It occasionally happens — some may say not often enough — that America’s mass retailers reach out, individually or collectively — to recognize the very credible reporting turned in by the bastioned retail trade press. Mostly, however, the trade publishing subsection of the mass retailing community toils in oblivion, content for the occasional word of encouragement or, more elusive still, praise.
Imagine our pleasant surprise then when a package was recently delivered to the Chain Drug Review offices on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The sender was none other than Hy-Vee, one of America’s most prominent and innovative grocery retailers, an $11 billion, Des Moines-based supermarket retailer boasting 280 stores in eight heartland states, along with 299 pharmacies, 177 gas stations, 134 restaurants plus all manner of perks, which have combined to rank it No. 2 among all grocery retailers in a recent Readers Choice Awards survey conducted by USA Today.
No. The package was not missent. It did not arrive on our doorstep in error. It was not a miscommunication. Rather, it was Hy-Vee’s sincere effort to recognize Chain Drug Review, Mass Market Retailers (the company’s sister publication) and, probably, countless other retail business publications for effectively doing what they do. It was, in short, Hy-Vee’s way of saying thank you.
Inside the package was, first of all, a letter from Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s personable and very effective chief executive, explaining how the food retailer reinvented its business during this pandemic year, which also happened to be Hy-Vee’s 90th anniversary, a celebration that was, by both necessity and common sense, canceled.
Edeker went on to recount how the company “reinvented the way we handle online shopping and brought together our digital assets to create a single app to make shopping even easier for our customers.” The letter continued at some length, explaining how Hy-Vee launched new employee benefits during this terribly trying year (among them an everyday employee discount on groceries and tuition assistance for employees and their families) and expanded several important retail partnerships (among them Door Dash, the W Nail Bar and the Kansas City Chiefs).
The package also included an Indianapolis 500 hat, Edeker’s way of announcing the retailer’s sponsorship of two vehicles in the May 30 event, adding that Hy-Vee has “been around the track a few times and [has] learned to navigate the twists and turns this past year has thrown at us and our customers.”
The package contained much else, but the material in no way represented a bribe or payoff for journalistic excellence. Rather, the material contained therein merely recounted and represented some of the ways Hy-Vee serves its customers. Mostly, the material consisted of several copies of the retailer’s publications, each designed for its customers and each offering virtuous inducements to shop or, at the least, to consider Hy-Vee when making shopping decisions.
The point of this effort, and for all the little things Hy-Vee has become legendary for offering it employees and customers, is the thought that went into it. Indeed, there was, on the face of it, no tangible gain — though considerable cost — to this endeavor. Rather, it was Edeker’s way, emblematic of how he and his company have long operated, of thanking the people who have combined to make Hy-Vee one of the most envied retailers in America.
And the trade press? As is often (too often?) the case, we’re just along for the ride. And events like the Hy-Vee package make the ride very much worth taking. Thanks Randy. Thanks Hy-Vee. Keep the packages coming.