Yet while still eliciting sneers from many Northerners, Piggly
Wiggly has managed to not only survive but also thrive, outliving
other industry pioneers—Food Fair, Grand Union, First National
and A&P among them—that have been relegated to the graveyard
of retail history.
Much of its success is attributable to the fact that Piggly Wiggly
stores are independent franchisees deeply rooted in their communities, say industry observers.
“We have the most recognizable name in the Southeast U.S.,
and an independent grocer is able to utilize the brand and standards to their benefit while servicing their local community,”
says Kristen Thane Clark, manager of communications at C&S
Wholesale Grocers, the Keene, N.H.-based wholesaler that owns
the Piggly Wiggly name. “We have our own mascot, Mr. Pig, who
proudly participates in various community events, parades and
store promotions,” she adds.
Suited to their community, Piggly Wiggly stores run the gamut
from barebones discount outlets, to traditional supermarkets, to
upscale gourmet emporiums, and operate everywhere from small
bayou outposts and rural towns, to thriving suburbs and major
cities including Birmingham, Ala., New Orleans and Atlanta.
“Many years of experience, strong customer service and inde-
pendent ownership allows them the flexibility to make various
changes in operations to market to a specific customer need,”
Clark says. “We offer the private label products to Piggly Wiggly
stores, reflecting our name with top quality products in all catego-
ries. The monitoring of store standards by Piggly Wiggly regional
managers ensures our facilities and overall operations measure up
to or exceed competitors’ offerings for long term viability.”
“It is hard to out-local a Piggly Wiggly,” says Richard J. George,
Ph.D., professor emeritus, food marketing, Haub School of
Business at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “They are
the community store and do a lot of good stuff for the commu-
nity, like getting involved with local schools, youth leagues, Little
Leagues, etc. Ask other retailers what their community involve-
ment is and they will tell you they belong to the local country club.
But Piggly Wiggly is a store that likes to get involved. In many
small towns Piggly Wiggly is the grocery store,” George says. “In
their heyday they had almost 2,700 stores.”
Those early stores, however, were a fraction of the size of what
would now be considered a modern supermarket.
Today, 538 Piggly Wigglys are spread across 17 states, primarily
in the South, but as far west as Oklahoma and north to Wisconsin,
Illinois and Ohio. “In the past three years, we have expanded our
exposure in West Virginia and Ohio,” says Clark. “We anticipate
our future growth to occur in states adjacent to the ones in which
we presently operate.”
IN 17 STATES.
BEST IN SHOW
This little Piggly Wiggly went to the food show.
Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing Co. puts on an FMI-style food show for its members in downtown Birmingham,
Ala., allowing operators to come together to see and sample
the latest products.
“We are a very food show oriented company,” says
David Bullard, president and CEO of Piggly Wiggly Alabama
Distributing Co., based in Bessemer, Ala. “We have three
large food shows a year where we rent out the Birmingham-
Jefferson Civic Center downtown. We’ll have about 250
vendors come in and negotiate deals with them.”
This past May’s show proved to be extra special as
it doubled as a celebration for Piggly Wiggly’s 100th
anniversary, which officially was Sept. 19. “We constructed
our own replica of the original Piggly Wiggly,” Bullard says.
“We had a big birthday party with a birthday cake. Even Mr.
Pig was there,” he says.
“We worked with a lot of our private label suppliers and
got them to include our 100th anniversary insignia on the
labels,” Bullard says.