Is It Time to Reconfigure the Store?

The retail grocery center of store unit sales is down 3.4% since 2008, according to Nielsen estimates.  That is $23 billion in lost sales and almost $8 billion in lost profits.  Dry goods space is down 2% in the last two years.

Retailers are not just sitting back.  Many are working on creative solutions:

  • Building out more elaborate department designs including upscale fixtures and signage
  • Being more aggressive with a more upscale merchandise mix
  • Using EDLP to promote more routine shopping

But is just isn’t working.  Shoppers are spending more time shopping the perimeter. Video Mining conduced a study of over two million shopping trips:

  • Average shopping trip:  under 13 minutes
  • Time spent shopping the perimeter:  39%
  • Time spent shopping the center store:  18%
  • Time pushing the cart and checking out:  44%

Of all the data from the study, the part that had me most concerned was that almost half of the shopping trip was pushing the cart and checking out.  But it got me thinking.  If you want to buy green beans, why do you have to shop three different sections of the store:  produce, frozen vegetables, and canned vegetables?  Maybe this is the problem.  What if the retailer did something radical?  Allow consumers to shop by food categories, but have all options in the aisle.  Think about it.  A section of the store dedicated to vegetables:  fresh, frozen, canned and carton.  Same with fruits.  A meat section where you can go from fresh to frozen to canned.  I am actually suggesting you move the perimeter of the store into the center of the store shopping experience.  Why not make it easier for consumers to shop for what they need?

Pulling all options for a category into one place does a couple things:

  • Makes it easier to shop
  • Puts alternatives from different parts of the store into the consideration set
  • Moves the perimeter of the store into the center of the store, thus more traffic viewing items
  • May actually increase fresh food sales, when compared to center of store alternatives

Something radical must happen in order to change the value of the center of store.


Brad is an expert in private label and challenger brand food marketing for Barkley, an integrated marketing and advertising agency. He specializes in working with manufacturing-driven food companies that have aspirations to develop a consumer insight-led strategies to help drive innovation and growth.

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