Skogens focus on service in time of industry changes
By STEVE CAHALAN Tribune business editor
There have been many changes in the industry since his parents, Paul and and Jane Skogen, founded the first Skogen's grocery store in 1946 in Onalaska, Wis.
But providing customers with an enjoyable shopping experience has remained a priority with the family, current President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Skogen said Tuesday.
He and his son, Mark, who is general manager of the family's four Festival Foods stores in the Fox River Valley, spoke at a Brown Bag Series lecture sponsored by Viterbo University's
D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership and its Dahl School of Business.
Dave, his wife Barb, son Mark and daughter Sue, today own the nine-store operation. That includes two IGA stores in Onalaska and Holmen; and seven Festival Foods stores in Onalaska, Marshfield, De Pere, Oshkosh, Eau Claire and two in Green Bay, Wis.
In the past six months, Dave said, six Wal-Mart Supercenters have opened in markets that Skogen stores operate in. "And they're no slouch," he said.
"But we're making money," Dave said. "We're a store of choice in the market."
In an interview after the lecture, Dave guessed sales at the three Skogen stores in the La Crosse area were 4 to 5 percent below normal last week. "It was slightly off," he said, because of the Wal-Mart Supercenter that opened Oct. 29 on the South Side of La Crosse. "Some of that's going to come back," he said.
In the lecture, Dave quoted from the Skogen stores' mission statement: To develop a team of associates dedicated to providing our customers with a clean store, friendly people, quality products and an enjoyable shopping experience "for not a lotta money."
The Skogens use the boomerang theory, Mark said. "Simply put, this theory is based on what we can do to bring the customer, our guest, back again," he said. "Businesses too often make decisions based on short-term financial needs and convenience, instead of first trying the boomerang theory. We are asking our associates to to make a commitment, to think, speak and make decisions based on bringing the customer back."
The Skogens quoted from letters from customers, about pleasant shopping experiences and employees who went out of their way to help them.
"I'm proud that (Mark) is in it," Dave said of the family business. "We probably wouldn't be where we are today without his passion and interest in growing the company. Barbara and I aren't kids anymore," said Dave, who is 61. Mark is 34.
Mark said he has two children, and his sister has two children, so the business hopefully will be owned by a fourth generation of Skogens.
"It becomes more difficult all the time with the large corporate giants and the money they have," Mark said. "They can put up stores, and if they don't do well, it's not really too big a deal to them. We've got to be smart and grow at the right pace, and make sure we're taking care of our customers."
Steve Cahalan can be reached at (608) 791-8229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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