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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.

I want to come back to a discussion that started earlier this week, launched by a story about how a Florida Albertsons decided to press petty theft charges against one of its customers, who is accused of shoplifting because he ate some jelly beans from a bulk display.

Now, there’s been a lot of debate here on MorningNewsBeat about this issue. Some people think that Cerberus-owned Albertsons is making a big mistake by taking such a hard line, and others believe that you can't take too tough a position against shoplifters. Others feel – and this is a very good point – that we probably don't know the whole story, that there’s got to be more to the issue than that. And, they say, whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? Good point. I shop at Stew Leonard’s, and customers there actually are encouraged to do such sampling. It is a core value.

I’ve latched onto this story not because of the legal issues that it raises, but rather because of something much more fundamental…and this was illustrated by an email I got from a MorningNewsBeat user who, I think, hit the nail on the head:

There is, he wrote, a “simple explanation for Albertsons’ actions: Some supermarkets sell food and some supermarkets sell groceries. That’s the difference between Stew Leonard’s and Albertsons!”


I couldn’t have said it any better. I would expand on this email to make the following point.

Anybody can sell groceries, and everybody who sells groceries sells, in fact, pretty much the same groceries.

It is in selling food that a retailer can differentiate and distinguish itself. Food can be individual, food can be exciting, food can be innovative, food can prompt consumer curiosity, food can be an effective competitive weapon in the retailing wars.

It is with considerable frustration that I see television commercials for supermarket chains that emphasize price, almost at the exclusion of all else. It doesn’t make sense. Not that price is unimportant. Far from it. But we all know that anybody can buy a low-price position in any marketplace.

It seems to me that even value-driven chains need to find that “something else” that creates for them a differential advantage that sets them apart. Sell groceries? Sure. But embracing food, and using it as a distinguishing characteristic, is, I think a strategic necessity if a company is going to succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
KC's View: