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To create a compelling experience for its customers, Southern often relies on its retail partners for new ideas. "The best
ideas come from the retailers," McMurray relates. "Such as
when someone comes to us and says, 'I want to offer a new
fresh foods program to my customers. Will you help us design
it?' That's where the best ideas come from."
To cover a broad range of potential customers, Southern
has created three product lines and is able to make modifications to each one:
* The Standard line can be ordered straight from Southern's catalog of offerings. Roughly 220 models are offered,
and most can be built in five different lengths.
* The Customized Standard line includes Standard models customized for a retailer's specific needs. "We're
very good at taking one of those 220 models and adding
a feature to meet customers' needs," McMurray says.
"Maybe it could be a little taller or wider, or any number
* With the Tailor Made line, Southern CaseArts' design and
engineering team works with a customer to develop their
vision from concept to completion.
1990s, Southern was forced to look elsewhere to grow. "We
began calling on stores in the Northeast," McMurray recalls.
"We did a high-profile store in Manhattan and from there, one
customer led to another."
And as Southern continued to expand, it found itself catering not only to different customers, but to different cultures. Grocery stores can be very different depending on the
region of the country, creating the need for what McMurray
calls "locally relevant merchandising."
Its ability to serve various regions has led to industry recognition. Southern won a 2017 Retail Environments magazine Silver Design award for its work with Chicago retailer Cermak
Fresh Market. "We're very honored by that award," McMurray says. "We have taken a lot of customers there to showcase
Despite the recognition, the measure of Southern's success is simple. "We're doing our job if the food is presented in
some way that they are enjoying their shopping experience,"
McMurray notes. mt
Oftentimes a grocer will utilize all three of Southern's offerings, but McMurray estimates that 70 percent of Southern's business comes from the Standard line. The Customized
Standard line represents another 25 percent, and the remainder belongs to the Tailor Made line.
Southern has experienced considerable growth in recent
years, owing to a number of factors. The first is that grocers
have to work hard to set themselves apart, and the successful
ones do. McMurray notes that there has been a renaissance in
how food is viewed and experienced, thanks to cooking shows
and other programs.
"If you look at grocers, the center of the store is really going by the wayside," McMurray notes. "But if you look at the
stores that really do fresh food, you can see a resurgence. The
experience of food is such a social aspect of our lives, and people are drawn to that."
Another factor leading to growth has been growing the product list to more than 220 models, increasing options for customers. Plus, one huge contributing factor is the willingness to
simply say "yes." "By saying 'yes we can do that' when customers ask for new designs," McMurray says, "we open ourselves
up to new possibilities ourselves."
When Southern CaseArts began, it served a customer base in
the South. As the industry started to consolidate in the mid
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