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Supermarket Trends and Impact of Convenience on Grocery Shoppers

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Recent blogs and in-depth articles authored by Sobel & Co. professionals who specialize in the food distribution, manufacturing, and retail sectors continue to point to the importance of innovation and responsiveness. The food world, which is no different than most industries today, is changing rapidly as owners and business leaders react to the evolving pace and preferences of their customers. 

Here is Part One of a two part series on changes in supermarkets and the impact of convenience on grocery shoppers.

There are many reasons for these changes. Generational differences, as well as the new purchasing habits fueled by constant advances in technology, are behind some of the pressures faced in the retail world where the food sector is especially impacted by new demands.  

A significant number of those demands revolve around the fact that time is the scarcest commodity we have today.  Technology has improved the quality of life for millions, but the benefits have to be balanced against the significant challenges presented as  professional responsibilities extend into hours that used to be designated for ‘personal time.’  Subsequently, the pace of life is more complicated and faster than ever before and the line between professional and personal obligations is blurred at best and nonexistent at worst. 

The trickledown effect of a hectic and busy pace in the 21st century has influenced the way we shop for groceries and the way we eat - including the amount of time we are willing to invest in these activities!  With little patience for the effort needed to prepare made-from-scratch menus, grocery stores have stepped up their focus to provider solutions for their over-stretched customers.

As a result, the shelves are filled with new options. Whether it is pre-cooked meals, pre-cut produce, or make-it-yourself meal kits that support anyone who has the desire to cook, there are a range of choices for every situation.  The bottom line is that grocers recognize that all of their consumers are increasingly pressed for time but none of them wants to relinquish access to high quality meals. Shoppers on the run can find more selections in today’s stores – including imported items and exotic alternatives – and at the same time they can grab a meal while shopping. The unique combination of grocery stores and restaurants has encouraged the formation of ‘grocerants,’ allowing shoppers to enjoy great food while at the same time accomplishing some of their household chores.

Further changes are on the not-too-distant horizon as grocery industry leaders continue to identify ways to address the stress that their customers face daily.  Their strategy will continue to include more efficient products and services in and around the stores.  This will likely translate into more self-scanning lanes, smart phone check outs, and experiences patterned after Amazon’s ‘pick and go’ system.   

Food related businesses need to employ and utilize their people to the highest of their abilities and not only listen to new ideas, but look for ways to implement them.  Making strategic decisions that shift the direction of a business line, or even an entire company, is going can be difficult, so surrounding yourself with the people and technology that best serves your company’s vision should be a priority.  People and process are an investment that will absolutely pay dividends down the road in this rapidly changing landscape.  Additionally, business owners should consult with their trusted advisors where there is a major operational or financial decision to be made, such as major debt financing, business acquisitions or mergers, or financial analysis and projections.   


Watch this blog for more news and innovations taking place in the supermarket world that will impact you!

 Chris Martin, CPA, Sobel & Co.