The Weis family is wise to the ways of grocery retailing. Weis (pronounced "Wise") Markets, founded in 1912, runs about 160 grocery stores, mostly in Pennsylvania but also in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia, as well as a single Save-A-Lot discount store in Pennsylvania. (In recent years, the company converted its Mr. Z's Food Mart, King's Supermarkets, and Cressler's Marketplace stores to the Weis Markets banner to go to market under a unified retail presence.) The company sold the last of its SuperPetz pet supply warehouse stores in 2011. The Weis family owns about 65% of the company.
The Pennsylvania-based grocery chain operates a single business segment: grocery retail, following the sale of its SuperPetz pet supply warehouse stores business.
Weis Markets rang up more than $2.7 billion in sales in 2011, a 5% increase vs. the prior year. Net income was up more than 10% over the same period. The sales increase was driven by a 6% increase in same-store sales, which compensated for the closure of four supermarkets and the divestiture of 25 underperforming SuperPetz stores over the course of the year.
In its 100th year of business, Weis Markets continues to remake itself along with an investment in new superstore construction, expansion and remodeling of established stores, and acquisition of new ones. It acquired three of the Genuardi's Family Markets' stores in the Philadelphia area from grocery-giant Safeway in mid-2012. The stores reopened under the Weis banner.
Weis Markets has had to contend with continued weakness and cautious consumer spending, although parts of the country enjoy the stirrings of economic recovery. To spur sales, Weis instituted periodic "Price Freeze" events in 2009 and they continue to this day. Indeed, the most recent "Price Freeze" began in mid-2012 and was extended from 90 days to 100 days in celebration of the company's centennial. The events freeeze and lower prices on thousands of staples. In addition the price freezes and other promotions, the company's "Weis Rewards" loyalty card program allows shoppers to earn discounts from 5% to 20% on future purchases.
Leading Weis Markets through lean times is David Hepfinger, who was promoted from COO to the dual roles of president and chief executive in 2009. Hepfinger's first year in charge was an ambitious one for the company, notable for the purchase of the 11 Giant Markets stores. In addition to boosting company sales in a poor economic environment, the acquisition allowed the grocery chain to gain a stronger market position in the Binghamton area in upstate New York.
Chairman and nonagenarian Robert Weis and family own nearly two-thirds of the company's stock. – less