By RDBA CEO Phil Lempert
In preparation for all the wonderful things the food world was looking forward to in the year 2000, I sat down with European artist Herbert Hofer to share my vision of what a supermarket might look like in 2000. The year was 1989 and Hofer painted a consumer experience second to none.
Many of the new stores being built today include some elements of that vision, and I have little doubt that almost every food retailer is putting the shopper’s needs (and desires) front and center by adding grocerants, wine bars, make-it-yourself poke bowl stations, made-to-order juice bars, and most importantly, by adding retail dietitians to their stores.
What we do know is that with Amazon committing to the retail grocery industry in a rather big way through retail, online, lockers and delivery, the industry has awakened. Supermarket companies are buying meal kit companies, delivery companies, robotic companies, testing autonomous vehicle delivery and recruiting talent from universities and Silicon Valley startups that would never have considered working in the grocery industry before. Today, “grocery is cool.”
Conventional supermarkets have basically been designed the same way for the past 50 years. One could argue with the rise of prepared foods and grocerants that there have been some evolutions to the floor plan; but I would disagree. Grocerants and fresh foods have certainly added atmosphere, aromas, excitement and allure to supermarkets. Having shoppers walk around the store picking out their groceries as they enjoy a glass of wine certainly adds to the shopping experience; but we need to do more.
I predict that it’s time that grocers build a store around the shopper.
Forget about the customer walking into the produce department first, then shopping the service departments and then walking up and down the aisles. I’m not a breakfast eater; I eat lunch most days in my office and basically shop for dinner. So why must I pass through some 40,000 SKUs to find what I want?
A supermarket that is built around how people eat could be transformational. Why not departments for meal occasions: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? There would be duplications of SKUs, for example milks and eggs, in all departments for the convenience of the shopper. This concept of merchandising would also help shoppers plan their meals better.
As automatic replenishment takes hold and the IoT comes to our kitchens, scales and scanners that replace our shelves and doors in cupboards and refrigerators would automatically calculate when our foods and beverages would run out; and allow us to confirm the reorder from our mobile devices. Brand names staples that we are loyal to (and would never change) and bulky or heavy items like bottled water would disappear from the shelves leaving room for what might be the best supermarket we have ever created; and certainly leave more room for experiences, including health clinics and retail dietitian offerings.