A Story of Brand Loyalty

We have been loyal customers of McCaffrey’s supermarket in Yardley since we moved to town 14 years ago.  The company just opened its fourth store in the central Bucks County (PA) and Mercer County (NJ) area.  Although there are large chain stores closer to our home, we drive the 10 minutes to the other end of town to shop at McCaffrey’s.  In addition to great customer service, the store supports many community causes.

In February 2004, the store caught fire on a Saturday afternoon.  Thankfully, no one was injured, but the building was destroyed.  It looked like we were going to have to find a new grocery store, as McCaffrey’s other stores were too far to make daily food shopping practical.

But the town rallied around the store.  A collection was taken up to fund health insurance for displaced employees while a new store was built.  We also learned that the town would permit the company to erect a temporary store in the parking lot of the former store.  The tent store was opened about six weeks after the fire.  We visited the first week and were blown away.  In the parking lot stood a 10,000 square-foot tent with heat and air conditioning that took up half the parking lot. But what really surprised me was that almost all the parking spots were taken.

Since the temporary store was less than one-third of the square feet of the original store, the management focused on inventory that differentiated the store from local competitors, such as its seafood, butcher, deli, produce and bakery sections.  It stocked a decent array of commodity items, but not the variety you would find in a large store.

When the new, larger store opened, there was $150,000 remaining in the health insurance fund.  Jim McCaffrey, owner of the store, used the remaining funds to start the Christine McCaffrey Fund, a community emergency fund that assists local residents who have suffered a devastating loss, such as a fire or flood.

I am happy to report that the new store has thrived since reopening and the company just opened a new store in a neighboring town.  I have occasionally thought about the McCaffrey experience and marvel at how the company bounced back from the crisis.  Here are some lessons learned that may be useful to your company:

Stay close to your customer – We have a customer discount card and receive regular mailings from McCaffrey’s.  The mailing list was invaluable when disaster struck and the company needed to communicate its plans to customers.

Keep it personal – The staff at McCaffrey’s is helpful and friendly.  Here are some examples from our experience at the store:

  • I was looking for a specific type of pasta one day and didn’t see it on the shelf.  The assistant manager went to the stockroom to see if there was any.
  • The butcher has provided tips on preparing specific cuts of meat.
  • A woman in the store’s prepared foods section loved to interact with our young son when he and my wife stopped by the counter.
  • The manager of the cheese section recommended a cheese that has become a family favorite.
  • Another assistant manager would give our son a cookie if he saw him while traveling around the store.

Other stores might provide this level of personal interaction, but I had never experienced it.  The personal touch makes the store more than just a place to buy groceries.

Give back to the community – Regardless of where your customer community is, find a way to give back.  McCaffrey’s involvement in the local community and contributions to local charities built a tremendous amount of goodwill and loyalty.  When the store needed help, customers in the community gave back to the store.

It is more than price – Frankly, I don’t know if McCaffrey’s prices are more expensive than competitors, but, if they are, I am willing to pay for the service and relationship.  I am dismayed when I stop in another supermarket to pick up one item and find they have no one to help me and have no express lane.  I wind up spending more time than if I just went to McCaffrey’s.

Focus on what differentiates your company – When McCaffrey’s had to reduce the scope of what it offered due to space limitations in the temporary store, it focused on the areas where they were better than local competitors.  This kept customers from “wandering” to competitors while they waited for the new store.



© 2011-2018 Bill Fellows, Top-of-Mind Branding All Rights Reserved