Gourmet Retailers Facing Competition on All Fronts
According to Gourmet Retailer’s annual reader survey, smaller food and kitchenware stores are feeling more optimistic about business conditions than a year ago. However, they remain wary of their larger competitors, especially online sellers and Whole Foods.
The survey, conducted in June, pointed to online retailing as the biggest threat to the gourmet retail sector, identified by 41.5 percent of respondents. That was followed by Whole Foods, 25.5 percent; chain supermarkets with more than 11 stores, 23.3 percent; organic/natural food stores, 20.2 percent; and independent supermarkets with one to 10 stores, 18.2 percent. Despite its hyped push into organics, Walmart ranked only seventh, at 17.2 percent.
For solely food retailers, 30.2 percent ranked Whole Foods as their No.1 competitor, followed by online retailing at 28.1 percent. Among kitchenware retailers, 80 percent pointed to online retailing as their top competitor.
Overall, respondents reported slight improvements for 2011 over 2010. Slightly better results were predicted for the current year with both customer count and average transaction size on the uptick.
Among food categories, gourmet retailers were particularly bullish on sales gains in 2012 in beer/wine, produce and meat/seafood. Other healthy gains were expected this year in local merchandise in general, as well as cheese/deli, organic, ethnic foods, fresh bakery and coffee/tea. Food sellers indicated that they are benefiting from customers "watching their spending" and eating more at home. They’re also "starting to buy more specialty items" and "want to know the provenance of the products."
Among the respondents, nearly three-fourths operated a single store and 60.2 percent said their sales were under $1 million with a mean of $7.5 million.
The fairly positive survey around specialty foods comes amid increasing momentum at Whole Foods, the successful public offering of Natural Grocers, and the just-announced IPO filing by Fairway. Many newer specialty food shops also seem to be finding a greater welcoming in major cities amid a strong trend toward natural foods, local offerings, and the healthy foodies culture.
According to the State of the Specialty Food Industry 2012 Report from the NASFT (National Association for Specialty Food Trade), cheese claimed the top spot in spending for specialty foods, followed by meats, poultry and seafood; chips, pretzels and snacks; coffee, coffee substitutes and cocoa; and bread and baked goods.
- The Gourmet Retailer 2012 State of the Industry – Gourmet Retailer
- Specialty food retailers thrive, expand in Austin – Austin Business Journal
- The State of the Specialty Food industry 2012 – Specialty Food Magazine
- NASFT: Five hot specialty food retailers – Chain Store Age
- How to Compete with the Big Chains? Think Locally – entrepreneur.com
- Specialty Food Industry Tops $75B: Study – Progressive Grocer
- A Cheese Shop, Homey Yet Sleek – New York Times
Discussion questions: What steps should smaller gourmet food retailers be taking to position themselves against greater competition from Whole Foods, other larger food sellers, and online retailers? What do you think of the overall outlook for smaller specialty food stores?