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Business: Supermarket offers “concepts” along with food

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Lowes Foods new supermarket in Pawleys Market at the South Causeway features the company’s newest marketing concepts.

Chicken Kitchen workers come out from their counter dancing to music when a chandelier with an animatronic chicken flaps its wings and signals the rotisserie birds are ready. Employees in white coats play the role of mad scientists in the Sausage Factory, catching shoppers’ eyes with venting steam and moving letters in an overhead sign. Vegetable ninjas chop and peel customers’ fruits and vegetables to order in the Pick and Prep department.

Lowes Foods hired Rosanne Dates to head its Community Table, a series of continuing education programs for shoppers and their children. She said she’s looking forward to Sunday afternoon’s “speed dating with sausage.” Shoppers will sample creations like the Kentucky Gentleman, a bourbon and sweet tea flavored sausage. June, she added, is blueberry month and will include recipes and suggestions. There will be programs this month on efficient shopping, using coupons and how to pick a lobster.

Louis Auger manages the store’s beer den that features craft beers on tap sold in refillable gallon jugs called growlers. Specialty bottled and canned beers, including New South from Myrtle Beach, are sold separately so customers can mix and match.

Behind all the showmanship, says company brand director Kelly Davis, is an effort to stock local products and try new things, like on-line shopping for pickup or delivery.

The store opened its doors Tuesday evening for a three-hour trial run after turning away customers all day because the cashiers were not ready. Company officials, including president Tim Lowe, were on hand to greet selected VIP’s and customers who wanted to get inside early.

“It just seems like there’s a lot of energy, said Tasha Sheehan of the Ricefields community who was shopping with husband Rob and daughters Fiona, 1, and Gabby, 3. “I like the table in the middle,” she said, “and there’s a nice organic selection of produce. It’s very inviting, and you can tell everyone is really excited.”

The chicken dance was all the rage on opening night. Trainer Susie Perkins of Salisbury, N.C., will spend another few weeks at the store to bring employees in rooster hats up to speed on all things chicken, including fried and barbecue chicken, wings, chicken salad and Cock-a-Doodle-Noodle Soup.

“It’s amazing that we have this in one of our stores,” Davis said. “Kids love to do it. My mom loves to do it.”

Davis said one of the things Lowes found in its research was that people here value time. The deli has an oven that cooks a fresh pizza with an Italian crust in 90 seconds.

The big time-saver is Lowes To Go. Customers may go on-line and order anything in the store and receive a delivery or pick-up time. An employee will fill their order with items kept refrigerated or frozen. Pickup costs $4.95 per order or $100 a year, and delivery is $20 per order. Davis says she expects vacationers to use the delivery service quite a bit.

Lowes Foods grabbed attention before it opened by dropping the price of gasoline at its pumps. On opening day, it had gone down another penny per gallon to $3.45 9/10. Regular shoppers get a discount at the Lowes filling station.

Paul Sacco is manager of the store’s 240 employees. Hours are 6 a.m. to midnight.

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