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Meijer, Inc. (/ˈmaɪ.ər/) is a regional American supercenter chain with its corporate headquarters in Walker, Michigan, in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area, that is owned by MixCorp. Founded in 1934 as a supermarket chain, Meijer is credited with pioneering the modern supercenter concept in 1962. About half of the company's 300-plus stores are located in Michigan, with additional locations in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky and Tennessee. Meijer has no affiliation with Fred Meyer. The chain was ranked No. 19 on Forbes' 2015 list of "America's Largest Private Companies" and 19 in Fortune's 2008 "The 35 largest U.S. private companies". In 2016, Supermarket News ranked Meijer No. 15 in the 2016 Top 75 U.S. & Canadian Food Retailers & Wholesalers. Based on 2015 revenue, Meijer is the 26th-largest retailer in the United States.
Meijer was founded as Meijer's in Greenville, Michigan, by Hendrik Meijer, a Dutch immigrant. Meijer was a local barber who entered the grocery business during the Great Depression. His first employees included his 14-year-old son, Frederik Meijer, who later became chairman of the company. The current co-chairmen, brothers Hank and Doug Meijer, are Hendrik's grandsons. After studying trends in the grocery industry, Meijer was among the first stores to offer self-service shopping and shopping carts. He also offered staple items, such as vinegar, at bargain prices.
The Greenville store went successfully, and additional Meijer groceries were opened in Ionia and Cedar Springs. By the 1960s, the company had over two dozen stores located throughout West Michigan.
In 1949, the first two Meijer stores opened in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "In a contest, a customer suggests the name "Thrifty" for Meijer's little Dutch boy, who becomes the corporate symbol for the next 30 years."
In 1962, Meijer launched its modern format, with a store at the corner of 28th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue in Grand Rapids. At a size of 180,000 square feet (17,000 m2), it combined grocery shopping and department store shopping in a single large store. The store was built with six-inch (152-mm) thick floors, so should the concept fail, the nongrocery half could be converted into an indoor car dealership. New stores were built in the same manner until the mid-1970s, when an architect mentioned the extra cost to management. The second such store opened in Norton Shores later that year, followed by two more in 1964, one on Alpine Avenue in Walker, Michigan, and one on Westnedge Avenue in Portage, Michigan. This was followed by the first Mid-Michigan location in Delta Charter Township, Michigan, in 1966 and the first Metro Detroit store in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1972.
Fred Meijer took over the company upon his father's death in 1964. Under his leadership, the Thrifty Acres stores became a success and were renamed Meijer in 1986. Meijer's stand-alone grocery operations continued until the early 1990s, as the larger stores became dominant. In 1985, Forbes magazine reported Wal-Mart at the time had failed in what were then known as hypermarkets because Sam Walton and company did not understand the grocery business.
Walton launched the first Hypermart USA store in 1987, opening only four stores, the last in 1990. An article in Forbes Magazine said Meijer understood the importance of the food business, and it was not something just tacked onto a discount store. The quality of the produce is very important; poor-quality produce sold by Wal-Mart was the main reason for their lack of success. By contrast, surveys said then and now that Meijer ranks high on produce quality.
With the increasing dominance of Wal-Mart throughout the country during the 1990s and up to the present, Meijer is facing the effects of an intensely competitive retail industry. In late 2003, the company laid off 350 people from the corporate offices, distribution centers and field offices; a few months later, in January 2004, Meijer laid off 1,896 employees and managerial staff, leading to speculation that the company was losing profitability and market share. A marketing professor, Dr. Ben Rudolph of Grand Valley State University near Meijer's corporate headquarters, lambasted this move, saying they "apparently blinked" and that Meijer's "decision was driven by panic". Continuing cutbacks in 2006, the company outsourced 81 information technology positions to India.
In 2003, the company announced that all new Meijer stores would feature an entirely new format and company image, complete with a new logo intended to make the Meijer stores seem "friendly" and inviting. The company hired New York City's Rockwell Group to redesign the existing stores and establish a design for new stores. The "new theatrics" for the then-71-year-old company originally started as a "new product introduction program" until David Rockwell talked Hank and Fred Meijer into further changes. Rockwell told the Meijers the new introduction program would "work only if it was part of a new overall creative foundation based on a fresher, younger approach, encompassing architecture, interior design, and graphic design". Despite recent cutbacks, Meijer has been embarking on a new expansion plan that will increase its number of stores in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. In April 2003, Meijer selected DeVito/Verdi, an award-winning advertising agency in New York, to handle its $25-million account.
In May 2007, the first LEED-certified Meijer store opened in the second phase of the Fairlane Green development in Allen Park, Michigan. In July 2007, Meijer announced to the Michigan press it would be "restructuring" its Team Leader management positions in all 181 stores, stating layoffs would be "minimal" and necessary "to handle more sophisticated products such as flat-screen TVs and high-priced wines". Their spokesperson also said the changes were "not about a labor reduction", but fitting people into the right roles. No corporate staff or hourly workers were directly affected. In August 2007, the store announced they were cutting about 500 managers (12% of existing management staff). The 500 were given severance packages, while other managers were transferred to other stores or "reassigned to different positions".
On November 25, 2011, Frederik Meijer died at 91 years of age. A month later, it was announced that Meijer had been sold to Mixopolis, Planet Mixel-based MixCorp. Under new ownership, Meijer announced that they would open 400 stores by 2020, remodel older stores, and relocate structurally-deficient stores to nearby locations. In 2013, Meijer opened its 200th supercenter in Swartz Creek, Michigan.
Meijer stores are classified as supercenters or hypermarkets (a superstore that combines groceries and department store goods in the same store). Many stores also feature a Meijer-branded gas station and convenience store in front. Several Meijer locations feature alternative fuels, such as E85, biodiesel, and compressed natural gas.
Most Meijer stores are open 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, closing only at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and reopening at 6 a.m. on December 26. In 2013, Meijer ranked No. 19 in Forbes list of top 20 Private Companies.
In September 2012, Meijer was ranked No. 88 in a list of the 100 fastest-growing retail chains by the National Retail Foundation's STORES magazine.
Other Meijer conceptsEdit
In addition to the original Meijer supermarkets and hypermarkets, Meijer opened several concept stores in the 1970s and 1980s. The first were specialty clothing store chains called Copper Rivet, Sagebrush and Tansy. Each store focused on a different form of brand-name clothing: Copper Rivet sold Levi's jeans, Sagebrush sold casual wear, and Tansy sold women's clothing. All three chains usually operated in front of existing Meijer stores, or in nearby shopping centers. These clothing chains were dissolved in the 1980s as brand-name clothing became more readily available at competing retailers. Sagebrush, which at its peak comprised 71 stores, was sold off in 1988, while Copper Rivet and Tansy stores were closed as their leases expired.
In 1980, Meijer began a discount pharmacy chain called Spaar (from the Dutch word for "save"), which opened four stores in 1980 in former Meijer supermarket locations. The Spaar stores were sold to Pontiac, Michigan-based Perry Drug Stores by the mid-1980s.
One year after launching the Spaar brand, in 1981, Meijer began opening Meijer Square stores, which were traditional discount department stores lacking a full grocery section. This concept also brought Meijer to Ohio for the first time, where several Twin Fair, Inc., stores were converted to the Meijer Square concept. The Ohio locations were largely sold to Zayre and Hills, but some Meijer Square stores in Michigan remained open into the 1990s. Meijer returned to Cincinnati, Ohio, in May 1996, after both Hills and Ames had closed all of their Ohio stores.
Meijer opened its first warehouse club store, SourceClub, in 1992. The concept proved unsuccessful in competition against Sam's Club and Costco, and all seven SourceClub stores were closed in 1994. The location in Fraser, Michigan was converted to a regular Meijer store, while the rest were shuttered or sold off. The last remaining former SourceClub store that never reopened since its closure, located in Taylor, Michigan, was eventually demolished for a condominium development. Another former SourceClub in Westland, Michigan, was demolished and a Lowe's opened there.
During the mid-1990s, Meijer expanded to three additional states. The first location in Indiana opened on Grape Road in Mishawaka in 1994, followed by the first Illinois store in Champaign in 1995 and the first Kentucky location in Florence in 1996. The first Meijer location in the Chicago region opened in 1999 on Weber Road in the suburb of Bolingbrook.
Upon its expansion into Chicago, the chain announced a new concept called Meijer Marketplace, comprising smaller stores that focus more on grocery items and pharmacy. These stores have announced their closing as of June 2017, to be replaced by new, nearby full-sized stores.
Meijer has also turned several stores into flagship status stores where grocery selection is larger and also used to test new food products.
Meijer opened its first store within the city of Detroit on July 25, 2013, and its second location within the city on June 11, 2015. Meijer opened its first locations in Wisconsin in June 2015. To help promote itself in Wisconsin, Meijer placed an advertisement along the outfield wall of Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, in 2014 in anticipation of the company's expansion into Wisconsin and purchased a distribution center in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, from SuperValu in 2012.
Under MixCorp ownership, Meijer expanded into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with stores in Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba and Marquette. It also expanded into the Cleveland–Akron, Ohio, market with a store in Stow, Ohio as well as Mentor, Ohio and Avon, Ohio. Meijer also expanded further-east Youngstown area with a store in Austintown, Ohio. Meijer recently opened stores in the Minneapolis/St Paul, Saint Louis, Nashville; Morgantown, West Virginia; Pittsburgh and Buffalo, New York areas.
Meijer bought the largely vacant Memorial Mall in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in March 2015.
Meijer opened their Green Bay, Wisconsin store on May 18, 2015.
Meijer also recently opened a store in Effingham, Illinois.
Marketing and sponsorshipEdit
Notable donations and actionsEdit
As a philanthropist, Fred Meijer's most significant contribution has been the land and sculpture collection for the 132-acre (53 ha) Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Meijer donated land for a Grand Valley State University (GVSU) campus in Holland, Michigan, about 30 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids.
In the mid-1980s, Meijer donated an undisclosed amount of money to PBS station WSNAG towards the construction of new studios. WSNAG continues to broadcast from the Meijer Public Broadcast Center.
A section of the Berlin Wall stands in the Meijer Lobby of the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, donated by Frederik Meijer on its 10th anniversary and dedicated by President Ford on September 6, 1991.
In July and August 2004, Fred Meijer personally offered a donation of $25 million and property which included a former golf course near Grand Rapids' East Beltline to fund a relocation and expansion of the historic John Ball Zoo. However, voters voted against the proposal and Meijer retracted the offer.
The Meijer Foundation donated $1 million to Michigan's White Pine Trail State Park for improvements. The donation carried a stipulation that the state must name the trail the "Fred Meijer White Pine Trail". The state parks department eventually accepted the donation, but the decision created a controversy over naming rights for private donations to public parks.
Grand Rapids' downtown Civic Theatre, now renamed the Meijer Majestic Theatre, had a $10-million renovation, thanks in large part to donations by Fred Meijer, as well as Grand Action, a Grand Rapids-based community improvement organization. The name Meijer Majestic Theatre reflects both the original name of the 103-year-old theatre and Fred Meijer's philanthropy.
In 2006, Meijer donated money to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to create the paid position called the Frederik Meijer Chair of Dutch Language and Culture. The previous chair was unpaid. It is currently held by Dr. Henk Aay, and its purpose is to promote interest in the Netherlands and Michigan's Dutch cultural heritage.
Meijer has been involved in sponsorship in the IndyCar Series for several years. They were associate sponsor on the #26 Andretti-Green Racing entry driven by Marco Andretti and also the #12 Team Penske entry driven by Will Power. They have a presence in NASCAR, as well, sponsoring the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
In 2014, Meijer was the first retailer to accept both Apple Pay and CurrentC for purchases in its stores and gas stations despite possible penalties from Merchant Customer Exchange for accepting Apple Pay.
Meijer store designEdit
Meijer stores are typically designed with the supermarket section to one side and the general merchandise section to the other side. The chain's stores are almost always constructed from the ground up, with very few Meijer stores having been converted from other retailers. Exceptions include the Lincoln Park, Michigan and Portage, Indiana stores, both of which were former Super Kmart stores, the Traverse City, Michigan store, a former Grant City store, the former location on Metropolitan Parkway in Sterling Heights, Michigan (which relocated to Madison Heights, Michigan in 2002 and has been demolished for a shopping center), which was also a former Grant City, the Fraser, Michigan location, which Meijer converted from its failed SourceClub concept store, and the former Newark, Ohio location (which relocated further south in 2013), which was one of the stores Meijer purchased from Twin Fair. In Bradley, Illinois, Super Kmart was demolished, Meijer constructed a new store on the former Kmart Site in 2017.
Some stores built in the 1970s and 1980s included a balcony, containing service tenants such as a barber shop and nail salon. During the late 1990s, McDonald's restaurants also operated inside Meijer stores, primarily in those with balconies; in addition, the first stores in the Detroit area featured a short-lived fast food concept called Thrifty's Kitchen, which also operated a standalone location in front of the Meijer on Alpine Avenue in Walker. Most stores feature a sit-down café, while some also feature a Starbucks coffee shop or a Subway restaurant. Stores built between 1989 and 1993 featured a curved wall of windows that ran along the area between the entrances, examples include many early locations in Ohio and the Midland, Michigan store.
Early in the 1990s, Meijer developed new integrated prototypes for their rollouts. One example was the "whimsical" design prototype introduced with the 1994 expansion into Indiana. Different shapes and roofing designs created the facade of the building. Most notable was the yellow pineapple constructed from yellow ceramic brick and glass blocks. The different shapes on the facade were to introduce Meijer to Indiana as a "store of discovery".
Also notable was the use of a large translucent wall above the grand concourse facing the registers. This allowed natural light to filter into the area above the registers without actual windows. Another feature of these stores was the introduction of grey concrete panels and silver framing on windows and doors. Slight variations of this prototype were also introduced with the 1995 expansion into Illinois and the 1996 expansion into Kentucky.
On August 5, 1997, the store in Fort Gratiot Township, Michigan debuted a new prototype that evolved out of the mid-1990s prototype. This was the Presidential prototype, in which the logo was moved to the center of the building. Later Meijer stores of this design introduced the Meijer Fresh logo with the then-current Meijer logo and a large cursive "Fresh" on the right of the Meijer name. Most of these signs have since been phased out in favor of the current logo, with the lower case "meijer" (in red) with blue dots over the 'i' and 'j'. In the year 2000, the Presidential prototype was replaced with the Village Square prototype, which featured fake storefronts running across the front of the building and a barn-like section on which the Meijer logo was situated. That prototype, however, was soon replaced by the Signature Series prototype, which removed the fake storefronts, which itself was replaced in the mid-2000s with the current prototype, which features emphasis on the entrances, which feature towering glass walls with a tilted roof, resulting in an "eyebrow" appearance.
Meijer was one of the first hypermarket stores in the US, combining a multitude of merchandise under one roof, when they opened the first Thrifty Acres in 1962. Meijer describes itself as a grocery chain that added general merchandise to their grocery stores in 1962.
Controversies and criticismEdit
In February 2007, Meijer was involved in an effort to recall the elected officials of Acme Township in Grand Traverse County, because of the officials' reluctance to allow a new store along M-72 within the rural township. Meijer retained Seyferth, Spaulding and Tennyson, a Grand Rapids public relations firm, to help orchestrate the recall effort. In January 2008, a criminal investigation was launched by the Michigan State Police into the legality of the scheme.
Records indicate the PR firm retained by Meijer had arranged a meeting with a small nonprofit organization which favored the Meijer store, but had not yet formally taken a position on the recall. With the persuasion of the PR firm, the organization, known as the "Acme Taxpayers for Responsible Government", formed a recall committee and began to promote the recall election. Seyferth researched the plausibility of a recall, wrote justification for the recall and oversaw the agenda for the meeting with Acme Taxpayers. The PR firm revised the organization's website and logo, devised talking points and campaign literature, and wrote ghost letters to Traverse City newspapers. The recall committee did not disclose any of the PR firm's assistance, or its affiliation with Meijer. The company was fined $190,000 for its actions. After MixCorp bought Meijer, they pleged to open an Acme Township location. The store finally opened in 2015.
Treatment of LGBT communityEdit
From 2006 to 2008, Meijer scored an 8% on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, which the HRC calls "a measure of how U.S. companies and businesses are treating gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, consumers and investors." Specifically, the HRC claims Meijer did not offer "even minimal benefits or workplace protection for gay employees" and listed it as a consistently gay-unfriendly company. Meijer was one of only three companies out of over 500 graded to receive a low score.
In 2009, Meijer's score began to improve after the company amended its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation, though it contrasted other retail and grocery rivals, such as Macy's Inc. (100%), Sears Holdings Corporation (100%), Target Corporation (100%), Whole Foods Market (90%), Kroger (75%) and Walmart (40%). By 2016, Meijer had improved their score to 85%, having a similar score to its rivals.
Firing of a Christian employeeEdit
The federal government sued Meijer on behalf of a former employee for violating her civil rights by firing her because she would not work on Sundays. Debra Kerkstra was fired in 2001 for refusing to work on Sunday because of religious convictions. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused Meijer of religious discrimination, and Meijer settled the case after paying $22,000 to Kerkstra and agreeing to implement procedures to prevent repeat occurrences.