Save Mart is changing its look and feel, but not its valley grown pride

SaveMart CEO Nicole Pesco gives the keynote address at the Business Women’s Symposium at Greens On Tenth in downtown Modesto, Calif. on Thursday November 1, 2018.
SaveMart CEO Nicole Pesco gives the keynote address at the Business Women’s Symposium at Greens On Tenth in downtown Modesto, Calif. on Thursday November 1, 2018.

The fresh face leading Modesto-based grocery giant Save Mart wants to bring fresh ideas, a fresh look and fresh experience to the Central Valley.

The Save Mart Companies CEO Nicole Pesco, whose grandfather Michael Piccinini and great-granduncle Nick Tocco started the venerable valley brand in 1952, is now almost two years into her tenure at the helm of the supermarket empire. And, she said, finally the fruits of her efforts to reframe the company are being seen by consumers.

“It’s really a refresh to our stores so customers have a shopping experience that’s worthy of their patronage,” she said.

This includes a new Save Mart logo (switching to a softer more organic font with orange and green colors instead of its more utilitarian red font from before), full store redesigns, new programs and in-store features. At the same time, the brand has launched a #ValleyProud social media campaign to reemphasize its commitment to the region where it was founded.

Save Mart has stores up and down northern and central California from Chico to Tehachapi. The Save Mart Companies also owns the Lucky, Lucky California, FoodMaxx and Maxx Value Foods grocery chains for a total of 208.

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The new Save Mart logo on display at a store in Oakdale, which is one of the first in California showcase the company’s redesigned look.

This year 50 stores, including some in the company’s Bay Area-based Lucky supermarkets, are being refurbished. The work will culminate with the completion of the company’s new flagship Save Mart store in north Modesto, slated to open late next year. In the meantime, construction continues on other Save Mart supermarket’s in what is the first-ever company-wide store redesign project.

Already stores in Porterville, Tracy, Los Banos, Oakdale and Ceres have debuted the new design. This coming week, four Save Marts in Fresno will have grand reopenings to show off the new look. Before the end of the year, more stores in Fresno, Reedley, Clovis, Kingsburg, Sonora, Merced, Lemoore and Visalia all will debut the updated design.

All 81 Save Mart stores should be completed in the next couple of years, Pesco said, in a multi-million dollar directive aimed at keeping and attracting consumers in the increasingly crowded grocery industry.

Modesto-native Pesco, who is also the daughter of the late longtime company owner and CEO Bob Piccinini, took over in December 2016. Her background in design — she holds a degree from the Polimoda Institute of International Fashion Design in Florence, Italy — is showcased in the new project as is her attention to the customer experience.

Part of the refresh is to improve the ambiance inside each store, changing the color schemes and materials used. There will also be an increase in freshly prepared offerings from prepped meal kits to fully made hot dinners. And the company wants to stock more local products. Pesco said those items will change between stores, depending on regional tastes and availability.

“We’re really trying to be much more locally focused so that we can provide our customers with food that comes from their friends and neighbors who are producing it,” she said.

Save Mart supermarkets had launched a new campaign called Valley Proud to emphasize its Central Valley roots. The company is in the midst of a major redesign of all of its stores and reemphasizing its local connection and producers.

Another part of that local focus is the #ValleyProud social media campaign. The first video in the series was filmed in Fresno and features local residents proclaiming why they’re proud to live in the region. Pesco said more videos will be produced and rolled out from around the valley in the future.

Still, it is a challenging time for grocery stores as more and more retailers enter the market. Grocery products are being sold at mega superstores like Target, Walmart and even Home Depot. To combat that, Pesco said Save Mart has focused on making going to its stores an experience shoppers look forward to, instead of a chore.

“I think creating an experience in store that makes it worth people making the drive and going to shop in a retail environment is very important,” she said. “And that’s where really for Save Mart focusing back on being born and bred here in the valley and understanding our customers in an better way than someone with an office in a different state is where we can differentiate ourselves.”

Some of that is in the redesign. Another component is creating new features, like its in-store grills. The concept allows customers to purchase meat, poultry, seafood and produce and have it grilled to order while they shop. The redesigned Oakdale and Ceres stores have the new grill option.

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Save Mart supermarkets has started installing in-store grills in its meat and seafood departments, like the one in this Ceres store. Customers can have their purchases grilled to order while they shop. Save Mart

Another way of staying competitive is entering the online grocery market. Earlier this year Save Mart joined competitors like Raley’s and Safeway who offer personal shopping services via apps and online ordering. Its ClickCart service started in the Modesto store on Pelandale Avenue and has since expanded to five other locations including Riverbank, Fresno and Visalia.

In about a year, Pesco said Save Mart hopes to add a delivery component to its online shopping service. Right now only curbside pickup is available.

Work began at the site of the new flagship Modesto store, in the under construction The Marketplace development at the corner of Oakdale Road and Sylvan Avenue, earlier this year. The company has not broken ground yet on the 54,000-square-foot structure, but expects to in the new year. The store opening has been pushed back to late 2019. Two other structures in the development, whose tenants have not been announced yet, are being worked on currently.

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Hector Calderon finishes a concrete pad at the site of The Marketplace retail development on Oakdale Road in Modesto, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Andy Alfaro

“That will be really our flagship store and will have all of the bells and whistles in terms of the brand and concepts that we are ready to present to the customer.”

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