Colemans Food Centers
Corner Brook, NL
President: Frank Coleman
Markets: Newfoundland and Labrador
Food retail, distribution
Taking on the giants
Canada’s grocery business is dominated by three national players whose combined market share exceeds 80 percent. Competing with the returns to scale that the nationals generate from large purchasing, distribution and advertising efficiencies isn’t easy. But Colemans Food Centers, a 12 store family-owned chain in Newfoundland and Labrador has been doing so for three generations.
“To succeed in grocery retail you have to both stand out and offer a sharp value proposition,” said Frank Coleman, the company’s president, who spearheads the operation along with a dozen or so other Coleman brothers, sisters and children (but no spouses). “We do that by supplying quality perishable offerings; fish and meat, bakery, produce, home meal replacements and so on. But we also cater to local market tastes by offering stuff that competitors don’t. For example we sell a whole line of popular British products.”
Frank Coleman, who is part of the third-generation running the family business, came into the company in 1986 after completing his university studies. He attributes the company’s success to its fixation on generating steady growing same store sales. “It’s a mission that we have internalized well,” said Coleman. “We tinker with our product offerings each week, and if something isn’t moving, we replace it with something else that does.”
The fact that the three generations of Colemans (and an emerging fourth generation) have traditionally worked so well together, and have avoided the rivalries that plague many family businesses, is also a key success factor. Going forward the family continues to pursue a multi-prong strategy that consists of balancing further same store sales growth, an increasing push into foodservice and wholesale distribution, while simultaneously keeping an eye open for possible acquisitions, particularly on Newfoundland’s East coast where the chain has only two stores.
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Peter Diekmeyer Communications Inc.