At a time when some major retailers are abandoning their stores for online commerce, North Carolina’s discount giant Variety Wholesalers is sticking with its brick-and-mortar connection with customers.
That’s the word from chairman Art Pope in announcing new leadership for his family-owned chain of stores based in Henderson.
Bruce Efird has been named CEO and president of the subsidiary Variety Stores, which has about 400 stores in 17 states operating under the names Roses, Roses Express, Maxway and Super 10. He replaces Wilson Sawyer, who has been with the company since 1990 and now moves into the role of president of the parent company.
Efird is a native of Albemarle who graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne University. He has a long record in the industry, including CEO of Tennessee discount retailer Fred’s and of Dollar Express, which operated in North Carolina.
With those seasoned discount retail executives in place, Pope has retrenched his strategy to continue to expand stores in that niche market, he said in an interview Wednesday.
It was the same day that Google and Walmart announced a partnership that will put the giant retailer’s wares in an online marketplace through Google Express. The move will put them in competition with Amazon, which has dominated the field.
It’s not a course that Variety Wholesalers intends to follow. Instead, the company will stick with the storefront business plan that turned a handful of dime stores in the eastern part of the state in the 1950s into a regional powerhouse. Along the way, the family became known for its philanthropy and politics with Art Pope most recently serving as former Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director for a little over a year.
“Variety Wholesalers is one of the more successful regional retailers, not only surviving competition with Walmart and Amazon but doing well and growing,” Pope said.
He pointed to a new 1.4 million square foot distribution center in Georgia, increasing sales and plans to open new stores at a faster pace. New stores will be coming to communities where the company already has a presence, he said.
Pope didn’t specify whether that means new stores in Raleigh, but pointed out that the company opened a Roses in Southeast Raleigh two years ago, filling a void created when a grocery chain departed and left a shopping center without an anchor. The Roses includes a grocery store.
The stores come in three sizes, ranging from 5,000 to 70,000 square feet.
“Our competitive advantage is investing in communities having stores that are larger than dollar stores and can provide more goods, more one-stop shopping for the whole family, but smaller and more convenient,” Pope said, and are affordable.
The company will be doing more advertising online, he said, but there are no plans to compete in the e-commerce market.
“Our customers are still appreciative of walking into a store and not always leaving what they came in for,” he said. “It’s the treasure hunt aspect.”