Taking the longest view possible, one of the most profound challenges facing food retailing concerns itself with departmentalization.
At issue is whether the current departmentalization of supermarkets makes much sense from the consumers' point of view. It doesn't. Store-departmentalization traditions currently followed are based on convenience of the institution, guided more by how product is bought than how consumers buy product.
After all, consumers really don't want to tramp through a store looking for one meal ingredient here, another there and so on. They really are searching for meals and, assuming they haven't settled on some prepared item, would much prefer to find likely and harmonious meal components grouped together.
This fact has been acknowledged in the industry under the sobriquet Solution Selling, although I like to think of it as boosting the total store's convenience offer.
But no matter how excellent the idea of total-store selling might be, there are major obstacles standing in the way of its proper execution. Chief among them is the very store itself. Stores are built with a certain departmental configuration in mind, so jettisoning that whole design won't come cheaply or easily. Clearly, widespread application of the total-store concept is many years off.
As C. Manly Molpus, president and chief executive officer of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, mentioned in a recent interview with SN, "when you really get into solution selling, you get into store-layout issues; where equipment fits in the store and a whole host of fundamental issues. The best time for solution selling may be yet to come, as we get into the next generation of store layouts designed with [that] in mind."
So, it seems quite likely that "Selling the Total Store" is the future, although it's impossible to predict how long its development will take. But with that in mind, SN this week will initiate the use of a new logo to flag news and feature articles that are useful in identifying progress toward the goal of total-store selling. The logo is inset into this column, and can be seen on Page 23. Simultaneously, and effective this week, SN editors have folded the content of its "Fresh Meals" section into the "Fresh Market" section. The move acknowledges the maturing of the Meal Solutions concept and its evolution into the total-store concept.
Another subtle change this week: You'll see a new tagline on the front page signifying that SN is "The Weekly Newspaper of Food Retailing." This marks the commitment of SN editors to continue and expand news coverage of significant developments in food retailing, regardless of channel of trade.