Jeffrey Proulx: Exceeding Expectations

The grocery business comes naturally to Jeffrey L. Proulx. In fact, the president and chief executive officer of six New York Save-A-Lot food stores began learning the retail ropes as a child.

“I grew up in the grocery business,” says Proulx, whose father owned a Canton, N.Y., IGA that he and his brother bought in 1989. After four years, they moved to a new location under the Jubilee IGA format, then closed that store in 2000. But Proulx wasn’t retiring from retailing.

“I went out on my own, knowing that the 15,000-square-foot conventional store was going to be the thing of the past,” Proulx says. “So I opened my first Save-A-Lot in Potsdam, N.Y., in January of 2000.”

Stores in five other New York state locations followed, including the 14,000-square-foot Save-A-Lot in Bath. “We opened in Bath in September of 2012, and things were very well-received,” Proulx says. “During our first two days of business, I believe we recorded record sales for the entire Save-A-Lot company.”

“The Bath store has far exceeded all of our expectations,” agrees Bob Dwane, manager, licensed market development for Save-A-Lot. “Customers are driving from throughout the southern tier of New York and northern tier of Pennsylvania to shop our Bath store.”

More New York openings

Bath’s performance has been so positive that it prompted Proulx to open a store in Hornell, N.Y., on June 12, New York’s newest Save-A-Lot.

“We have established locations in markets with mainly conventional competition and have succeeded very well against some of the big formats due to our meat and produce focus,” Proulx says.

Since opening its first New York store in Yorkshire in 1996, Save-A-Lot has aggressively expanded there. Fifty-eight locations span the state from Buffalo to Troy and south to Peekskill—all serviced by distribution centers in West Coxsackie, N.Y., and Austinburg, Ohio.

“We have several more stores slated to open [in New York] in the next few months,” says Dwane. “Conventional grocers are amazed at our prices. They often comment that our retails are lower than the cost they get from their wholesaler! ”

Going for growth

Proulx credits the hard discount format as just one reason for Save-A-Lot’s success. “I attribute the rapid growth recently to the fact that Save-A-Lot has been supporting us retailers much more now than in the past with incentives, real estate site help, and better and more competitive programs from corporate,” he says.

Perfecting his existing stores is Proulx’s current goal. “We will mainly focus this fiscal year on store disciplines and driving store sales through cleaner, better merchandised and more consistently run stores, with a major focus on perishables,” he says.

Yet expansion is never far from Proulx’s mind: “Future plans will include looking to gap the areas between upstate New York and the southern tier [of the state],” he says.

“Jeff Proulx is a first-class retailer,” adds Dwane. “His stores are always clean and well-merchandised, and offer great customer service.”

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