THERE ARE AN AWFUL LARGE AMOUNT of shuttered stores on my way home from work these days. From Best Buy to Macy’s to Kmart/Sears
and even Kohl’s, some major names in
retail are making the hard decision to close
stores as sales falter and competition from
other merchants and the Internet heat up.
With the notable exception of the bankrupt A&P chain, you do not see a lot of
national or regional supermarket chains
closing doors. In fact, it appears that more
stores are opening, sometimes to replace
existing units that have worn out their welcome because of size
constraints or changing
patterns. Sometimes to
satisfy increasing shopper demand.
Ah, it is good to be
involved in a business
that consumers need to
visit a couple of times a
week and when they are
simply not comfortable
buying apples, meats
and milk through an online site.
There is no doubt that retail is on the fast
track to dramatic change. With Amazon
making a strong play for retail sales in dozens of categories and seemingly unconcerned about making money at this point,
many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are under the gun to produce cleaner
financial sheets for the owners or operators, not to mention those slick industry
gurus on Wall Street.
As we have long mentioned, buying a
television or dishwasher can be as simple
as reading a review or two and pressing a
button on the computer. The same holds
true for purchasing sweaters, socks, books,
perfume and just about anything else.
Yes, food. Complain as they might about
long lines, messy shelves and crowded
parking lots, consumers still need—and
want—to go to the grocery store on a
regular basis to fill their cupboards and
refrigerators with the products that their
families consume. They need to squeeze
the grapefruit, check the expiration dates
on the dairy and pick through the olive bar.
They also want to talk to the butcher about
the best cuts of meat and the pharmacist
for any suggestions on curing a cold.
Now do not get all giddy on me.
Supermarket retailers are not completely
out of the woods. Amazon and friends are
grabbing sales in such areas as paper prod-
ucts, pet food/supplies and some general
merchandise sections where price is para-
mount and consumers do not want to lug
home a 30-pound bag of cat litter. Plus,
they are constantly trying to come up with
the perfect mousetrap to get more con-
sumers to use their web portals to order
products that can be delivered to the door-
step, now within two hours in some cities.
However, as long as food retailers continue to stay ahead of the curve and provide shoppers what they want in a clean,
competitively priced and convenient environment they should be able to keep their
doors open and their lights on.
The key is to not get lazy and let your
guard down. Consumers want a reason
to go online to buy product. The grocery
store’s job, right now, is to make sure they
cannot find it.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
NOT ONLINE, IN LINE
Consumers still want to go to the supermarket instead of buying on the Web; retailers must give them a reason to do so.
By Seth Mendelson
Seth Mendelson is publisher
and editorial director of Grocery