There is no denying the seismic impact Amazon has had on the retail landscape. It has led the way for e-commerce, but ironically it is brick and mortar where Amazon is developing. The recent news of real estate purchases around Los Angeles for a new grocery concept has left a lot of burning questions. My take is that they have seen the limits of shipping around certain categories like perishables, and the unplanned purchases of immediate needs.
At the same time in New York City, people are anxiously awaiting the opening of Wegman’s in Brooklyn, its first Gotham location. This regional cult favorite has been searching out locations in the boroughs for years. It has consistently ranked at the top of shoppers’ favorite stores. It boasts quality fresh food, prepared foods and store brands similar to Whole Foods. They have nurtured a culture and experience as Trader Joe’s has. While offering delivery through Instacart, Wegman’s is a place where people generally enjoy the shopping experience.
One of the biggest pain points for shoppers is checkout. Amazon GO has introduced new technology for friction-less checkout, but other approaches are being developed. Of course, there is delivery and click-and-collect options, but for those who still want to select their perishable items, some categories have lagged. Caper is a smart cart that an independent retailer near me has been testing for months. It will scan items, weigh produce, and allow the shopper to check out with the swipe of a card. Self-checkout is commonplace now, but really as additional express lanes and less for the big cart trips. Cracking this nut will be a big draw for shoppers.
Ultimately, if you want people to shop in store, you need to offer something different. This often means the experience, but that can manifest itself in varied ways. Sampling, cooking demos, attractive layouts, and fresh prepared foods are popular draws. For others, low cost and convenience for instant satisfaction can be the experience they are looking for. For some, it is the opportunity for discovery of new or local items they didn’t have on their list.
To compete stores are looking for their niche. With increased competition across the spectrum and continued disruption with technology, we are seeing a fracturing of traditional models and new concepts taking hold. Continued disruption in grocery retail is assured. The winners and losers are yet to be determined.