Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

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Shaws Supermarkets, Inc.

750 West Center Street
West Bridgewater, Massachusetts 02379
Telephone: (508) 313-4000
Fax: (508) 313-3112
Web site:

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of J Sainsbury PLC
Employees: 30,000
Sales: $4.4 million (2002)
NAIC: 45110 Supermarkets and Other Grocery (except Convenience) Stores

A wholly-owned subsidiary of U.K. supermarket giant J Sainsbury PLC, Shaws Supermarkets, Inc. is the second-largest supermarket company in New England, behind Stop & Shop. Shaws employs approximately 30,000 in over 185 stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. With the purchase of Massachusetts-based Star Market stores and that companys natural food line Wild Harvest in 1999, Shaws began operating Wild Harvest in-store departments in over 100 of its Shaws locations.

19th-Century Humble Beginnings and Early Success

In 1860 Vermont native George C. Shaw moved to Portland, Maine, to embark on a business venture with starting capital of a little more than $900. He opened a small shop in downtown Portland and called it Shaws China Tea Store. In a move to attract customers, Shaw employed an Asian man named Ah Foo who stood in a high profile window to serve as a tea expert. Soon, people came flocking to purchase teas at the China Tea Store. With success carrying tea and coffee, Shaw expanded the shop to include fresh foods and groceries. By 1872, Shaw opened a second store at 580 Congress Street in Portland. Increased sales prompted the company to open a larger facility at 585 and 587 Congress Street in 1881.

At the time George C. Shaw was expanding his stores in Portland, Maynard A. Davis of Poland, Maine, left the Pine Tree State in 1880 with $23 in his pocket. Davis journeyed to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where he worked as a store clerk. By 1896, Davis and a friend had opened a public market in Providence, Rhode Island. However, Davis sold his interest in the company in 1899. At that time he moved to Massachusetts and started the Brockton Public Market (BPM). Soon after, he opened additional stores in New Bedford, Bridgewater, and Rockland, Massachusetts.

Shaws and BPMs Growth and Expansion: 191979

In 1919 Davis bought controlling interest in George C. Shaws, establishing it as a subsidiary of BPM. Davis remodeled the Shaws stores to compete with national and other regional chains. Following the remodel, Shaws stores were considered the most modern grocery store in New England and featured such items as fresh-baked bread, fresh roasted and ground coffee, and roasted turkeys. Clayton Baker and Elmer Batchelder operated the Shaws chain in its early years as a subsidiary of BPM, building on the reputation established by George C. Shaw for specialty foods and services including telephone orders and delivery service.

In 1935 Maynard Daviss son, Halsey Davis, was named head of the George C. Shaw Co. in Portland, while his brother, Stanton Davis, became BPM president in Massachusetts. In 1947, in order to increase their private-label items and add a high quality house brand that could compete with national chain private-label brands, the Davis brothers entered their stores as charter members of the New England Food Buyers Association, a buying cooperative that later became known as Topeo Associates of Chicago. By the mid-1970s, Topeo would become the third-largest food distribution company in the United States.

As the population began to shift from the downtown urban centers to the suburbs, the Davis brothers saw the importance of expanding in shopping centers located outside the cities. In 1951, Shaws opened its first supermarket outside of a downtown district in South Portland, Maine, at the Mill Creek Shopping Center. Soon after, other Shaws supermarkets began to open in southern Maine. During that same period, BPM also continued to grow. In 1961, Stanton Davis initiated one central warehouse for both companies with the purchase of a three-story warehouse in Brockton, Massachusetts. By the late 1960s Shaws supermarkets had expanded beyond the greater Portland market into other areas of the state, as well as northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. With the combined growth of the Shaws stores and the growth of BPM in southern Massachusetts, the brothers were prompted to build a new distribution center in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in 1972 that would serve both companies stores.

Shaws boasted $71 million in sales in 1973, and by 1974 Shaws operated 19 stores and employed 1,500 full- and part-time employees. By 1979 Shaws operated 22 stores in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, and BPM operated 13 stores under the Shaws name in Massachusetts for a total of 35 stores earning over $300 million in annual sales. That same year, the Bridgewater distribution facility was enlarged from 257,000 square feet to 434,000 square feet. Also in 1979, George C. Shaw Co. and BPM merged to form Shaws Supermarkets, Inc.

J Sainsbury Acquisition: 1980s

By 1983, Shaws had 41 stores in New England. In September of that year, Shaws announced that it had entered into an agreement with J Sainsbury PLC, Englands largest supermarket company with sales of $3.5 billion in 1982, to sell up to 25 percent of its stock, opening the door for Sainsbury to purchase up to 251,845 shares at $100 per share. Stanton Davis, chairman of Shaws, maintained that controlling interest of the company would remain in the Davis family. At the time of the sale, Shaws board grew from ten members to 12 to allow for two new spots to be occupied by Sainsbury representatives.

In 1986 when Shaws owned 47 stores in New England and boasted 1985 sales figures of $14.8 million, the company announced it would go public with its stock. It was speculated that Sainsbury would retain 25 percent of the stock, Shaws would retain 51 percent, and 24 percent would be available for the public, including a percentage of that offered to Shaws employees.

This public offering never fully developed, and in early 1987 Sainsbury controlled 28.5 percent holdings of Shaws. By mid-1987, Sainsbury gained majority control of the company with the purchase of 20 percent of the Davis family stock, bringing Sainsbury to hold 49.4 percent of Shaws in the first stage of a two-stage sale. Shares were sold through Sainsburys U.S. subsidiary Cheyne Investments of New York for $30 a share. Following the completion of this first sale through Cheyne Investments, a tender offer of $30 a share was made that would guarantee Sainsbury 74 percent of Shaws. At the time Shaws president and chief executive officer, David B. Jenkins, maintained that Shaws management team looks forward with enthusiasm to drawing on Sainsburys experience and resources as we pursue our growth strategy to become a more important factor in the supermarket industry. Sainsbury treasurer Ewan Davidson asserted in Supermarket News that while Sainsbury recognized the growth potential of Shaws, they would continue to grow the company as a regional chain rather than on a national level. According to analysts at that time, while Sainsbury seemed to acquire Shaws at a cheap price, Shaws stood to benefit from Sainsburys expertise in private-label sales.

Growth and Expansion: 1990s

Sainsbury invested $90.7 million in Shaws in fiscal 1990, and the chains profits rose significantly enough for the parent company to open five Shaws stores in Massachusetts and one in New Hampshire. These store openings increased the total number of Shaws stores to 74. With a recessionary climate in New England in 1992, Shaws showed a profit loss of 16.5 percent in the first half of that year. Despite this loss, Shaws opened three new stores by mid-1992 and planned an additional uve new openings by year-end. By 1992 Shaws was the third-largest supermarket chain in New England behind Stop & Shop and Hannaford Brothers.

As supermarkets faced stiffer competition from such discount store giants as Wal-Mart and warehouse clubs, Shaws stood out with a comfortable growth record. At year-end 1994 Shaws had $1.97 billion in sales and had plans to expand from 87 stores in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to over 110 by 2000. This forecasted growth was expected to come from the companys acquisition of small independent chains in the Boston area.

Company Perspectives:

Shaws is committed to being the supermarket of choice by satisfying the diverse and changing needs of our customers, associates, communities and business partners. We define supermarket of choice as follows: 1.) To our customers, we are a merchant who provides consistently high quality, innovative products and services, at competitive prices, in an environment that is safe, clean, convenient, and friendly; 2.) To our associates, we are an employer who provides opportunities for personal growth and long-term success based on performance and a work environment which respects differences and individual needs; 3.) To our communities, we are a neighbor who is socially responsible, charitable, and environmentally conscious; and 4.) To our business partners, we are a colleague who fosters relationships which are mutually beneficial and based on respect, honesty, and trust.

In 1995 Shaws opened five new stores with a 45,000-square-foot format, purchased two stores from rival Stop & Shop, and bought eight former Almacs units in Rhode Island. In 1996 Shaws operated 100 stores in New England, including stores in Connecticut, and boasted a 10.5 percent sales increase to $2.29 billion by March of that year. Also in 1996 Shaws acquired 12 Edwards stores in Connecticut from rival Stop & Shops parent, for $52 million. In 1997 Shaws purchased four sites in New York state, planning to extend its reach beyond New England. The chain began site work on its first New York store, a 50,000-square-foot unit, in Nanuet, New York, in July 1997, and had begun pre-construction work for the opening of a 65,500-square-foot store in New Rochelle, New York, to be completed in 1998. By February 1998, however, Shaws canceled its plans to enter New York and announced plans to sell its New York properties. Shaws spokesman Bernie Rogan told Supermarket News, We decided not to go into New York, and instead to focus on Connecticut and the Boston area. We felt it was the smart thing to do, since this is our core market and we are gaining market share there. In April 1998, the six sites Shaws held in New York were purchased for an undisclosed sum by the Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., officially ending Shaws move into the New York market. Following Shaws departure from New York and the companys aggressive growth in Connecticut, Sainsbury executives revealed that growth plans for Shaws would slow in order for the company to focus on increasing profitability of its New England stores, including new stores in Vermont.

By late 1998, Shaws slow growth received a quick boost when the company announced plans to acquire 53 Star Market stores in Massachusetts for $490,000 million. In operation since 1915 in urban locations in Massachusetts, Star Markets had been operating at a loss of $8 million to $9 million. When complete, the acquisition would place Shaws just 20 stores short of New Englands leading supermarket chain Stop & Shop. A significant gain for Shaws in the acquisition also included Star Markets natural food line Wild Harvest. The Star Market sale was approved in July 1999. As part of the deal, Shaws was required to sell three Shaws stores and seven Star Market stores in Massachusetts, leaving Shaws with a total of 44 Star Market stores that remained under the Star Market banner. In 2001 Shaws had converted seven Star Market units to the Shaws banner and had fully-integrated Shaws private-label items and technology into Star Market stores, and were involved in converting the remaining 37.

Industry Innovators Past and Future

Dating back to George C. Shaws hiring of Ah Foo to promote his specialty teas, Shaws was at the forefront of industry innovations. In 1941, Shaws was one of the first grocers in the United States to offer self-service in its stores. In 1947, the company began selling house label products and became a leader in private-label business. After Sainsburyknown as a leader in store brand business in the United Kingdomacquired Shaws in 1987, Shaws grew its store brand program even more significantly. By 2002, Shaws made up to 40 percent of net sales from private-label goods and produced over 5,000 private-label items. In January 2002, Shaws introduced Signature brand, a line of higher quality private-label items. With its introduction, Shaws carried 300 Signature brand food items and projected to carry 100 more items by years end.

In 1967 BPM participated in a project known as COSMOS, an acronym for Computer Optimization and Simulation Modeling for Operating Supermarkets, an early computerized pricing strategy that was ultimately abandoned as computers of that generation did not have the file capacity to handle the multiple computations of COSMOS. Later, with the evolution of PC technology, the concept of COSMOS was reborn with the introduction of Direct Product Profit (DPP), a technology that Shaws helped pioneer to improve stores space management.

Perhaps the most significant innovation for which Shaws is recognized is its testing of cashier scanning in 1972. Data General Corporation approached BPM stores in 1972 looking for supermarkets to test their scanning system technology for checkout counters. Only two months behind Marsh Supermarkets of Yorktown, Indiana, BPM was the second supermarket company to test scanning technology. In 1974 BPMs Stoughton store became the third store in the United States to be outfitted with a pre-production supermarket scanning system. After two years of testing, Data General signed an agreement with Sweda to market their scanners. In 1977 the BPM store in Randolph, Massachusetts, went live with the Sweda Superscanner. By 1980 Shaws had installed scanners in all of its stores and by 1982 had begun testing a computer-based replenishment system known as Supervised Re-Ordering (SRO).

Later developments in SRO allowed stores to gather and process sales and inventory data to create store orders for replenishment. Having experience in SRO and establishing paperless transactions of invoices and purchase orders through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Shaws was in a solid position to benefit from cross-docking. By 1995, Shaws moved 5 to 10 percent of weekly grocery shipments through its warehouses with minimal warehouse handling.

Attesting to Shaws diligence in industry innovation, the company was awarded the Supermarket Business Award for Retailing Excellence in 1992. Shaws was praised by the magazine, which stated, We honor the management and people of Shaws for their historic role as a leader in supermarket technology and for their often frustrating and costly work on the leading edge which might better be termed the bleeding edge.

Key Dates:

George C. Shaw opens small tea shop in Portland, Maine.
Shaw opens second Portland store on Congress Street.
Maynard A. Davis founds small grocery stores in Brockton and New Bedford, Massachusetts, calling stores Brockton Public Market (BPM).
Davis buys the George C. Shaw Company, establishing it as a subsidiary of BPM.
Stanton Davis purchases three-story warehouse in Brockton, Massachusetts, that both BPM and George C. Shaws stores utilize.
BPM becomes second supermarket in the United States to test scanning technology.
Massachusetts BPM stores change name to Shaws Supermarkets.
Shaws Supermarkets, Inc. is formed with merger of BPM and the George C. Shaw Co.
Englands largest supermarket company J Sains-bury PLC purchases 21 percent of Shaws outstanding stock.
Sainsbury acquires controlling interest in Shaws.
Sainsbury buys Massachusetts-based Star Market stores and distribution center to operate under Shaws name, launching Shaws to second-largest supermarket company in New England.
Shaws introduces self-checkout lanes, an industry first in New England.

In the late 1990s Shaws again moved to stay ahead of its competitors with the testing of self-checkout systems, the first such system in New England. Shaws began a pilot program of self-checkout lanes in 2000, and by early 2003 the company had self-checkout lanes in 52 store locations. Shaws predicted that by year-end 2003, over 120 stores would be equipped with self-checkout systems.

Shaws also sought to pioneer the grocery industry in terms of corporate environmental standards. In 1992, three years prior to governmental deadlines, Shaws initiated the first existing store refrigeration system conversion to ozone-friendly refrigerants. In July 2001 Shaws East Boston store received the first Energy Star label awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency for voluntary measures to increase energy efficiency and reduce air pollution. In 2003 Shaws received the Climate Champions Award for corporations in the Northeast. Award presenter Michael Bradley maintained that Shaws has continually pursued energy-efficiency through measures in their stores and by seeking new technological solutions with their suppliers and vendors. While the environmental benefits of energy efficient practices proved significant, energy conservation also proved an added bonus to Shaws bottom line. As reported in PR Newswire in 2003, The Company estimates that Shaws has helped to reduce air pollution by 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year and saved a total of more than $10 million in operating and energy costs since 1996.

In 2002 Shaws announced its growth strategy for the next three years, which included plans to open 30 new stores at a cost of over $400 million as well as remodel and upgrade over 90 percent of its existing 186-store base. Analysts speculated whether the company must also secure a major acquisition to remain competitive with not only Stop & Shop but also warehouse clubs, Wal-Mart, and Target stores for grocery and nonfood item sales. Shaws had earned a solid position with its parent company, having generated 17 percent of 2001 Sainsbury sales and 20 percent of its parent companys profits. President and Chief Operating Officer Paul T. Gannon maintained, Some of the important factors [in targeting an acquisition] would be proximity to Shaws, a willing seller and a company thats No. 1 or 2 in its markets in terms of market share. In April 2003 Shaws opened a 56,000-square-foot-store in Bostons Back Bay in the Prudential Center. To keep abreast of the growing market for prepared foods, the store offered stir fry, sushi, olive, and pasta bars. With the opening of this showy Boston flagship store, Shaws continued to carve its niche in the New England market and make new inroads into the urban market.

Principal Competitors

Stop & Shop; Hannaford Brothers; DeMoulas Super Markets.

Further Reading

Arditi, Lynn, British Firm Buys Second New England Grocery Chain, Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, November 27, 1998.

Balijko, Jennifer L., Shaws Set to Broaden Store Reach in New York, Supermarket News, September 30, 1996, p. 1.

British to Buy Share of Shaws, Evening Express, September 28, 1983, p. 1.

Cohen, Ted, Shaws Seeks to Go Public with Stock, Portland Press Herald, September 20, 1986, p. 1.

Fallon, James, and Max Wisenthal, Sainsbury to Complete Acquisition of Shaws, Supermarket News, June 29, 1987, p. 1.

Fallon, James, J. Sainsbury to Accelerate Shaws U.S. Expansion, Supermarket News, May 20, 1996, p. 22.

, Sainsbury Plans to Slow Shaws Expansion, Supermarket News, May 18, 1998, p. 1.

, Sainsburys Shift, Supermarket News, June 2, 1997, p. 1.

, Sainsbury to Open 6 Shaws Units, Supermarket News, May 28, 1990, p. 36.

, Shaws Operating Profit Falls 16.5% in First Half, Supermarket News, November 16, 1992, p. 9.

Fasig, Lisa Biank, CEO of Shaws Supermarkets Faces New Competition for Customers, Growth Plan, Providence Journal, July 14, 2002.

Feds Approve Shaws Purchase of Star Market, Providence Business News, July 12, 1999, p. 5.

Fensholt, Carol, Presenting the 1992 Supermarket Business Award for Excellence to Shaws Supermarkets, Inc., Supermarket Business, December 1992, p. 23.

First to Market: Shaws Supermarkets Introduces Self-Checkout in New England, Chain Store Age Executive with Shopping Center Age, February 2002, p. 7C.

Gatlin, Greg, New Store at Prudential Center Features Upscale, Gourmet Tastes, Boston Herald, April 24, 2003, p. O29.

Gattuso, Greg, Shaws Drops Plan for N.Y.; CEO Leaving for Pets-mart, Supermarket News, February 16, 1998, p. 1.

George C. Shaw and Co. to Celebrate 70th Milestone with Anniversary Sale, Portland Sunday Telegram, October 26, 1930, p. 8D.

Goad, Meredith, Store Becomes Ozone Friendly, Portland Press Herald, June 9, 1992, pp. 1B-2B.

Hyde, Christopher, When Giants Battle, Everyones a Winner, Biz, January 1996, pp. 11, 14.

Irwin, Clark T., Jr., Shaws Markets Financial Charm, Portland Press Herald, October 17, 1986, p. 17.

OLeary, Chris, Shaws Seeks to Move on 3 Cross-Docking Fronts, Supermarket News, December 18, 1995, p. 19.

Maine-Born Grocery Head Dies in Brockton, Portland Press Herald, January 10, 1947, p. 14.

Philippidis, Alex, Shaws Supermarkets Begins Site Work on First Store in Westchester, Westchester County Business Journal, August 4, 1997, p. 8.

, Stop & Shop Acquires Shaws Sites in New Rochelle, Yonkers, Westchester County Business Journal, May 4, 1998, p. 16.

Prenon, Mary T., Shaws Checks out of New York, Westchester County Business Journal, March 2, 1998, p. 5.

Schneider, Martin, Shaws Begins Star Conversion, Supermarket News, June 4, 2001, p. 4.

Shaws Cuts Energy Consumption, Chain Store Age Executive with Shopping Center Age, October 2001, p. 94.

Shaws Opens Sixth Store in N.H., 19th in Chain, 4 New Units in Year, Portland Press Herald, June 29, 1974, p. 117.

Shaws Supermarkets: 1983 a Year of Remodeling, Expansion, Maine Sunday Telegram, May 1, 1983, p. 30.

Shaws to Add 30 Stores, Remodel 170 Others, Supermarket News, July 29, 2002, p. 11.

Shaws to Open 13th Supermarket in North Conway, N.H., Next Fall, Evening Express, July 3, 1971, p. 113.

Shaws Ups Ante on Private Label with New Signature Brand, Drug Store News, March 4, 2002, p. 42.

Sleeper, Frank, English Firm Buys Shaws Supermarkets, Portland Press Herald, June 20, 1987, pp. 1, 18.

Supermarket Chain Puts Environment First, Chain Store Age Executive with Shopping Center Age, November 1992, p. 118.

Three Pioneers Saw the Future, Made it Work, Supermarket News, September 28, 1987, p. 10.

35 Supermarkets Named Shaws in Maine and Massachusetts, Evening Express, June 30, 1979, p. 71.

Unger, Harlow, From Shore to Shaws, Super Marketing, August 26, 1994, p. S46.

Elizabeth Henry

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Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

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