The phenomenon of dollar stores is one that has been much chronicled in the pages of SN. But in this week's issue, there's a news article that in short order summarizes how completely this form of value retailing has captured the big players in the supermarket-retailing universe.
It wasn't long ago that Kroger Co. jumped on the dollar bandwagon by adding two test sections of 500 square feet to stores in Houston.
Those sections joined some previous tinkering Kroger has done with the high-value concept, namely some aisle sets in several Food 4 Less and King Soopers stores. Kroger owns both those banners.
So, according to the news article on Page 28, the preponderance of major supermarket companies in the nation now has something going on in the dollar segment, be it as full-fledged sections, aisles or tests.
One company, Supervalu, was sufficiently enamored of the dollar concept to have acquired a dollar-store chain in a bid to learn that aspect of product acquisition and selling, and is now migrating dollar stores into its stores.
By way of its Save-A-Lot limited-assortment units, it has the capacity to roll out what amount to mini-supercenters.
Apparently, many of the major supermarket players that have experimented with the dollar concept are experiencing good results. However, with the possible exception of Supervalu's approach, it seems as though many of these efforts should be viewed as defensive, not as market-setting initiatives.
One of the problems that could develop is that the dollar-store shopper is used to seeing them in relatively rude second- or third-use buildings. Some of the in-supermarket sections may look too good to convince value-oriented shoppers that they're the true thing.
In any event, it looks as though dollar stores aren't going away soon, so experimentation with the format has to be all to the good.
Now let's move in the direction of looking at other major trends as they are addressed in the news feature referenced on this week's front page. Many of the trends cited have been at work for a long time, but now show signs of gaining momentum.
For instance, it has long been known that convenience is a critical issue to consumers. But as you'll see in the news feature, it has assumed a greater importance than might have been imagined.
One expert quoted in the article said that in the universe of large issues of consumer concern, being able to obtain product that's easy to use was third on the list. The only other issues that loomed larger in consumers' minds were terrorism and the economy. This is getting big.
Also getting big faster than might have been expected is the importance consumers attach to the in-store availability of information concerning nutrition and health.
In a survey, 83% of consumers said such information was "very" or "somewhat" important. But just 36% said the store they patronized had sufficient information on those topics. This reveals a wide performance gap that deserves to be bridged.
Finally, spice up your reading by looking at the same news feature to see how the spice category has grown in importance.