Will Wegmans need a post-pandemic makeover?
A Wall Street Journal article asserts Wegmans’ management is “rethinking how much food and how much customer experience it can offer — and how much customers will want” as the grocer adjusts to COVID-19.
The rethinking of assortments comes after Wegmans adjusted SKU counts at the height of the pandemic by as much as 40 percent to avoid out-of-stocks on staples. The cuts included fewer varieties of pasta sauce, yogurt and butter.
The Journal reports, “The company is learning that shoppers will accept fewer options and executives are thinking carefully about the level of assortment they will need in the future.”
Prior to the pandemic, Wegmans carried between 50,000 to 70,000 products versus the 40,000 in an average supermarket. The mix included more than 4,000 organic items, making it the go-to supermarket for hard-to-find specialty products, according to a new profile on the grocer by Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.
Art Suriano, CEO of The TSI Company and a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, told Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer that the extensive assortments are part of the reason Wegmans offers more of an “experience” than a routine trip to the supermarket. “Customers have an opportunity to not just shop but to explore,” he said.
The Journal also explored Wegmans’ closure of self-serve hot and cold food bars, sampling stations, cooking demonstrations, freshly-sliced deli meat options and other “indulgences” in response to COVID-19 safety protocols as well as the challenges the grocer will face bringing the services back.
The changes have led to speculation that Wegmans will make other changes, in part, to make room for emerging opportunities. The Journal reports that the chain’s executives see long-term opportunities from prepared family meals, with more cooking being done at home, as well as a bigger online opportunity.
On June 30, Wegmans announced it would be closing its 12 Pub by Wegmans locations in stores in New York state, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Wegmans said in a media statement, “We are focused on applying our culinary expertise to the increasing demand for fast, casual meal solutions available in our stores, for pickup, and through delivery.”
- Wegmans Pampered Its Shoppers. Now It Has to Protect Them. – The Wall Street Journal
- Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer July 2020
- Covid 19 Response – Wegmans
- Wegmans permanently closes all Pub locations in NY, Pennsylvania and Virginia – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
- It’s closing time for the Pub by Wegmans – Buffalo News
- Wegmans Pivoting on Foodservice? – Progressive Grocer
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does it make sense for Wegmans to trim back assortments and other parts of the store experience in response to the pandemic? Which offerings at Wegmans seem less relevant in the medium- and long-term?