Innovative Independents

October 18, 2016

The supermarket business is not for the faint of heart. Low profit margins and constantly changing consumer preferences make it challenging even for the best operators. Uncertain economic conditions and an explosion of new store formats have caused many to speculate about the demise of the supermarket as we know it. Yet despite challenges and headwinds, the grocery store is not just alive and well – it’s kicking!

These days, the traditional supermarket is undergoing profound change, while also maintaining its place at the heart of the food shopping experience for the vast majority of American consumers. And while the entire food industry is looking to stay ahead of the consumer trend curve, here is a checklist of what independent supermarkets are doing exceedingly well right now and continue to improve on:

  • Fresh, locally sourced perishables: check.
  • Delis and bakeries with astounding variety and extraordinary service: check.
  • Superior store brands: check.
  • Ethnic food variety reflecting an increasingly diverse shopper profile: check.
  • Customized marketing platforms, such as frequent shopper programs, that enable grocers to reach various demographic groups: check.
  • Online shopping and pickup: check.
  • Shopper-friendly mobile applications that offer everything from nutrition data to scannable coupons: check.

What’s going on is pretty clear. Independent supermarket operators are innovating in response to changing consumer preferences – something they’ve always been good at given their close ties to their communities and the consumers they serve.

Today’s time-pressed consumers have shifted their shopping preferences to reflect their own needs and timetables. As a result, operators are introducing store pickup and home delivery, without forgetting the basics of customer service. Price, variety, and high quality products remain all-important. Shoppers expect freshness, convenience, and helpful, knowledgeable service, and today’s independent grocers are equipping themselves with the latest technologies to address those shifting consumer demands.

When outside observers comment on our industry, they often claim that supermarkets are no longer able to keep up with the fast-changing marketplace. To those skeptics, my response is simple: check again.