Supers Can Do Better

Mar 10, 2004

By Al McClain

A recent study conducted on behalf of the National Grocer’s Association — by Phil Lempert — the “Supermarket Guru,” Today Show food editor and RetailWire BrainTrust panelist
— found there were numerous areas where independent and regional supermarkets can do a better job with shoppers than discounters and chain operators.  

Here, then, are a few suggestions liberally adapted from the study and Mr. Lempert’s live presentation:

  1. Make shopping an experience — everything is not just price.  How about improving the checkout situation, for example?  Why reward cherry pickers, who are your least
    profitable shoppers, with their own express lane?  Why not an express lane for those with full carts?

  2. Communicate better — if you have an 800 number, for example, call it yourself to check the level of service.  And, make sure your store personnel are forming relationships
    with repeat customers.

  3. Cater to the older crowd. Baby-boomers are into some serious aging now, so stock up on things likes alt-free products, improve the quality of the audio in your stores for
    the hard of hearing, and talk with people.  Independents and regionals by their very nature have an advantage in their closer relationships with their shoppers — use it.

  4. Listen to your complaining customers — they are a terrific learning opportunity.

  5. Consumers don’t cook anymore, they assemble — help them to assemble meals so they’ll feel they cooked it themselves.

  6. Value = Price + quality + service — if you win two of three, and are competitive on the third, you’re definitely in the game.

  7. Center store — it’s still a huge part of the business, and you carry many more varieties of products than your competition, so use your assortment to your advantage.

  8. Make your store the “favorite” store. In the survey, panelists named the independent/regional supermarket their one favorite, over the national chains.  Smaller operators
    need to leverage the advantages they have by being locally owned, home grown, etc. and use their “face” in their advertising and marketing, and make sure to properly market
    their community involvement.

  9. The number one reason for rating a store their favorite was “best selection of products” followed by closely by best price, best fresh food, store cleanliness, and friendly
    service. There is a huge opportunity for supermarkets to leverage the advantages they have here by making the shopping experience as good as it can be.

  10. Panelists said their favorite “sized” store is ‘average’, defined as 8-10 checkouts, 12 aisles, with plenty of perimeter departments.  As the population ages, supercenters
    become less appealing, and regular sized stores have yet another opportunity to leverage their shopper-friendly sized stores.

[Full disclosure: NGA is a sponsor of RetailWire.]

Moderator’s Comment: What can a ‘smaller’ operator do better than their competitors and
what areas do you think are most important?

Bottom line:  supermarket operators have more advantages then they might think in their arsenal as they battle bigger competition, yet Wal-Mart continues
to grow faster than almost anybody. If operators pay more attention to the areas that matter to shoppers such as checkout experience, fresh meat, seafood, and produce, service
levels, local marketing, complaint handling, easy meal ideas, quality of perimeter departments, and cleanliness, there is the very real opportunity to grow.

Al McClain
– Moderator

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