Grocers: The Enemy Is Me

Apr 27, 2004

By George Anderson

Smart grocers have stopped blaming Wal-Mart for all their troubles long enough to take a good look in the mirror and realize the real enemy is staring them straight in the face.

Gary Giblen, head analyst at CL King & Associates, told Time magazine, “There really is a crisis in the industry. Conventional supermarkets really have no reason to
exist anymore. They’re basically becoming convenience stores.”

Bill Bishop of Willard Bishop Consulting added, “To a certain extent, Wal-Mart’s strength is more of a reflection of the lack of difference among stores.”

Moderator’s Comment: How have some grocers been successful competing with Wal-Mart for the same consumers where others
have not?

Too many in the grocery business seem unable to get beyond cursing Bentonville so they can heal their own business.

The Time magazine piece makes clear that if supermarkets haven’t found a way to be meaningfully different than Wal-Mart they better hurry.

Wal-Mart’s chief executive, Lee Scott, said, “We are not as good in food as we need to be yet, so there’s a lot of upside.” He also said that the company
only plans to intensify its food focus. “You will see it on all fronts,” he said, “in all the things we do, food will be a key part of it.”

George Anderson – Moderator

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