Meijer is a discount department store based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was begun in the 1930s as a grocery store in Greenville, Michigan. The first Meijer superstore, which combined a discount store and a grocery store, opened in 1962 in Grand Rapids and is still in operation. Meijer eliminated its grocery stores by the early 1990s to focus on the superstores, which currently operate in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
Meijer was founded as Meijer's in Greenville, Michigan, by Hendrik Meijer, a Dutch immigrant. Meijer was a local barber who entered the grocery business during the Great Depression. His first employees included his 14-year-old son, Frederik Meijer, who later became chairman of the company. The current co-chairmen, brothers Hank and Doug Meijer, are Hendrik's grandsons. After studying trends in the grocery industry, Meijer was among the first stores to offer self-service shopping and shopping carts. He also offered staple items, such as vinegar, at bargain prices.
The Greenville store was successful and additional Meijer groceries were opened in Ionia and Cedar Springs. By the 1960s, the company had over two dozen stores located throughout West Michigan.
In 1949, the first two Meijer stores opened in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "In a contest, a customer suggested the name "Thrifty" for Meijer's little Dutch boy, who became the corporate symbol for the next 30 years."
Fred Meijer took over the company upon his father's death in 1964. Under his leadership, the Thrifty Acres stores became a success and were renamed Meijer in 1986. Meijer's stand-alone grocery operations continued until the early 1990s, as the larger stores became dominant. In 1985, Forbes magazine reported Walmart at the time had failed in what were then known as hypermarkets because Sam Walton and company did not understand the grocery business.
Walton launched the first Hypermart USA store in 1987, opening only four stores, the last in 1990. An article in Forbes Magazine said Meijer understood the importance of the food business, and it was not something just tacked onto a discount store. The quality of the produce is very important; poor-quality produce sold by Walmart was the main reason for their lack of success. By contrast, surveys said then and now that Meijer ranks high on produce quality.
With the increasing dominance of Walmart throughout the country during the 1990s and up to the present, Meijer is facing the effects of an intensely competitive retail industry. In late 2003, the company laid off 350 people from the corporate offices, distribution centers and field offices; a few months later, in January 2004, Meijer laid off 1,896 employees and managerial staff, leading to speculation that the company was losing profitability and market share. A marketing professor, Dr. Ben Rudolph of Grand Valley State University near Meijer's corporate headquarters, lambasted this move, saying they "apparently blinked" and that Meijer's "decision was driven by panic". Continuing cutbacks in 2006, the company outsourced 81 information technology positions to India.
In 2003, the company announced that all new Meijer stores would feature an entirely new format and company image, complete with a new logo intended to make the Meijer stores seem "friendly" and inviting. The company hired New York City's Rockwell Group to redesign the existing stores and establish a design for new stores. The "new theatrics" for the then-71-year-old company originally started as a "new product introduction program" until David Rockwell talked Hank and Fred Meijer into further changes. Rockwell told the Meijers the new introduction program would "work only if it was part of a new overall creative foundation based on a fresher, younger approach, encompassing architecture, interior design, and graphic design". In 2005, despite cutbacks, Meijer embarked on a expansion plan to increase its number of stores in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. In April 2003, Meijer selected DeVito/Verdi, an award-winning advertising agency in New York, to handle its $25-million account.
In May 2007, the first LEED-certified Meijer store opened in the second phase of the Fairlane Green development in Allen Park, Michigan. In July 2007, Meijer announced to the Michigan press it would be "restructuring" its Team Leader management positions in all 181 stores, stating layoffs would be "minimal" and necessary "to handle more sophisticated products such as flat-screen TVs and high-priced wines". Their spokesperson also said the changes were "not about a labor reduction", but fitting people into the right roles. No corporate staff or hourly workers were directly affected. In August 2007, the store announced they were cutting about 500 managers (12% of existing management staff). The 500 were given severance packages, while other managers were transferred to other stores or "reassigned to different positions".
On November 25, 2011, Frederik Meijer died at the age of 91. In 2013, Meijer opened its 200th supercenter in Swartz Creek, Michigan.
In 2017, Meijer expanded across the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with stores in Sault Ste. Marie, and Escanaba, with a third location that opened in 2018 in Marquette, a frontier the chain had long-awaited for. In celebration, the company posted a ceremonial video of the first trucks crossing the Mackinac Bridge, a pivotal moment in the company's history.
Meijer stores are classified as supercenters or hypermarkets (a superstore that combines groceries and department store goods in the same store). Many stores also feature an adjacent Meijer-branded gas station and convenience store. Several Meijer gas stations feature alternative fuels, such as E85, biodiesel, and compressed natural gas.
Most Meijer stores are open 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, closing only at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and reopening at 6 a.m. on December 26. In 2013, Meijer ranked No. 19 in Forbes list of top 20 Private Companies.
In September 2012, Meijer was ranked No. 88 in a list of the 100 fastest-growing retail chains by the National Retail Foundation's STORES magazine.
Other Meijer concepts
In addition to the original Meijer supermarkets and hypermarkets, Meijer opened several concept stores in the 1970s and 1980s. The first were specialty clothing store chains called Copper Rivet, Sagebrush, and Tansy. Each store focused on a different form of brand-name clothing: Copper Rivet sold Levi's jeans, Sagebrush sold casual wear, and Tansy sold women's clothing. All three chains usually operated in front of existing Meijer stores, or in nearby shopping centers. These clothing chains were dissolved in the 1980s as brand-name clothing became more readily available at competing retailers. Sagebrush, which at its peak comprised 71 stores, was sold off in 1988, while Copper Rivet and Tansy stores were closed as their leases expired.
In 1980, Meijer began a discount pharmacy chain called Spaar (from the Dutch word for "save"), which opened four stores in 1980 in former Meijer supermarket locations. The Spaar stores were sold to Pontiac, Michigan-based Perry Drug Stores by the mid-1980s.
One year after launching the Spaar brand, in 1981, Meijer began opening Meijer Square stores, which were traditional discount department stores lacking a full grocery section. Fourteen locations of Buffalo, New York-based Twin Fair, predominantly in southwestern Ohio, as well as in Covington, Kentucky, were bought and converted to the Meijer Square name. Two Meijer Square stores were also opened in Michigan, in Essexville and Kalamazoo. The Ohio locations were largely sold to Zayre and Hills. Meijer returned to Cincinnati and soon Kentucky in May 1996, after both Hills and Ames had closed all of their Ohio stores.
Meijer opened its first warehouse club store, SourceClub, in 1992. The concept, despite its appeal of being an easier warehouse club store to join (i.e. their ads showing a $20 bill being the only paperwork needed), proved unsuccessful in competition against Sam's Club and Costco, and all seven SourceClub stores were closed in 1994. The location in Fraser, Michigan was converted to a regular Meijer store, while the rest were shuttered or sold off. The last remaining former SourceClub store that never reopened since its closure, located in Taylor, Michigan, was eventually demolished for a condominium development. Another former SourceClub in Westland, Michigan, was demolished and a Lowe's opened there. The location in Wyoming, Michigan closed in 1994 and was replaced by a Target store in 1996. Despite the failure of SourceClub, it did pave the way for its competition to be more lenient with its membership requirements.
During the mid-1990s, Meijer expanded to three additional states. The first location in Indiana opened on Grape Road in Mishawaka in 1994, followed by the first Illinois store in Champaign in 1995 and the first regular Kentucky location in Florence (which also marked the chain's reentry into that state) in 1996. In 1997, the first Meijer location in the Northwest Indiana region opened in Michigan City, Indiana, while the first Meijer location in the Chicago region opened in 1999 on Weber Road in the suburb of Bolingbrook.
In 2009, the chain announced a new concept in the Chicago region called Meijer Marketplace, comprising smaller stores that focus more on grocery items and pharmacy.
Meijer has also turned several stores into flagship status stores where grocery selection is larger and also used to test new food products.
Meijer opened its first store within the city of Detroit on July 25, 2013, and its second location within the city on June 11, 2015. Meijer opened its first locations in Wisconsin in June 2015. To help promote itself in Wisconsin, Meijer purchased a distribution center in Pleasant Prairie from SuperValu in 2012, and placed an advertisement along the outfield wall of Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, in 2014 in anticipation of the company's expansion into Wisconsin.
Marketing and sponsorship
Notable donations and actions
As a philanthropist, Fred Meijer's most significant contribution has been the land and sculpture collection for the 132-acre (53 ha) Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Meijer donated land for a Grand Valley State University (GVSU) campus in Holland, Michigan, about 30 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids.
In the mid-1980s, Meijer donated an undisclosed amount of money to GVSU towards the construction of new studios for the GVSU PBS station, WGVU, which continues to broadcast from the Meijer Public Broadcast Center.
A section of the Berlin Wall stands in the Meijer Lobby of the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, donated by Frederik Meijer on its 10th anniversary and dedicated by President Ford on September 6, 1991.
In July and August 2004, Fred Meijer personally offered a donation of $25 million and property which included a former golf course near Grand Rapids' East Beltline to fund a relocation and expansion of the historic John Ball Zoo. However, voters voted against the proposal and Meijer retracted the offer.
The Meijer Foundation donated $1 million to Michigan's White Pine Trail State Park for improvements. The donation carried a stipulation that the state must name the trail the "Fred Meijer White Pine Trail". The state parks department eventually accepted the donation, but the decision created a controversy over naming rights for private donations to public parks.
Grand Rapids' downtown Civic Theatre, now renamed the Meijer Majestic Theatre, had a $10-million renovation, thanks in large part to donations by Fred Meijer, as well as Grand Action, a Grand Rapids-based community improvement organization. The name Meijer Majestic Theatre reflects both the original name of the 103-year-old theatre and Fred Meijer's philanthropy.
In 2006, Meijer donated money to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to create the paid position called the Frederik Meijer Chair of Dutch Language and Culture. The previous chair was unpaid. It is currently held by Dr. Henk Aay, and its purpose is to promote interest in the Netherlands and Michigan's Dutch cultural heritage.
Meijer has been involved in sponsorship in the IndyCar Series for several years. They were associate sponsor on the #26 Andretti-Green Racing entry driven by Marco Andretti and also the #12 Team Penske entry driven by Will Power. They have a presence in NASCAR, as well, sponsoring the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
In 2014, Meijer was the first retailer to accept both Apple Pay and CurrentC for purchases in its stores and gas stations despite possible penalties from Merchant Customer Exchange for accepting Apple Pay.
Meijer store design
Meijer stores are typically designed with the supermarket section to one side and the general merchandise section to the other side. The chain's stores are almost always constructed from the ground up, with very few Meijer stores having been converted from other retailers. Exceptions include the:
- Bradley, Illinois, Mentor, Ohio, Lorian, Ohio, Lincoln Park, Michigan and Portage, Indiana stores, both of which were former Super Kmart stores
- Traverse City, Michigan store, a former Grant City store
- Sterling Heights, Michigan on Metro Parkway (which relocated to Madison Heights, Michigan in 2002 and has been demolished for Sterling Heights Center), which was also a former Grant City
- Fraser, Michigan which Meijer converted from its failed SourceClub concept store
- Newark, Ohio (which was shuttered in 2013), which was one of the stores Meijer purchased from Twin Fair.
Some stores built in the 1960s and 1970s, including a since-demolished location on Pierson Road in Mount Morris Township, Michigan (which marked the chain's entry into the Flint market in 1972), included a balcony, containing service tenants such as a barber shop and nail salon. During the late 1990s, McDonald's restaurants also operated inside Meijer stores, primarily in those with balconies, though some locations without balconies like Taylor, Michigan and the location on Alexis Road in Toledo, Ohio also had McDonald's locations; in addition, the first stores in the Detroit area featured a short-lived fast food concept called Thrifty's Kitchen, which also operated a standalone location in front of the Meijer on Alpine Avenue in Walker. Most stores feature a sit-down café, while some also feature a Starbucks coffee shop or a Subway restaurant. Stores built between 1989 and 1993 featured a curved wall of windows that ran along the area between the entrances, examples include many early locations in Ohio and the Midland, Michigan store (many of these such stores have since been renovated into the current exterior design described below).
Early in the 1990s, Meijer developed new integrated prototypes for their rollouts. One example was the "whimsical" design prototype introduced with the 1994 expansion into Indiana. Different shapes and roofing designs created the facade of the building. Most notable was the yellow pineapple constructed from yellow ceramic brick and glass blocks. The different shapes on the facade were to introduce Meijer to Indiana as a "store of discovery".
Also notable was the use of a large translucent wall above the grand concourse facing the registers. This allowed natural light to filter into the area above the registers without actual windows. Another feature of these stores was the introduction of grey concrete panels and silver framing on windows and doors. Slight variations of this prototype were also introduced with the 1995 expansion into Illinois and the 1996 reentry into Kentucky.
On August 5, 1997, the store in Fort Gratiot Township, Michigan debuted a new prototype that evolved out of the mid-1990s prototype. This was the Presidential prototype, in which the logo was moved to the center of the building. Later Meijer stores of this design introduced the Meijer Fresh logo with the then-current Meijer logo and a large cursive "Fresh" on the right of the Meijer name. Most of these signs have since been phased out in favor of the current logo, with the lower case "meijer" (in red) with blue dots over the 'i' and 'j'. In the year 2000, the Presidential prototype was replaced with the Village Square prototype, which featured fake storefronts running across the front of the building and a barn-like section on which the Meijer logo was situated. That prototype, however, was soon replaced by the Signature Series prototype, which removed the fake storefronts, which itself was replaced in the mid-2000s with the current prototype, which features emphasis on the entrances, which feature towering glass walls with a tilted roof, resulting in an "eyebrow" appearance.
The first 2 Meijer opened in 1949, 15 years after Meijer was founded. It is also the home of the Meijer Company. In 1962, Meijer launched its modern format, with a store at the corner of 28th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue in Grand Rapids. At a size of 180,000 square feet (17,000 m2), it combined grocery shopping and department store shopping in a single large store. The store was built with six-inch (152-mm) thick floors, so should the concept fail, the non-grocery half could be converted into an indoor car dealership.
New stores were built in the same manner until the mid-1970s, when an architect mentioned the extra cost to management.
The second such store opened in Norton Shores later that year, followed by two more in 1964, one on Alpine Avenue in Walker, Michigan, and one on Westnedge Avenue in Portage, Michigan. This was followed by the first Mid-Michigan location in Delta Charter Township, Michigan, in 1966 and the first Metro Detroit store in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1972. Meijer expanded into Northern Michigan with their 33rd location in Traverse City opening in 1977, which is still open to this day.
In 1981, Meijer began opening Meijer Square stores, which were traditional discount department stores lacking a full grocery section, in Essexville and Kalamazoo. Both stores closed by 1993.
Meijer opened its first warehouse club store, SourceClub, in 1992, ultimately reaching seven stores in Michigan, in the communities of Fraser, Kentwood, Livonia, Okemos, Taylor, Westland, and Wyoming. The concept, despite its appeal of being an easier warehouse club store to join (i.e. their ads showing a $20 bill being the only paperwork needed), proved unsuccessful in competition against Sam's Club and Costco, and all seven SourceClub stores were closed in 1994. The location in Fraser, Michigan was converted to a regular Meijer store, while the rest were shuttered or sold off. The last remaining former SourceClub store that never reopened since its closure, located in Taylor, Michigan, was eventually demolished for a condominium development. Another former SourceClub in Westland, Michigan, was demolished and a Lowe's opened there. The location in Wyoming, Michigan closed in 1994 and was replaced by a Target store in 1996. Despite the failure of SourceClub, it did pave the way for its competition to be more lenient with its membership requirements.
In 2017, Meijer expanded into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with stores in Sault Ste. Marie, and Escanaba, with a third location that opened in 2018 in Marquette. Starting in 2018, Meijer would open new concept stores in Michigan. The first one, Bridge Street Market in Grand Rapids, Opened in September 2018. The second, Woodward Corner Market Opened in January 2020. More are soon to come around the midwest.
Meijer entered The Ohio Market in 1981. Meijer serves areas in Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton and Columbus.
In 2019, Meijer would open its first stores in the Cleveland Area. These were Stow, Mentor, Avon, Aurora and Lorain.
Meijer is also be expanding into the Youngstown area with a store in Boardman, Ohio in 2020 and Austintown.
The first Indiana Meijer opened in Mishawaka on Grape Road in 1994. Indiana was one of 3 additional states Meijer expanded in the mid-1990s. Northwest Indiana opened the first Meijer in Michigan City, Indiana at Michigan City Towne Center in 1997, followed by Merrillville in 1998 and Highland in 1999. There are 4 Meijer Stores In Northwest Indiana, which are Highland, Merrillville, Portage and Michigan City. Meijer also has a few locations in South Indiana.
The first Illinois Meijer opened in Champaign in 1995. Illinois was one of 3 additional states Meijer expanded in the mid-1990s. The First Chicagoland Meijer opened in August 1999 on Weber Road in Bolingbrook. It is a part of a shopping center called Country Aire Plaza. This was followed by the opening of the St. Charles, Aurora and Elgin Meijer Locations in 2000.
There are a few Meijer Stores separated from Chicagoland, which are Champaign (opened 1995), Urbana, Springfield (opened 2000), Normal and Danville.
In 2009, the chain announced a new concept in the Chicago region called Meijer Marketplace, comprising smaller stores that focus more on grocery items and pharmacy. Four such stores were eventually opened, in Niles (2010), Orland Park (2010), Melrose Park (2011) and Berwyn (2012). The Niles store closed on June 18, 2016. The Melrose Park and Berwyn stores closed on June 17, 2017, leaving the Orland Park store as the last remaining small-format Meijer in operation.
Berwyn store space now houses Tony's Fresh Market, which had relocated from its previous location at the former Dominick's store in North Riverside in 2018)
There are Meijer Stores in Rockford and Manchester Park. Meijer hopes to open a store in Effingham, Illinois by 2021.
In 1981, Meijer opened a Meijer Square store, which was a traditional discount department store lacking a full grocery section, in Covington, Kentucky. This store closed in 1987.
The first Kentucky Meijer supercenter opened in Florence in 1996. Kentucky was one of 3 additional states Meijer expanded in the mid-1990s. Meijer serves areas in Louisville, Lexington and Richmond. This is the only state in The Southeast Area to serve Meijer Locations.
There is a separate Meijer Location in Richmond and Bowling Green.
Kenosha and Grafton were the first 2 Wisconsin Meijers when they opened in 2015.
Meijer bought the largely vacant Memorial Mall in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in March 2015.