“It's another reason to come inside. Once they come in, we take care of all their shopping needs, from banking to pharmacy.”
The Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union says it has gained new members since it opened a pair of branches at Food City supermarkets in the Chattanooga area earlier this year.
"We've seen a nice group of new members," says Valerie Gifford, the credit union's senior vice president of retail operations. "A lot of people have started using them."
In-store banking offers both financial institutions and the retailers housing the branches a chance to heighten convenience and woo new customers, officials say.
SunTrust Bank also has in-store branches in two Wal-Marts in the Chattanooga area and 18 throughout Tennessee, said bank spokeswoman Katie Lopez.
"Our in-store branches are an important part of our branch network strategy because they provide extended hours six days a week while giving clients access to services similar to what they receive at a traditional branch," she says.
Lopez says that SunTrust, with branches in the South Cleveland and Fort Oglethorpe Wal-Mart stores, has to meet clients where and when they want to bank in order to help its customers gain financial confidence.
"We are constantly evaluating our service offerings to ensure we provide a wide range of convenient and beneficial choices for our clients," she says.
For the TVFCU, the in-store units have permitted the credit union to increase its presence in two areas of Hamilton County — Red Bank/Signal Mountain and Ooltewah/Collegedale.
Jessica McCosh, a marketing specialist for the credit union, says that it has a lot of members on Signal Mountain, for example.
"They've had to drive off the mountain and go to Hixson if they had to do business on Saturday," she says.
Now, with the credit union's 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday hours, that's not an issue, McCosh says.
Gifford says that the branches conduct cash services, consumer loans and a representative can even come out and talk about a mortgage loan.
"It is a full-service branch, all under 500 square feet," she says.
Mickey Blazer, a Food City executive vice president of operations, says its customers like the accessibility of the in-store credit union branches.
"It has been nothing but a win," he says. "It's a really good business relationship."
Blazer says Food City has had banking partners in other markets it services, such as in Knoxville and the Tri-Cities.
"It has proved very beneficial to us and our customers," he says.
Blazer says it helps attract people to its supermarkets and differentiates Food City from other grocers in the Chattanooga market.
"It's another reason to come inside," he says. "Once they come in, we take care of all their shopping needs, from banking to pharmacy."
"We're always looking for ways to expand our customer experience," he says. "We're always looking for those opportunities."
Steve Smith, Food City's chief executive, said last year that the Abingdon, Virginia-based grocer has about 20 bank or credit union branches in its array of stores.
"Our companies have a lot in common," said Smith about TVFCU. "At the end of the day, we're focused on our customers."
Gifford says its in-store branches in the Food City stores are a first for TVFCU. She says she's uncertain if there will be more branches, but officials are open to discussing that possibility.
"We wanted to start with these two," she says. "It's really growing well."
The branches typically open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. But, through TVFCU's interactive teller system, the branches offer hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
McCosh says the two-way video connection is "similar to FaceTime on an iPhone."