Price Chopper: Using Content to Create Community

It started as a family-run self-service supermarket in upstate New York in 1932, later becoming a chain called Central Markets.  In 1973, the name changed to today’s Price Chopper and, in the 1990s, they expanded into the rest of New England. Today Price Chopper has 128 stores in six states. For a business that has been around so long, keeping up with the times has always been important. When they moved to their new headquarters in Schenectady, New York, it seemed natural to start using digital signage to communicate with their employees.

“We’re always looking for new ways to communicate,” says Maritza Santos, Junior Communications Specialist, Human Resources. “Before moving into our new Corporate Headquarters, the IT department asked for a list of things that the communications team needed and then shopped around for a system: They chose Visix’s flagship product, AxisTV digital signage software, to bring them up to date. “One important thing was that we could put different players on different floors – we have six floors here – and that in the future it could easily be expanded to the stores themselves,” says HR Communications Specialist Doty Hall. Santos explains their deployment, “We have one 52-inch display in each of the two break rooms on each floor plus five in the café.” This arrangement reaches between 800 and 900 people in the building.

Though the Golub Corporation, which started Price Chopper and still runs it, has become one of the country’s largest retailers (in 2008, ranked 131 in Forbes’ America’s Largest Private Companies), a focus on familiarity is still key to their business philosophy. The company, which owns 45% of the chain (employees own the other 55%), and has many second-, third- and even fourth-generation employees. The content displayed on AxisTV reflects this sense of community. “We feature employees in mini-interviews to show what they like most about their job and to learn what they are interested in outside of work,” says Hall, “as well as a ticker. Any policy changes also get displayed for everyone.”

They use the digital signage system to directly engage their audience. “We’ve had contests – a few slides about how to enter a raffle to win a Price Chopper gift card,” says Santos. “We might also have slides showing things like elevator etiquette, or events in the café, or classes in the gym. Or we have a series on PCSpeak, which is Price Chopper jargon people might not know.” Then there’s YNN – their local news channel, displayed in a separate window. “Things like years of service or career milestones, or anniversaries for employees – each week we put up 30 new slides like this,” Hall explains. “We also try to make people feel like a part of the history here, so we have a series of quizzes called Did You Know? And because many of our employees have been with us for a long time, we’ll put up a Blast From the Past, which is an old picture of an employee and people have to guess or remember who it is,” adds Santos.

Because they had worked out all the parameters before buying the system, they were able to implement this wide array of content all at once. Does this diverse strategy work? “People really seem to like it,” says Santos. “The content remains fresh, so people stay interested.” Participation in raffles and classes is one way they measure their success. “We also have an increase in people contacting us to add announcements,” says Hall. “The system will also come in handy when we need to get some type of important message across. We can use the alert mode to let people know exactly what is happening in real time,” says Santos.

Hall also thinks the system helps improve communication within the community. “You change your message to fit your audience,” she says, “and are able to put content in front of them that is relevant to them as well as the company as a whole.” Santos believes that the medium and the message go hand in hand. “AxisTV brings you into a new age of communications. Appearances are important and make what you are trying to communicate seem more valuable when presented in the right way.”