Time to Rethink How We View Food Retailing


I would suggest it is time to rethink the way we look at food retailing. We are experiencing a huge paradigm shift — everything from the way we attract shoppers, to the foods they purchase (and why) to where they purchase these foods.

Our industry typically looks at and operates supermarkets by dissecting the store into categories or departments, which is very old school.

Today, we must expand our thought processes and think about the store holistically, and how it does, or does not, meet the lifestyle and nutrition needs of shoppers.

Saying we put the shopper first isn’t enough, it’s easy lip service that seemingly stakeholders buy into. Operating a chain of stores — or even just one supermarket — is a very difficult endeavor.

The logistics are unfathomable to one outside our industry. However, we are at a watershed moment in our industry as the size of stores shrink, as consumers continue to shop for foods in non-traditional stores and as science continues to give us reasons to change the way, and what, we are eating and drinking.

The speed of adoption forces us to move faster. The tools of social networking can shift union negotiations, labeling, stock prices, shopping patterns and food product claims or benefits in an instant. Brands had the power for decades, then the power shifted to the retailer and today it is in the hands of the shopper — where it will stay. And everyone, including the shopper, knows it.

Food blogs underscore the importance and impact. People Tweet and post photos (with lavish descriptions) of the foods they make in their kitchens on their Facebook page. Food is the new universal language.

Time to discard our old ways of thinking about selling food. It is not about price, or quality, or sampling, or in-store experiences or even service – it is about all these things and every touchpoint that surrounds the shopper.

We must find a new way of looking at both our physical and virtual stores as an integrated system to provide taste, wellness and enjoyment to shoppers rather than a group of non-related departments.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 30, 2012

Oh thank you for these pearls shot from the hip Phil. Another speech by another expert that cries out with melo-drama for change yet suggests nothing concrete. This is the stuff that stretches out meetings for the sake of showing how smart you think you are and fills columns and blogs with boring, useless rehashes of the obvious.

Step up and do something. Work with a retailer. Be part of a team that succeeds by actually doing something, risking careers and fortunes without a net. Spare us this pontificating for the sake of getting another issue out the door and teach by accomplishment. Lead, follow or get out of the way Mr. Guru.

At the very least, put substance into your words. If not, please... miss an issue.

PhilLempert (not verified)
on May 31, 2012

I must take issue with anyone who "comments" but yet refuses to identify who they are and challenges another's experience and knowledge.

I’m not sure if you regularly follow the industry, so let me provide some information. I have worked very closely with food retailers including Shop Rite, Kroger, Jewel, Dominick's, Save-a-Lot etc and developed innovative programs to connect them closer to their shoppers.

I lead and give of my time and efforts to help with organizations such as FMI, NGA, IGA and the Let's Move Chefs Move to School Program. I have never turned down a request from a retailer to discuss and idea or help where I can - and i am not a consultant, so there is no monetary incentive.

My objective, now and has been since I started my career, is to inspire food retailers to think ahead and be ahead of the trends - and to challenge the conventional thinking. Frankly, substance is what The Lempert Report is and has been since 1985; and most food industry execs would agree.

My recommendation to you is to get into stores, talk to shoppers and see what challenges are looming for our industry.

There are many challenges indeed, and we all need to be proactive and positive rather than merely critical.

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Julie Gallagher

Julie Gallagher’s delicious foray into coverage of the food industry was purely accidental. With a background in technology, she joined Supermarket News as associate editor of its Technology...

Liz Webber

Liz Webber is Senior Digital Manager at Supermarket News. She covers fresh foods for the magazine and creates multimedia, blog posts and other content for the website. She joined SN in August 2012.
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