Fresh Face at Fresh Market

Larry Appel is named CEO at The Fresh Market as the chain realigns stores and expands private label to capture mainstream shoppers. David Merrefield reports.

David Merrefield
Fresh Face at Fresh Market
October 2017
The Fresh Market has a new president and CEO. He is Larry Appel, a veteran of more than 30 years in various forms of retailing. His career has focused on retail, legal and strategic planning.  
And, as we’ll see, he plans to infuse Fresh Market with a suite of strategies intended to give new direction to the specialty food retailer which, in recent years, has been trimming its far-flung store network toward its home base of North Carolina. 
But first, let’s take a look at Appel’s background: A lawyer by training, his resume includes several years at Winn-Dixie in a variety of high-level positions, including chief operations officer. After leaving Winn-Dixie five years ago, he became CEO of Skeeter Snacks, a producer of natural snacks. He has also held high-level executive positions at Home Depot. 
It seems that Appel might be just the executive Fresh Market needs to give it new direction. 
Fresh Market was founded in 1982 in Greensboro, North Carolina, and for many years was among the fastest-growing food retailers around. 
It thinly spread a good number of stores from coast-to-coast. Then, Fresh Market started to face the same headwinds that have buffeted many specialty food retailers — up to and including Whole Foods. Those headwinds are the new ability of numerous conventional supermarkets to replicate specialty stores’ product lines, often as lower-cost store brands.  
During the last couple of years, Fresh Markets closed roughly 30 stores. In 2016, it consolidated wholesale deliveries by signing Supervalu to become its primary distributor.
Yet, despite the changes, Fresh Market remains a formidable retailer with176 stores in 24 states. 
So, what does Appel intend to do to bolster Fresh Market’s fortunes?
According to published reports, Appel has acknowledged that Fresh Market can’t be a low-cost provider across all product lines. His plan appears to remain price competitive on grocery staples, but otherwise show consumers that there’s non-price value in well-curated and high-quality, private-label and specialty lines, especially perishables.
Indeed, the retailer does have a formidable namesake store brand at its disposal. The Fresh Market label spans almost all categories. The Fresh Market keeps up with trends too, featuring many new items.
It seems that Appel has the right tools in place for a specialty retailer such as Fresh Marke.
If Appel can balance and achieve those goals, he may produce a winner, despite the proliferation of competitive formats in the Southeast and elsewhere in its operating territory. 
For PLMA Live, this is David Merrefield.
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