Most shoppers and supermarket retailers in the New York metro area had never heard of the Teaneck Kosher Supermarket in Teaneck, N.J., until that rare October storm that dumped heavy snows, rains and wind from Virginia to Maine. The storm toppled electric lines and put 3.2 million people out of power for days.
The retailer made newspaper headlines and television’s evening news reports as they emerged as an emotional epicenter of recovery. The grocery store generously gave out nearly 2,000 hot dinners (rotisserie chickens, fried chicken nuggets, french fries, hot soups, hot dogs for the kids) to his neighborhood’s families — many of which had never shopped at the store.
“It’s a good feeling to try to help the community,” said storeowner Yitz Stern, noting that people came from the affected towns of Monsey, Bergenfield and Tenafly as well as Teaneck.
Reacting to this kindness, grateful shoppers told the newspapers, radio and television reporters who covered the story that they intend to support the store in the future.
Every weather indicator suggests that we will continue to see more of the same type of conditions we experienced this past year: summertime hurricanes, surprise snowstorms and the like.
So perhaps it is time for supermarkets to prepare. Not by simply stocking shelves and having emergency grocery lists at the ready … but to take a lesson from this small store in New Jersey.
Supermarkets are primary food resources and community hubs; consumers look to our industry for stellar behavior when disasters strike. So we went to our SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel to find out what do people specifically want food stores to do at these times, and would they in fact appreciate the ones that come through in the clutch?
Our national panel had a respondent base that largely (70%) had first-hand experience with an earthquake, hurricane, flood or fire in their area over the past 12 months.
Only one out of 10 shoppers felt their primary supermarket behaved “above and beyond expectations” — a disappointing percentage at best. Ten percent said they were “disappointed” in the store’s performance. The other four out of five “didn’t know or didn’t notice a difference,” or felt the store performed “as expected.” The survey uncovered another significant finding: Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would “definitely” or “likely” consider switching their primary grocery shopping to the store that excels in tough circumstances.
The impact (and opportunity) for a supermarket to stand out and win primary shoppers from competitors is powerful. Three out of four said they would tell friends and family about the store’s efforts; six out of 10 would give the store a greater share of their regular grocery shopping; and one-third would use social media to tell people about it.
There is nothing more powerful than offering help out when someone is in need.
Phil Lempert is contributing editor of Supermarket News and CEO of The Lempert Report and SupermarketGuru.com.