Watch CBSN Live

Michigan's Spartan Stores Strive to Soothe State's Woes

Spartan Stores is a food distributor and supermarket operator that is an institution in Michigan, and with that state particularly troubled in the recession, the company is providing support in ways that demonstrate its understanding of local challenges.

Indeed, in an era when a small group of very large retailers are increasingly dominating major industry sectors, an ability to deliver goods and services that are consistent with local needs is competitively critical for small and regional operators. Particularly in a recession, local retailers have a capacity to understand and address issues as experienced by a region's residents, and they can apply long experience in response. In fact, an effective response is probably required given the expectations customers are likely to have of the local retailer.

To give its home state a boost, Grand Rapids-based Spartan Stores launched a local-products initiative on July 5 dubbed Michigan's Best at the 99 Family Fare, D&W Fresh Market, Felpausch, Glen's, Glen's Fresh Marketplace and VG's it operates in Michigan. The effort highlights the 2,400 Michigan-produced items Spartan's company-operated stores offer. Products are identified with a Michigan's Best logo and store signs, and are further highlighted by special promotions and the distribution of recipes developed to encourage shoppers to consider purchasing local items.

Spartan is emphasizing the local advantages of purchasing Michigan-produced products, noting:

  • Buying local keeps Michigan residents employed and boosts the state economy, creating more jobs.
  • Local fruits and vegetables, picked within days or hours of arriving on store shelves, provide a fresher eating experience.
  • Products produced in state are shipped shorter distances, require less gas in distribution and, so, are better for the environment.
"We are pleased to be able to offer products from over 40 companies and farms that grow and produce Michigan products," Alan Hartline, executive vice president merchandising and marketing for Spartan Stores, said. "Shopping for breakfast? Consider a Kellogg cereal, locally grown fruit, Eggland's eggs, Bob Evans patties, Old Orchard or Indian Summer juice, Biggby Coffee, or Ludwick's Sour Cream doughnuts, and Spartan brand products like milk, eggs and apple juice, just to name a few options."

In June, Spartan Stores launched a program for the General Motors autoworkers who lost their jobs in the May closure of the GM Metal Fabricating Plant located in Wyoming, Mich. The company provided 850 of its Michigan Proud discount cards to the regional United Auto Workers office for distribution to affected plant employees. The cards provided a 10 percent discount on groceries and three percent break on fuel through July 12 at Spartan-operated supermarkets. Previously, Spartan had offered the program to UAW locals in Eastern Michigan and Traverse City, on the state's west coast.

Also in June, Glen's Markets pharmacies serving communities in northern Michigan began offering a program that provides 300 generic drugs at $4 for a 30-day prescription and $10 for a 90-day prescription to help customers with healthcare needs and budgets. The Spartan affiliate isn't the only Michigan retailer trying to help hurting consumers in the state deal with health-related costs in the recession, however. Meijer, also headquartered in Grand Rapids, offers a list of generic antibiotics and pre-natal vitamins gratis to its customers.