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Big story – though hardly a new one - in the New York Times this morning about how a growing number of shoppers “are the supermarket industry's worst nightmare. Faced with a seemingly endless array of food shopping choices, consumers are increasingly shunning the neighborhood supermarket and going to Wal-Mart, Costco or other discounters for rock-bottom prices or to places like Whole Foods and Wild Oats for specialized quality and service.

“Traditional supermarkets, caught in the middle, are struggling to survive. And the pressures on them may only intensify: Wal-Mart and Whole Foods have ambitious expansion plans, and Target says it wants to become a big player, too.

“Now, the traditional supermarkets are trying everything they can think of to turn things around and win back customers. In a nod to Whole Foods, they are adding more organic and natural food items and selling more prepared foods for quick lunches and dinners. And they are cutting prices.”
KC's View:
Go figure.

Nobody in the supermarket industry will find much surprising in the NYT piece; there is a bit of wonderment in the article that can probably be attributed to the fact that the Times is based in Manhattan, which is hardly typical in terms of supermarket competition.

The NYT gets one thing right – it points to Food Lion’s Bloom stores as an example of how a chain can find new ways to reach out to customers with a compelling offering.

We’ve always been enormously impressed by Bloom’s goal of creating ”a sensible, uncomplicated, hassle-free experience that leaves the customer feeling smart, relaxed and confident...” which is an enormous leap from how most chains define their mission.

It can’t just be organics, prepared foods (do we hear “meal solutions” coming back into vogue?), and low prices that define supermarkets’ new identity.

We think there has to be some fundamental shift in understanding about how consumers are changing. We cannot believe that our kids are going to shop the same we do, which is different from how our parents shopped. And it will be the chains that are able to look around the corner or over the horizon that will be the real victors in coming years, no matter who or what the competition is.