For ‘Wegmaniacs’ a great brand is worth the wait

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For ‘Wegmaniacs’ a great brand is worth the wait

By Carolyn Schierhorn - 09/26/2017

Think of the reasons people might line up the night before and pitch camp in a parking lot or on an urban sidewalk: The latest iPhone. Hamilton tickets. A chance to see Chance the Rapper. … How about the opening of a new grocery store?

So fervent is the supermarket chain’s fan base that the grand opening of a Wegmans can draw crowds of 24,000 people or more, as was the case when the Hanover, N.J. store opened in July of this year. Diehard “Wegmaniacs” arrive many hours before the doors open in order to be among the first to experience a new store, marking their place in the queue with lawn chairs, sleeping bags and pup tents.

Wegmans’ cult-like following, however, has been a cause of consternation for Mayor Mike Ghassali of Montvale, N.J., who announced last week that no camping would be allowed in the Wegmans’ parking lot or anywhere else in his borough in advance of the retailer’s Montvale grand opening this past Sunday.

Was he a killjoy? I think so. Much has been written about the camaraderie that can develop among likeminded people waiting in crazy long lines for hours for something coveted. The discomfort endured becomes a badge of honor and an integral part of the total experience, enhancing the thrill when the Holy Grail is finally grasped.

Ghassali, an expert in supply chain management, undoubtedly imposed the camping ban because he was worried about the impact of congestion and noise on a community of 8,500 people. Indeed, Wegmans agreed to pay 14 Montvale police officers to help coordinate traffic around the store on Sunday.

I suspect the camping prohibition did temper the turnout: 20,000 people showed up for the Montvale Wegmans’ grand opening, several thousand shoppers shy of the Hanover store’s numbers. But 20,000 is still 20,000. Can any other supermarket chain beat that?

How does Wegmans inspire such ardor? An article posted last week on NorthJersey.com gives five reasons why consumers should visit the Montvale store:

  • An open kitchen — Customers can watch chefs prepare the ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat food Wegmans sells.
  • Prepared ingredients — Staff in the store will custom-cut fresh fruits and vegetables for shoppers.
  • Private brand products — Wegmans offers a multitude of store brand products that are not available anywhere else such as Wegmans Truffle Risotto and Wegmans Red Beet & Cheese Mezzelune Pasta.
  • Local products — Wegmans’ New Jersey stores emphasize “Made in Jersey” products (and the retailer’s stores in other states also champion local fare).
  • Nitro coffee — Baristas at the Buzz coffee bar “infuse nitrogen into black cold-brew coffee to make a dairy-free drink that tastes like a creamy latte.”

Besides the high-quality SKUs and exciting ambiance, consumers also like to shop at Wegmans because of the chain’s excellent reputation for corporate social responsibility and workplace opportunities for employees. Most recently, the retailer was named one of Fortune magazine’s Top 100 “Best Workplaces for Women,” ranking the No. 7 on the annual list, the highest of any grocery chain.

At Wegmans, women have the chance to advance and are recognized for their contributions. Forty-five percent of Wegmans’ managers and executives are female as is 53 percent of the chain’s total workforce.

In so many respects, Wegmans captivates customers. Why do many other supermarket chains fall short?