retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that “supermarkets are trying to educate their meat cutters on the finer points of actually cooking the stuff they cut.

“Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. is having its cutters watch cooking videos and take quizzes posing questions like ‘What is braising?’ Supervalu Inc. hands out black binders as thick as football playbooks with ‘speak the language of beef’ inscribed on the cover. Some supermarkets are sending workers to Beef Training Camps.”

The reason: “Mainstream grocers are beefing up customer service at the meat case in a bid to stanch the outflow of shoppers to supercenters, drug stores and smaller-selection stores like Trader Joe's. Fresh meat is key to retaining and luring budget-conscious consumers making fewer shopping trips and dining more at home. Meat itself accounts for about 4.1% of supermarket sales (not including supercenters), according to market researcher Nielsen Co.”

But there is good news, according to the Journal: “Fresh meat sales at supermarkets have risen 12.2% for the 52 weeks ended July 11, says Nielsen. And supermarkets are now the most shopped retail channel as measured by visits, overtaking mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Stores Inc. for the first time since 1999, according to a study released last week by WSL Strategic Retail, a retail and manufacturer consultant.”
KC's View:
I have a couple of reactions to this story. First, I think the move makes sense – it fits into the approach that MNB has long endorsed, that supermarkets have to be a resource for information as well as a source of product.

But it some ways, I must admit, the story is depressing…because it suggests that so many stores have simply missed the larger opportunity to position themselves this way in the past. There is one butcher quoted in the story who has been cutting meat for more than a quarter-century, and he admits that until recently he had very little idea how to cook different kinds of meat. That’s just a shame. Think how many meat sales have been lost in that time, and how many ancillary sales could have been generated if he’d been better educated and encouraged to share what he knows with shoppers.

It isn’t the meat cutter’s fault. It is the fault of an industry that too often has lacked imagination of even a sense of its own possibilities.

It is critically important that the industry cultivate a culture that does not let this happen again, that stresses and rewards innovation and imagination.