retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The “Grub Street” column in New York magazine argues that while “it’s a bad time to be in the business of selling groceries,” it “is a great time - arguably the best time ever - to buy groceries. In a climate of fierce competition, store owners are racing to roll out new technology, lower prices, and win, by any means necessary, consumers’ ever-elusive ‘stomach share’.”

The competition, the story notes, isn’t just from Amazon; it also cites Aldi and Lidl has being influential in creating this panacea for food shoppers.

An excerpt:

“The public - educated for the last decade-plus on a steady diet of Food Network, restaurant sites (ahem), and all manner of restaurant-democratization - has also created a market for high-quality ingredients that has never before existed in the United States. In terms of selection, Wegmans - formerly a modest-size Rochester-based chain whose showstopping prepared foods and exotic ingredients earned it a cult following - is on a nationwide expansion tear. In June, the mid-Atlantic grocery co-op ShopRite launched a new private label, ShopRite Trading Company, that includes “artisanal and distinctive” imported products like Peruvian artichoke hearts, Italian panettone, and Greek olive oil. Meanwhile, Kroger bought Murray’s Cheese last February, and the venerable Greenwich Village cheese purveyor’s fromage, charcuterie, and other specialty goods are now boasted in over 350 locations. In other words, no matter where you live, it’s likely easier than it’s ever been to track down some nice goat cheese, a well-made baguette, or all manner of high-quality craft beer.”

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
It is a really good story, though I might quibble with the suggestion that it is a bad time to be in food retail. It may be more challenging, but I also think that it has the potential to be incredibly rewarding for people and companies that are truly innovative - it is a time that rewards imagination and differentiation, and may weed out the mediocre. That’s good for everybody, I think.