every few years. The company found this confuses customers who do not speak English fluently. Superior has also done away with bilingual signage, whose font size was too small and whose overall appearance was cluttered and further confused shoppers.
Superior Grocers, which opened its first location in 1981, was Southern California's first warehouse style store. Today, the company operates 44 locations.
The tour took a break from food with a visit to Curacao in Anaheim, a retailer that specializes in electronics, furniture and fashion. Categories are aimed at Hispanic consumers, particularly South Americans. The retailer's true claim to fame, however, is its special services, most notably a credit program that targets people who have no traditional credit history. Hence, most items are high ticket, with lower priced products serving as complimentary add-ons.
The company offers money transfers and international ordering and delivery as well. The latter serves remote parts of Latin America in any way it needs to. "We used to have donkeys on our [profit and loss statement] that allowed us to deliver appliances to remote parts of the world," said Mike Azarkman, director of eBusiness Group. "It's all about hand holding and taking care of customers."
Summit attendees then headed toward the Eastern part of the globe with a visit to 99 Ranch Markets in Anaheim. The grocery chain serves various Asian cultures, with the Anaheim location drawing a heavy Filipino clientele, said Teresa Leung, coordinator of marketing and public relations.
This is evidenced by a 25-linear foot-plus assortment of head fish on ice. This display was complemented by an extensive assortment of frozen seafood, including shrimp rolls, marinated milk fish and mushroom squid balls. Tanks of live cat fish and crabs, along with Manila clams, were also part of this huge seafood statement.
Other traditional foods included moon cakes, which commemorate the upcoming Moon Festival. Each cake contains an egg yolk to represent the full moon. Steamed buns containing chicken, pork, vegetables and red beans also commanded significant space.
The Little Saigon area of Westminster was the site of 99 Ranch's first store back in 1984. 99 Ranch was the first Asian format in Southern California to operate as a full service supermarket. Today, 99 Ranch still offers the largest selection of meat and produce in the 37 stores it operates in California as well as in Nevada, Washington and Texas.
In years past, Cultural Immersion Tours have included visits to La Chiquita, Danny's Market and AutoZone in Chicago and Mariana's, Best Buy and Supermercado La Bonita in Las Vegas. During a previous conference held in Southern California, retail participants included Food 4 Less and Ranch Markets in Los Angeles and shops in heavily Latino Huntington Park and Olvera Street, and last year in San Antonio, H-E-B's Superstore, Goodwill Industries and shops in San Antonio's Historic Market Square District were the focus.
The Multicultural Retail 360 Summit took place from Aug. 12-14 at the Anaheim Marriott. The annual event is produced by Stagnito Business Information, parent of Convenience Store News, Progressive Grocer, Store Brands and Retail Leader.