The old saying “Time is money” speaks directly to its importance as a key element of success. All businesses depend on timeliness to some degree. Delivery companies, online retailers and similar ventures all boast of their ability to get the product to the consumer faster, quicker, ahead of schedule. In today’s gotta-have-it-now world, time figures prominently in a consumer’s purchase decision.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that supermarkets have not made a bigger deal about their own ability to get products to the shelf. Their prowess at commanding time is evident everywhere in the store, from the deli salads made overnight at the central kitchen and brought in that very morning, to the ketchup that’s a steal because the retailer was able to deliver it in such a cost-efficient manner.
It’s an aspect of the business made all the more remarkable because many products in the supermarket are perishable. The emphasis in virtually every aisle and each department is on freshness, health and wellness. Supermarkets aren’t known for delivering dishwashers or laptops like Sears or Best Buy. In the food industry, time is more than money. It’s quality and — significantly — safety.
Finally, some retailers are starting to use the time element as a foundation of their marketing campaigns. Last summer, Kings Food Markets introduced Local Fresh 24/7, a program that rushed locally grown, farm-fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs to customers within 24 hours of harvest. More recently, A&P announced a new seafood line promoting a 48-to-72 hour sea-to-store delivery time.
“With [a] less-than-three-day, sea-to-store delivery policy, we’re able to provide the freshest seafood to our customers year round,” said A&P’s CEO Sam Martin in unveiling the retailer’s products.
Driving all of this is the customer. They continue to turn, in fits and starts, towards healthier lifestyles. They want fresh, they want local, they want transparency. While supermarkets have been distributing perishables for years, it’s only recently that consumer demand has compelled operators to talk about the nuts and bolts of running a food store in such a way that it pays dividends as a marketing message.
In an industry where differentiation is harder to come by, and competing formats are closing in, it’s more important than ever for supermarkets to find new ways of talking about what they do best. The just-in-time tale is a story that is ready to be told.
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