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Food City in Piney Flats will be store No. 102 for company

NET News Service • Jan 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

PINEY FLATS — Food City opened its 100th store in October and hasn’t looked back, with a new Piney Flats store opening Wednesday marking store number 102.

The Abingdon-based company announced plans for the store, located at U.S. Highway 11-E and Allison Road, in mid-2007.

The 43,600-square-foot store is the first new location in the Tri-Cities metro area since the Gray store opened in 2003, Food City CEO Steve Smith said Monday.

Smith said overall population growth and demographic shifts within the Tri-Cities led the company to select the location a couple years ago.

“I think Piney Flats has shown some good growth over the last three to five years, and we’re hopeful that will continue,” Smith said. “Obviously with the downturn in the housing market right now, might give it a little pause, but with (Boone Lake) nearby and two main transportation corridors, we still think there’s some good growth opportunity there.”

The amenities that have proven successful as Food City has expanded its consumer offerings all will be available at 5970 Highway 11-E. Smith said offering health care-related products and services has been a winning formula for the chain, and the new store will include a pharmacy.

Along with the health-related offerings — a relatively recent entry for Food City — the store will have gasoline, videos and a floral boutique staffed with a designer every day.

As with the location, the addition of new offerings comes as demographics and business trends shift over time, Smith said.

“I think people look for one-stop shopping. They like the convenience of being able to get their prescriptions filled, get gasoline — it helps people not to have to bounce around two or three different places.”

Technology also drives much of K-VA-T Food Stores’ (Food City’s corporate name) evolution. For instance, the new store will include four self-checkouts, which allow customers to scan items and pay for their purchases unaided.

Smith said K-VA-T first adopted self-scan about 10 years ago. While the process isn’t for everyone, it’s a convenience more and more customers use, especially since bugs in the early machines were worked out.

“The new generation is much more accurate and dependable, and we’ve probably got 20 percent of our transactions done by self-scan, and in some stores as high as 30 or 40 percent,” Smith said.

Perhaps more important, Smith said, are the technological advances that have allowed K-VA-T to maximize food safety.

“In our business, that’s the first thing we think about in every decision we make, is how does this affect the quality and safety of our food.

“We have an automated system that takes the temperatures of our cases hourly. If there are any discrepancies, we’ve got an exception report that alerts the store manager and other department managers so they can immediately intervene.”

Those advances help protect customer health, but they also decrease the amount of product loss for the company, Smith said. Similarly, computerized systems give the company volume levels of fresh food sold up to the latest quarter-hour, which Smith said helps get fresher products to customers and reduce the company’s “shrink numbers.”

“The less we throw away, the more competitively we can sell the product to consumers.”

Christy Dolinger will manage the new store.

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