retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Cincinnati Business Courier reports on how Kroger "is always working to identify the next big thing, if it’s not catching up to what others are already trying." Here's what the Courier says is on its list for 2020:

Kroger, the company says, has to continue to make progress on its Ocado initiative, which will have it opening "20 of the robotics-operated warehouse and distribution centers around the country," with the goal of making it "faster, cheaper and more efficient to delivery groceries to customers’ homes or get them ready for pickup." But there is much work to be done - only five locations have been publicly identified, and the first one doesn't open until next year. Meaning 2021.

The story also suggests that Kroger has to continue to work on all its various delivery initiatives, which is "the hot-button issue every supermarket operator is striving to improve. Customer convenience is vital, and has such a headstart in delivering products to customers’ homes that everyone else is playing catch-up."

In addition, the Courier writes, Kroger has to make progress in fresh food sales (where it has an advantage over Amazon that it must work to maintain) … same-store sales growth (with which many analysts seem to be satisfied at the moment) … and online sales (where it will become increasingly difficult to achieve the big growth numbers of the past).
KC's View:
The challenge, of course, is that Kroger has to make progress on all these fronts at the same time as the competition is making strategic and tactical moves. After all, it isn't like Amazon is going to stop moving forward on its vision of an ecosystem, or Walmart is going to hit the pause button on its vision of how to satisfy shoppers, or Dollar General is going to stop opening stores or anyone else is going to give Kroger a chance to catch up.

What will be interesting to me is seeing which visions end up being more successful and in tune with consumers … which visions shape the future as opposed to just reacting to it. For example, will the Ocado warehouse solution be more effective at making sure product is on the shelves and in people's homes, or will micro-fulfillment centers hold the key?

There's no reason to think that there is only one way to develop a to-do list for the future, but I think there is every reason to believe that the companies with real vision will be the ones to thrive in the end. (Plenty will survive. Thriving is a different issue.)

I am reminded of the line from former GE CEO Jack Welch: "If change is happening on the outside faster than the inside, the end is in sight."

That's the reality that Kroger and all its competitors have to face. Welcome to the new year.