The Trouble with Grocery Stores #1

The grocery industry commissions endless studies to figure out how shoppers shop for food in grocery stores. They want to know about lighting, colour, signage, product placement, impulse buys, entry ways, cashiers, carts (big, small, push, carry), bags (plastic, paper, 3 cents, 5 cents), parking, in-store traffic patterns…

This last bit is a perpetual agony for grocery retailers. Apparently getting people into the middle of the store is a problem that won’t go away. Stats show that store visits are largely a rim experience. Apparently, we’re two legged mice scurrying along the walls (BTW: fish is on the rim).

No question, the basic grocery store layout is a big bore and it does need the attention. Those nine foot aisles make for tunnel shopping and we all know the shelves at waist level are purchased by the Cheerio corporation or their mega food buddies. But the newer, popular circular layout makes me think of the Ikea show room floor with their tricky exit strategy. So, we’re either rats in a maze or mice on the edge?

The thing grocery marketers never seem to ask about in these studies is the food. It’s the weirdest thing. But that’s the mainstream grocery world. Food’s not a subject, it’s a product. And how to move it, place it, and look at it is what matters.

I don’t know a whole lot (nothing, really) about retail science but I know food and until grocers start seeing the stuff in their stores as ingredients – which is how the people who buy it regard it – they will have rodent shoppers, people who just want to get and get out. Because who wants to be in a place that doesn’t even know it could inspire?

Food is the most elemental (and I would say beautiful) thing in the world yet somehow they’ve managed to turn buying dinner into widget shopping.

parts 2 & 3