- Publix’ senior vice president of real estate and facilities Jeff Chamberlain is retiring at the end of the year, according to a company press release, after 47 years with the company.
- Chamberlain began his career with Publix in 1972 as a desk clerk in a Satellite Beach, Florida. He became store manager in 1983 and in 1991 transferred to the real estate department as manager for the north Florida and south Georgia regions. The company elevated him to director of rel estate market strategy in 1991, and in 2011 he became vice president of real estate. In 2017, Publix named him to the position he currently holds.
- Publix currently operates 1,227 stores in the Southeast including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
Chamberlain's career has tracked Publix's steady expansion throughout its home state of Florida as well as its recent focus on new markets and new store formats.
The grocer now operates a staggering 801 stores in the Sunshine State and is the market share leader by a long shot. Anchored by its renowned customer service and innovative programs like Aprons, the chain has become the favorite grocer for consumers in small towns as well as large metropolitan areas.
In addition to saturating the state, Publix's real estate strategy has lately centered on buying up property. Between 2007 and 2017, the percentage of stores owned by the company increased from 11% to 32%. Owning stores and surrounding shopping real estate allows Publix to collect additional revenue and to prevent competitors from moving into the immediate area.
The competition has certainly increased for Publix of late, with Aldi, Sprouts Farmers Market and Lucky's Market joining Walmart in vying for shoppers. Walmart has also engaged in a number of remodels and e-commerce expansions in the Sunshine State. Florida tallied 9.7% of new grocery space last year, or roughly 1.65 million square feet — the highest growth rate of any state in the U.S, according to JLL Group.
To tackle the competition and stay relevant with shoppers, Publix has reignited its Greenwise Market concept and pushed into new states like North Carolina and Virginia. GreenWise stores have so far opened in Florida, South Carolina and Alabama, with eight additional locations in the works. The stores focus on offering a variety of natural and organic private label products and ready-to-eat foods.
Late last year, Publix opened a 28,000 square-foot store location on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus and announced a major expansion of its Lakeland, Florida, headquarters.
Publix has not yet named Chamberlain's successor. Whoever fills the role will have to focus on finding smart store locations outside Florida for its traditional stores as well as its Greenwise locations.