Start With The Parking Lot: How To Commit To Your Customer, Inside And Out

Dwayne Goodwin, Save A Lot Retail Partner

Every day that I come to work at Save A Lot, I am constantly inspired by my employees’ commitment to their work and our customers. In turn, I hope they feel inspired by the example I set for each of them.

I hope they admire my work ethic, my attention to detail, and my perseverance. But most importantly, I hope they’re inspired by my story, and see themselves in me. Because, in many ways, I’ve been in each one of their shoes.

Over the course of my long career in the grocery business, I’ve held virtually every job there is in a grocery store. My father, Jim Goodwin, was in the grocery business for 58 years, and I started as a grocery bagger at age 16. I eventually rose to become a store manager, then a district manager…and ultimately a store owner of multiple Save A Lot units, responsible for around 120 employees across my five stores.

I truly have an appreciation for our employees that goes beyond respect for their work. In most cases, I’ve done their job in the past. I know some of the challenges they face, because I’ve faced many of those same challenges myself. It gives me a unique perspective that I use every day to make things better.

As a result, I’ve developed a few important principles that continue to guide me as a store owner and as a leader.


That may seem strange to read, but it’s important to understand. We truly aren’t in the grocery business; we’re in the people business. We may sell groceries, but you can’t forget it is real people that are buying them, served by real people that work in our stores. It’s essential to remember the human element in what you’re doing.


At Save A Lot, our stores are doing more than just providing a nice place to shop. In many of our locations, we’re changing people’s lives. The low prices we offer for quality goods can be incredibly meaningful to our customers. I’ve heard this every time we’ve opened a new store. A customer will have their groceries bagged, walk up to me and thank me. They’ll say “I’m on a fixed income, I can only spend so much money a week on groceries, and you just saved me $28 a week. Thank you for coming to my town.” It feels good to be helping in that way.


In some of the rural towns where our stores are located, we’re creating jobs that just weren’t there before. Every one of our stores takes over dark real estate in a small town that we helped revitalize – and after our Save A Lot arrives, the two stores on both sides of us usually start to thrive, which adds more jobs there as well. By the time we’re done, there’s a hundred more people working in that town that weren’t working before we came. That’s a lot of goodwill you’re fostering in your community.


The first time I work with a new young store manager, I always tell them to grab a legal pad and meet me in the parking lot. You can see the confusion in their eyes when I ask them. But once outside, we walk the perimeter of the store, and I start talking about the store with an outside perspective – literally. We talk about parking spaces, shopping cart crowding, and our front windows. Did those shopping carts block a customer from parking? Is there a sign on the window that’s hard to see? Are there leaks or cracks in the lot that make it difficult to walk through? When I do that first with an employee, they start to see that working at Save A Lot means more than just stocking a store. They start to see us as a customer-centric operation, always working to make their experience a better one.


And the best way to serve the customer is to focus as much of your time on them as possible. There’s so much to do when running a Save A Lot, but I make sure our stores don’t get bogged down. To make that happen, I insist that all administrative tasks—meetings, scheduling, surveys, advertising planning—take place on Monday. After that, every day is focused entirely on the customer. It can be a rush to get things done that day, but it makes prioritizing on what counts that much easier.


We know that food can make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, and it’s our responsibility to help in any way we can. That’s why I make it a priority that all of our locations identify a local food bank to work with. On top of that, we often work with civic and community groups on in-store programs, donating food for charity fundraisers to help raise money, even holding the events in our store. We want people to see our store as an extension of the things that make their communities work.


In my life as a Save A Lot Retail Partner, I’m able to balance my work and life priorities. I can make the decision to start work early one day so that I can go to my daughter’s volleyball game that afternoon. The flexibility is important to me. The Save A Lot program itself is a winner. It’s time-tested, flexible and effective. It focuses on what makes Save A Lot different: low prices, edited curated product assortment, and a commitment to the customer experience. Just execute the program every week, make sure your store mirrors the advertising you run (with promoted products front and center), and you’ll find success.

These lessons have helped make running Save A Lot stores so fulfilling to my family and me. I’ve got six girls, all of whom have seen the commitment I’ve made to hard work and to bettering the communities in which we serve. It’s never easy, but I can see the impact we make. And I look forward to helping our teams grow with us, learning the skills that might lead them to their own stores in the future. Nothing would make me prouder!

Dwayne Goodwin opened his first Save A Lot in West Union, S.C., in 2010. Today he successfully owns and operates five locations across South Carolina. 

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