Case study: Sales growth for cash & carry warehouse food retailer
Steve Stallman
Steve Stallman

Smart & Final Stores


Smart & Final Stores is the largest cash & carry warehouse food retailer. It competes with big-box stores, like Costco Wholesale, but unlike them it is focused exclusively on serving foodservice professionals. Foodservice customers typically include operators of small restaurants, catering companies, businesses, clubs and civic organizations.


1. We conducted a substantial amount of custom research to really understand our customers. We used quantitative and qualitative research, including AA&U's, focus groups and exit interviews. This allowed us to position and build our brand.

2. Smart & Final has many types of unique customers. Therefore, we created highly targeted direct mail campaigns. We also built many market specific programs. One example is the first Hispanic campaign including in-store signage and brochures that were backed with television and radio advertising.

3. We opened many new stores in several states and expanded into Mexico.

4. Lastly, we focused on customer service training. We were relentless and it paid off. We taught the work force and empowered them. As a result, we were able to keep our business customers satisfied, which was key to our success, yet still attract a huge number of consumers. Unlike the major club stores, where it was hard to talk to anyone, we prided ourselves on making our associates approachable.

Some of our ad campaigns:

And with segmentation for direct marketing campaigns:


We opened many new stores in several states and expanded into Mexico.

As Director of Marketing I helped Smart & Final develop all the store launch plans and ongoing support to bring the store to rapid profitability. This was a full complement of activities including becoming a part of the local community.

We attained sales growth of 53% from $490 million to $750 million and increased customer traffic by 66%. We also successfully completed an IPO on the NY Stock Exchange.