The Trouble with Grocery Stores #2

I said in Part 1 I would identify the ‘they’ in the mainstream grocery business. They are men. Something like 80 or 90% run the show from executive level to store management. Go to a grocery convention if you don’t believe me. Or ask for the manager in a store and see if a guy in a polo shirt doesn’t show up.

This is our world, nothing new. But consider that, according to Stats Canada’s 2010 count, 80% of the food buying decisions are made by women. Looks like what we have here is one side trying to figure out the other side. And the focus seems odd to me. It’s more about what we women like – nice lights, smaller carts, less clutter, better value – but does anyone care how we think?

Because when I go in a grocery store, I have to think like a man. My father loved them. He went up and down the tunnel aisles in his methodical fashion, pleased about the order of things. My mother, who actually did the shopping, had to learn the store before it was close to being useful. She did not find them intuitive. And neither do I.

Women do think differently. Why else the endless studies on what women want? We shop differently than men, as this Toronto Star article points out. It’s hardly a leap to think the guys at the top, the ones running the show, the ones who started it all, have built an empire that makes sense to them.

But what makes sense to me – and it isn’t our different cart driving styles – is sociability. Show me a supermarket that encourages that. It’s Mars in there, devoid of life except for the bad music and robot stockers. Those folks can’t talk food because nobody thought food was something to talk about. Their job is to put things on the shelf and help me find things they don’t care about. But they could.

They do at Trader Joe’s. We don’t drive south for the prices (that’s a bonus) and, except for some good signage and the smaller scale, it’s still a grocery store. It has great stuff but better than that, it has informed and interested staff, making it a place to browse, learn, and get inspired. It’s a social experience.

Guys already know women like to talk. I know because stand up comics make jokes about it. So use it. Think like a girl. It’s fun. It’s profitable. Get talking and watch the party happen.

Parts 1 & 3